How to Find Your Purpose in Life

[Note: This is the 3rd article in the series How to Make Your Dreams a Reality.]

Growing up, I spent a lot of time thinking about the purpose of life. In church they would tell you the purpose is to go to heaven and to be a good person. “Why?” I always thought. There’s no question that being a good person is essential for living a fulfilling life. But what’s the point? Why do anything at all?

Why is a meaningless question. The reason being, why always leads us in an infinite loop. You can always repeat the answer to “why” with another “why.” The only time the question really ends is when you answer “because it’s fun” or “because I enjoy it.”

This took me a while to accept, but the purpose of life is to enjoy it. If you’re trying to find the purpose of life, by looking for something outside of life, you’re never going to find an answer. That’s because the purpose of life is life.

That doesn’t help you much, does it? We all want a larger purpose, something to give our lives meaning when everything seems meaningless.

The truth is, life doesn’t have a purpose. That’s hard to swallow. When I realized this, I felt lost. I felt confused and I felt like giving up.

What I failed to realize is that life doesn’t have a purpose because of free will. There is no purpose forced on  you. You can choose to have a purpose, or to not have a purpose, but life isn’t going to give you one. You don’t need to let this bother you though. The only reason you need for having a purpose is because you want one.

The only question you need to answer now, is do you want a purpose or do you not want one? As soon as you figure that out, let me know. I’ll wait.

I’m assuming that if you’re still reading, your answer was yes. That’s good, because not having a purpose isn’t very fun. At least not for me.

Now that we have that sorted out, we need to understand one crucial thing that drives people to insanity and causes them to spend their lives in the confines of a cubicle.

And that is:

Your purpose is not your job

Yes, that’s right. Your purpose has nothing to do with your degree, your resume, your career, or vocation. Your purpose is independent of all those things. In fact, it’s much bigger than any of those.

Purpose has to do with your creative self expression. It has to do with what makes you feel alive. It’s something you do, where at the end of the day you think “I made a difference.”

Now, if you want to find out what that is, take a minute to do a little exercise that I originally found here.

  1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open word, notepad or textedit. Whatever works best for you.
  2. Now write at the top “What is my true purpose in life?”
  3. Write everything that comes to mind. Don’t think about it too much, just write.
  4. Keep writing until you write something that makes you cry. That is your purpose.

When you come up with your final answer, you will know it. It won’t be something you’ve decided logically, you will simply know it in your heart.

If you find this exercise to not be structured enough, change the question to “How would I want to be remembered when I die?”

After you’ve discovered your purpose, your job is to live as closely in alignment with it as possible. The more you live in alignment with your purpose or your bliss, the more you will deeply enjoy your life.

Now remember when I said that your “job” is not your purpose? Well, it’s half-true. Your career can be a medium for the expression of your purpose. If your purpose is to help others live in truth and express your inner creativity, you’re probably not going to be able to do that very well working as an file-clerk for a company that is greedy and self-serving. You can live partially in alignment with your purpose this way, trying to help others and going against the morals or your employer, but you’re still ultimately assisting corporate greed.

You’ll probably find living in complete harmony with your purpose isn’t easy. It might take you a year, or a few years before you find a medium (a career path) that best serves the expression of your purpose. If you can’t find a job out there that does that, you might have to create one (like I’m doing here, through this blog).

So how do you move more in alignment with your purpose? How do you take your purpose and your dreams and make them a reality? That will be the next article in the series. See you next week!

For more ways to make your dreams a reality, join the Paid to Exist Tribe today:

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44 Comments on "How to Find Your Purpose in Life"

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Simple Sapien
Excellent post Johnathan. I read that article from Steve Pavlina about a month ago. It is an interesting method. I never got to the point of crying with any of them (maybe I did not do it long enough), but I definitely narrowed it down to a few things. I agree with you. We could spend our whole lives waiting for our purpose to land right in our lap… but it will never happen. We have to create our purpose. Easier said than done, but I think it is essential for living a happy life and “enjoying it”. The day… Read more »
Maria | Never the Same River Twice

“There is no purpose forced on you. You can choose to have a purpose, or to not have a purpose, but life isn’t going to give you one.”

This is a real shift in perspective, Jonathan. It implies not only that we have to accept full responsibility for any purpose we pursue, but also that we can change our purpose as needed. I’m sure most of us never thought about it in that way.

Joey the plumber

Running out of ideas….?
Seems like a copy from this article…

Hi Jonathan, Great post. I will say that you had me there at first with the no purpose thing. Reading further I found that I agreed with you completely. I have known this myself for a while but didn’t really know how to express it. You did a good job. I actually found in the 7 Habits book by Stephen Covey a statement similar to the one you made about how do you want to be remembered when you die. He said to imagine yourself at a funeral, yours. What would you want the people to say about you as… Read more »
Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy

Care to share what you discovered was YOUR purpose Jonathan?


@ Bill and Joey: I absolutely did get that from Steve Pavlina. That’s why I linked to him in the article and stated I originally found it there. =)


Wow, great post. It’s my first time visiting here, and you gave me something to chew on for the next couple days with this posting.


Hi Jonathan,

Great post. There is no meaning to life. Life simply is. The purpose of your life is to make it whatever you want to.

Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul

So true! We are here to express ourselves fully. So often I get people asking me about their purpose in an intuitive reading – as if God assigns us all a “job” or task for this lifetime. We are so much more powerful – and it does boil down to free will. We get to choose exactly what we want to create. We can either be terrified by that level of responsibility, or embrace that level of empowerment.



Hi Jonathan,

Great post. Our job is definitely not our purpose in life. Can you imagine that you are born into this world to sit behind a desk for 9 – 5? I cannot bear to picture the image in my mind.

Personal Development Blogger


Beautiful! I learned this the hard way when I lost a job over 10 years ago. It took me about a month or so to ground myself and climb out of a black hole of depression. All my identity had been tied up in 9 to 5.

“Write until you write something that makes you cry.” — perfect! That IS your purpose.

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome
As someone with lots of drive and ambition, I am totally in tune with what you say, but I wonder about those whose life purpose isn’t anything grand. I want to inspire people to leave Plato’s Cave (, but what of someone whose purpose is to live life day to day without grand ambitions? How does all this self-help stuff relate to someone who simply wants to live a quiet life (quiet in terms of leaving a lasting impression at least)? How do we as personal development mentors tailor our words to help those people? I can’t imagine them crying… Read more »
Hi Jonathan, I understand completely what you are saying. However, I see it with a twist. If you look at everything on this planet, it gives something. Either it becomes food, or raw materials for something else, or a trigger to start a different process, everything gives selflessly because that is the natural circle of nature. You are born, you provide something, you die and become something else. For those stuck in a cube, and I know what that is like, that can sound like the only purpose of living is to die and become worm food. But if you… Read more »

Nice post – I tried the Pavlina method but didn’t get very far. I like your twist on it much better – “How would I want to be remembered when I die?”

“Begin with the end in mind” indeed! =D


Re: being behind a desk 9-5. It all depends on what you’re doing behind that desk. How are you striving to be remarkable? What are your intentions? How can you make this place better – even one small improvement.

Your job may not be your purpose, but instead may be your vehicle to fulfilling that purpose.

You make infinite small choices every day, all day long. How are those choices enabling you to help your body, mind, self and world?

Adrilia V. Pedersen


What a beautiful post. Have to confess you almost lost me when you said purpose had nothing to do with your work … but then you included work as part of purpose which was great. I agree with your article. Very freeing, actually. I recently wrote about purpose but from the angle of service and success. If interested or curious, the post lives at Keep up your great inspirational writing!


@ Maria: Absolutely, you have the power and the choice to change your purpose at any time. Or to choose not to have one at all. Personally, I think it’s much more powerful to live with a purpose, than without one.


Great post Jonathan,

It inspired me to share mine



Chris Edgar
Thanks for this post. I think another perspective we could adopt on the idea of purpose is simply to say that our purpose is to do whatever we are doing right now. If I am aggressively pursuing my career, my purpose is the moment is to do that, and if I am lying around, my purpose is to do that as well. I think this view can free us from the fretting we often do about how our purpose isn’t being fulfilled. It also focuses our attention on the present moment rather than on the happiness we may or may… Read more »

I did what you wrote about and created a job that is lined up with my purposes and passions. I now get to teach in an innovative way that excites kids and ignites their love of learning and inspires them. I get to be the crazy, animated teacher that is so out there when she is in her flow.

I have other purposes to like to connect with God and people on an intimate level and to also connect with nature. I also have to be creative and be a constant learner.


Do you think that sometimes we get so caught up in finding our life purpose, the big thing we are meant to be and do, that we forget that purpose is also revealed in our small everyday experiences? My purpose today may be to show my husband how much he means to me by making his favorite meal. My life purpose may be to help eradicate hunger. If we listen and observe, our everyday purpose points us to the thing that makes us cry.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post.


[…] in Life clipped by: Kelika Clip Source: paidtoexist2.loc This took me a while to accept, but the purpose of life is to enjoy it. If you’re trying to find […]


Jonathan started off by saying that the purpose of life is to enjoy it.

To me, that statement says it all. Period.

There *is* a purpose in life… enjoy the life that you have within you….each breath…. be there with it…and enjoy each breath as it comes… until the last one

Martin Wildam
I agree with you that life does not give you a purpose. Although it seems sad in reality this gives you the complete freedom to put a purpose you like. However, the question what purpose to choose reminds me to advertisements trying to create a need in you to buy something that you perfectly could live without before getting knowledge of that product. So why bothering to search for meaning? It is the same as if I would work my whole life to be able to buy a Ferrari. You could also live perfectly just with the little meanings that… Read more »

@ Kathy: That’s a great point. Our purpose is realized in all of our actions, whether they be large or small.

@ Martin: Yeah, like you probably didn’t realize you NEED OxyClean until you saw the commercial. Or that you NEED a swiffer gadget before you saw it on tv.

Great point.

Jim Littlefield

Our purposes are more about being of service to others more than to ourselves. We risk spending too much time thinking about ourselves vs. taking action to assist others in our shared journeys.



I really enjoyed this exercise. However the only thing that I would have to disagree with is the part it says about writing until you cry. For me, crying is deeply attached to sadness. However, when I was writing one of my several answers, I knew it was the one because I had felt this immense happiness swelling up within my chest.


A characteristic of life is regularity and structure. Dead things are random.

If purpose is internal to life (dead things don’t have their own purpose) it is still possible to experience purpose. In my view purpose is part of life. If you don’t believe me try this: I’ll email you a purpose at random, you then get to live by it. How do you think you will go?


[…] at Illuminated Mind writes an excellent post about How to Find Your Purpose in Life. I love his explanation of purpose: Your purpose has nothing to do with your degree, your resume, […]

[…] How to Find Your Purpose in Life: Great 3-part article about finding your purpose in life with some workbook exercises to get you going 12 Powerful Life Lessons: Great Tips about Taking Action to Improve Your Life The 5 Points of Yoga: Proper Exercise (Asanas), Proper Breathing (Pranayama), Proper Relaxation (Savasana), Proper Diet, Meditation (Dhyana) What Yoga Pose Are You?: I took the quiz and the result was my favorite pose. Weird. The Butterfly’s Cocoon: A Story to Inspire 9 Things You Can Do to Be Happy in the Next 30 Minutes: One of which is to take a… Read more »
Jonathan, Great post. I agree with everything you have written. I also agree with Gayle’s comments regarding your purpose being serving selflessly. To me if I put two of the concepts together it simply means your purpose may be to give or help or serve selflessly and it could be something you enjoy doing. Since most of us spend a lot of time at our job, my personal opinion is that having a job that is closely aligned with your purpose is a more fulfilling life experience. I have realized (painfuly :)) that that is not the case for me.… Read more »

i just really love your blog..
it gives the plain truth, not in a fancy way a lot of books or personal development articles are like.

the best part is that it is realistic.


Hey Jonathan,

thanks for the great post. Tried Steve Pavlina’s method of finding my purpose though I modified the question a little bit. My question was “What motivates me everyday to wake up?”

I bawled when I did the exercise and my purpose??

To laugh and dance with the people that I meet… cause perhaps before we came into this physical existence, we had promised each other that we would meet up and enjoy this adventure (of life) together.

I often think too many steps ahead to fall for simplicities as offered on Pavlina’s site. To my mind, if I find something to cry about and call it my purpose, I’m really just chasing a compensation to some event I haven’t dealt with or some other personal lack. I’d be living my sadness projected onto someone or something else. I’m also not convinced of the whole “let’s save the world” or “be a servant of man” approach. To truely help someone you must know an awful lot about them and the problem, and sometimes what they truely need is… Read more »
charnchai lersbantornkul
Life is complicated. I totally agree that life is not your job. Everyone has so many ideas and dreams that he or she can think of. Not every one can easily be done. I can see from most of people. It is just really hard to take the action of what he or she has in minds. So is the purpose of life of each person. I think what makes you feel happy is enough. It is sort of fulfil your own will that does not make trouble with other people. So, just take the action of what you want… Read more »

[…] from paidtoexist2.loc Your purpose is not your job Yes, that’s right. Your purpose has nothing to do with your degree, […]

Ella Emma

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

— James Taylor, “Secret o’ Life” lyrics

M. A. Tohami

You will find your purpose in life, when you find THE answer to these two key questions:

1. How to find joy in your life?
2. How to bring joy to others?

Leo Tabibzadegan

Great post! Reminds me of a story I heard by Peter Buffet (son of a great investor).

A school teacher asks 3 kids what they want to be when they grow up.

Kid 1 says a fire fighter.
Kid 2 says a doctor.
Kid 3 says happy.

(insert puzzled face here)

Kid 3 had the right idea! =D

what is my true purpose in life? to serve others to be powerful to create lo love to be loved to survive to think to dance to be to be remembered to be destroyed to not be to tear my flesh apart to serve god to fulfill my youth´s desires to fulfill my parents desires to fulfill society´s desires to fuck to have children to be outrageous to have fun to enjoy to change the world to write a book to make people miserable to save the world to find empathy to destroy empathy to resolve a questionnaire to find… Read more »

this seemed too general for me ,
because one can live out his life hurting others and enjoy it ,that is an exception right?
I didn’t try it and it makes me cry .Too generic I get it..

I agree with your post that we have free will and choices. On the other hand we are all born with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, experiences and morals, and a unique DNA chain. When we put all these things together and do the best with what we are given (because we do not choose everything [at least not in this realm] we are born with it) that is what our life purpose is, I do believe at different points in life that purpose may change but each time it changes it is to construct another building block… Read more »

I believe we all do have a purpose and our purpose is to do what we love, what brings us joy, what we are good at and to share that with others. Our purpose is to do what makes us feel good, something we would do for free simply because its our passion and we enjoy it! It can be our job if our job is doing what we love, what brings us joy, is what we are good at etc etc

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