In a survey executed by The New York Times about purpose in life, only about 25% of American adults claimed to have a clear sense of purpose in life….
I guess it’s safe to say that most of us have no clue what we want to do with our lives. It’s not a rare phenomenon to see young people change their career trajectory as often as they change their clothes. Not having a clear grasp of one’s life purpose is a struggle almost every adult goes through.
There have been countless studies and books dedicated to this subject. We have selected a number of questions from those research to help you find the purpose of your life.
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The Gravestone Technique
Life is long and there are many things that we are in the course of our life. But there can only be so many things on your gravestone when you are gone. These things often are the most important roles that we have taken or the biggest accomplishments in our lives.
Maybe you are a good mother or a good friend. This means that you prioritize your family and the relationships you have. If the most important thing in your life is to be a good parent, a good daughter or son.
Then you know that you want to spend more time with your family. This could mean compromising your ambition so you can improve your work-life balance. And if having stable friendships throughout your life is what makes you happy, squeezing in one or two nights per week or month. That will depend on your situation to hang out with them, could be a good idea.
Otherwise, you are the career driven type and want your professional life to go out on a high note. It’s not a rare thing to see people make their job their life purpose. But this should mean that you find the right career path that absolutely passionate about.
I used to have a lot of priorities in my life. Growing up in a close-knit household, family has always been a big thing for me. But my type A personality also loved to work as creating real value gives my life substance. It was tough at times trying to manage both my personal and professional life.
Then, I firstly heard about this method, my initial thought might need a very big tombstone. That hit me that I needed to narrow down on my priority list. It doesn’t mean that I must stop doing everything and just focus on one. It means that some compromises were needed…
Most of us never really do any long term planning.
Well, Let’s think far ahead a little bit, how our life would look like in 60 years? We might be able to see new perspectives into what should we do now.
By asking yourself now what you want written on your gravestone later on. You can have a clearer sense of what the beacons of your life are and work toward that direction.
However, there can sincerely be so much space on your gravestone, you might want to narrow down. Juggling too many priorities at once would just make them drop off from your hand and make you lose sight of your true purpose.
The Odyssey Plan
This is a method written in the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Essentially, this means that you will answer three 5-year-plan questions.
What would your life be like in 5 years, if you continued on the same path you’re on now?
No matter how comfortable you are right now with your current living situation. There could still be a shadow of a doubt in the horizon on whether. Or not this way of life you have now is sustainable long term.
Some may fear that things will get stale and monotonous after a while. And for those that have a crazier schedule, they may fear that days of more peaceful routines would never come. On the other side, it’s good to see far ahead a bit to have a clearer grasp of your future self.
What would your life be like in 5 years, if you took a completely different path? And what that path would be?
If you are twenties, the question about your right path frequently appear in your head. The reality that It’s not easy to do a 180 and change your career path. Especially, when you don’t even know if that path you are contemplating is for the long haul.
It makes sense to envision yourself on that new path but in 5-years’ time.
Do you see yourself flourish? Or Will you change your life trajectory slow down and fall behind your peers?
The youth can be volatile, so it’s good to be cautious…
What would your life be like in 5 years, if money and people’s expectations didn’t matter at all?
We are often held back by the pressure of financial stability and the expectation of people around us. This can greatly influence our choices in life.
But what if those choices cannot make us happy or give us a sense of purpose in life?
Would your life be different had you had chosen something else entirely irrespective of societal expectations and money? Probably and probably you can be happier too…That’s why this practice exists, It let you understand the stakes of your future choices…
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If it’s still not enough for you, maybe try asking these questions below:
What makes you forget to eat?
We all had that experience when you were so sucked into whatever that you were doing that you forgot to eat.
Admittedly, this happens for some less useful things that we do sometimes. Just image when binge watch Netflix show, or play video games. But take those entertainment contents that were designed to optimize their addictive nature out of the equation, and think:
What do I do that is actually equally enthralling and sucks me to my chair like I was binge watching Games of Thrones?
This is a great way for you to discover your true calling. Not just in the idealistic way people often put it, but in a more practical, subliminal way.
If you know you are going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?
This is rather similar to the Gravestone technique in that you are required to think about the end of your life, but this one pushes the urgency to a higher level. Instead of years and years ahead, suppose you only have one year, how would you leave your mark in the world?
Ultimately, death is the only thing that gives us perspective on the value of our lives. Because it’s only by imagining your non-existence that you can get a sense of what is most important about your existence.
- What is your legacy going to be?
- What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone?
- What is your obituary going to say? Is there anything to say at all?
- If not, what would you like it to say?
- How can you start working towards that today?
How are you going to save the world?
Ahh, the infamous life cycle assessment chart, telling you what is the perfect combination for a well balanced, perfect life. So we clearly talked about figuring out what we are passionate about and what sparks joy in us. But there is one element left: what the world needs?
It’s not just about the ethics and morals of things, but to bring value to the world renders the job you do so much more purpose. Say you’re a teacher, then ultimately, helping your students is the end goal of your job. That will give the work that you do, no matter how difficult, a sense of purpose.
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