If you feel like the best of life is behind you, or you’re floundering with no clear direction, you might have a purpose problem, my friend.
The good news is that finding your purpose in life doesn't have to be complicated.
Midlife is a confusing time. Things that you've worked hard for that made sense in your life for decades no longer do. Whether you get knocked down by a midlife crisis or when the kids move out to start their own lives, you need to figure out how to bounce back, and the sooner, the better.
Confusion around why things suddenly seem so different can create turmoil and even panic, but know this: You have everything you need to rise above!
If you're asking yourself, "What is my purpose?" you're in the right place. This guide dispels the myths about what purpose is and gives you action steps to start your purpose journey. Notice I called it a purpose journey; make no mistake, that's what it is. You won't uncover your life purpose in one sitting or with one resource, but if you're determined to live your best life, the journey you're about to embark on will be enlightening.
After years of research and discovery, I created a three-part purpose trilogy set of programs that help you reconnect with who you really are, help you set loving boundaries, and ultimately enable you to work through many possible paths you can take toward living a purposeful life in a way that identifies which is best for you. In this guide, I'll share with you critical steps from these programs and several additional resources to help you successfully begin your journey to discovering what your new life purpose is.
No time to read right now?
This ultimate guide is a long one! If you don't have time to read it now, download your own copy which includes worksheets and activities to help you on your purpose discovery journey.
What Purpose Is
Purpose is defined as the reason something exists; an intended or desired result, end game, or goal.
That's a start, but that definition doesn't tell the whole story.
If I were to ask you: "What's your life purpose?", how would you answer?
Have you identified it?
Is there only one purpose in your life, or many?
When we observe people like Gandhi or Mother Teresa, who have a well-defined purpose, it's easy to feel "less-than." After all, few of us change the world at that level; it can be downright disheartening.
Yet, no one person is more or less important than another.
How can that be?
If I'm not out changing the world at the level of Mother Teresa, doesn't that automatically make her more important than me?
No, and here's why:
Each of us impacts the world in our unique way. We are like drops of water in the ocean; each drop is essential to creating the sea's volume and power, and no single drop can do it alone.
Purpose is Individual
Every human is unique; no two share the same DNA, fingerprints, or purpose. We're born with inherent curiosity and interest in what's going on around us, which influences our journey. Our family of origin also impacts us, but following your curiosity will always bring you closer to who you really are.
Not everyone is willing or able to reject personal freedom in life to the extent that Gandhi and Mother Teresa did, so let's give ourselves a break, shall we?
I also want to challenge you to accept that we have more than one purpose in life. If you've been stressing because you haven't found "the one thing you're supposed to do," it's time to breathe a sigh of relief and think about where you should start looking when searching for purpose.
Seven Stages of Life & Your Survival
There are seven main stages of life. Each of these has its primary purpose and many opportunities to go beyond that. Below are some primary purpose examples by stage:
Infancy and Toddlerhood - Develop trust in caregivers and the world, learn to smile, and establish the independence required to explore the world.
Early Childhood - Learn to talk, develop fine motor skills, crawl, walk, and begin to understand the concept of time.
Middle Childhood - Learn through playing, understand their place in the world, interested in friends and being liked
Adolescence - Beginning to detach from family to forge their own identity
Early Adulthood - Career focus, learning to support themselves fully, seeking a partner
Middle Adulthood - Raising kids, mastering their career path, learning to love who they've become, focus on health
Late Adulthood - Retirement focus, more time to follow curiosity and interests, optimizing health, and living their best life.
As you can see, once you're born, these kinds of "essential purposes" are assigned to you in each stage of life, and achieving them helps improve your chances of survival.
But what about life purpose? The kind that propels you into action for the good of others, and fills you with joy?
Life purpose comes into play when you tap into your power and use your gifts to elevate the world - it's more of a force than anything else. The more in tune you are with your inner guidance and intuition, the sooner you will feel the pull of life purpose. More on this in “Why purpose in life is important.”
What It's Not
Purpose isn’t “the one thing you’re meant to do,” nor, is it your destiny. Destination and destiny are two very different things, and when we look at the definition of purpose it reads more like a goal (destination) than a life-encompassing journey.
I posit that purpose falls somewhere in between.
Purpose lands higher than a goal on the ladder of life and realizing that it’s not an ultimate destiny takes a bit of pressure off our journey.
If you want to define your destiny try thinking of it as a mission to discover your many purposes throughout life and share them with the world.
Why Purpose in Life is Important
We’re each given an unknown amount of time on Earth. The kicker is; not knowing how long we have can mess with our minds. Life is beautiful, and where we choose to focus can make it more so.
When you’re focused on living a purposeful life you’re believing in something greater than yourself. That kind of belief helps transcend the human condition and allows you to enter the realm of limitless possibilities.
Purpose expands anything it's applied to. Below are some examples:
Love is energy, and the most special feeling in the world. When you apply purpose to your love of others the experience is infinitely expanded. Take parenting; loving your children is one aspect of being a parent, but raising the best humans you can is purpose applied to love and it raises the impact for everyone involved.
Have you ever had the experience of discovering an injustice that you were able to make right? Making things right is a great feeling. When you apply purpose to reversing injustice your action becomes an invaluable service to the world.
When we live without purpose we’re left with a superficial existence which, in essence, is the result of settling instead of forging a path to our best life. By working to discover your purpose, and then sharing it with others, you set yourself up for a vibrant life that helps others do the same.
How Purpose in Midlife is Transformative
The word “Midlife” indicates a halfway point. It’s the midpoint in a lifetime, and depending on your point of view, that can be powerful or invoke fear. For some, it’s the first time they’ve stopped to realize time is running out. For everyone, that’s a sobering thought.
This article about midlife in Psychology Today explains it well.
Instead of looking at midlife as the peak of life you’ve worked hard to ascend, with the second half an inevitable downward slope, purpose allows us to use the second half of life to expand on the significance of our accomplishments, and that's powerful.
Many of our accomplishments have matured by midlife and don’t need tending as they once did. This leaves us with too much time on our hands, and feelings of doubt about our ability to discover new purposes creep in. This is the perfect time to remind yourself of all that you have accomplished. The mere fact that you’ve reached midlife means you’ve overcome more obstacles than you can remember, but let’s try.
Grab a piece of paper, or download The Accomplishments, Skills and Accolades Worksheet and list your skills, accomplishments, and accolades. In the worksheet, I’ve broken it out by decade to help organize your thoughts and memories.
Once you remind yourself that you know how to succeed, as evidenced by your accomplishments, you can apply those skills to any area of your life. When you realize how accomplished you are you’re better able to see limitless possibilities for yourself. That realization transforms your approach to life, and thereby your experience.
Because purpose expands whatever it’s applied to, it has the power to transform your second half of life. Midlife to Best Life is named for this exact transformation. I believe in it so strongly that helping others discover their purpose has become mine.
Purpose Quotes For Inspiration
“Live the Life of Your Dreams: Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others.”
― Roy T. Bennett
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
― Shannon Alder
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”
“Believe in your heart that you're meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.”
― Roy T. Bennett
“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone's soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
“What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.”
― Margaret Atwood
“Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”
― Mandy Hale
What You Need to do Before You Attempt to Discover Yours
Assess Your Life
You can't improve what you don't understand, and what happens to us all is that life gets in the way. It's too easy to forget to check in with ourselves or even remember that we should.
The MidLife Compass is a free resource that allows you to check-in with what's going on in your life, see what's working and what's not, and then take small steps to make desired changes. It's a habit tracker on steroids designed with feedback loops built-in to allow you to identify why something does or doesn't work.
Reconnect With Your Power
Using the MidLife Compass, you've assessed your situation. You're making small changes in key areas of your life to help set a new direction. Now, it's time to reconnect with who you are. Working on your external self is only half of the solution. When life suddenly doesn't make sense, it's because there's a disconnect between who you are inside and what's going on outside.
As mentioned before, you can't improve what you don't understand. If you want to live your best life you have to do inner work.
Passport to Purpose is a mini-course that guides you through reconnecting with who you are down deep inside. Passport to Purpose is designed to help you see your life in a different light, which illuminates new possibilities. Through video and written instructions, you'll be led through the seven critical steps you need to take BEFORE you begin to try to figure out what your new purpose in life is. Those steps are:
Stop Living Life on Autopilot - Going with the flow helps us get by in life, but you might not realize that it leads to living life on autopilot, which results in giving away our power. Step one helps you identify to what extent you’ve been living on autopilot and how to stop.
Question Everything - When was the last time you sat down and assessed your life? This step takes you on a deep dive into your life assessment. It helps you identify why your life is the way it is now (good and bad), which opens up understanding about how you got to this point and how to move on.
Set Your Destination - You've probably heard the saying, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there." This is where you set your destination so you can know where you're going. How do you want to be remembered? The answer to that question will help you set your destination.
Reconnect With What Lights You Up - You were given likes and dislikes for a reason. They are like messengers guiding you through this thing called life. It's time to tap into your curiosity, explore, and start paying attention to what happens when you do.
Open Yourself Up - We receive messages all day in many different ways, but if we've become used to running on autopilot, we also start tuning them out. Are you paying attention? This journaling exercise will help you learn how to notice things that you’re missing out on.
Turn Challenges Into Opportunities - Sometimes, we wish life was always smooth sailing with no storms or obstacles to overcome. The truth is, our experiences facing and overcoming challenges make us who we are, and they hold the key to who we can become.
Believe! - Facing the unknown can shake us to the core, and learning to let go of who society says we're "supposed to be" isn't easy. To be able to make positive changes, you have to believe in yourself.
Boundaries = Love
Next, you'll want to set yourself up for success by learning how to set loving boundaries
You've thrived in the role as "the go-to person" for decades, but if you want to discover a new purpose and create a life that you love, you need to learn how to set boundaries.
One side-effect of being everything to everyone is losing the ability to say "No." If that's happened to you, establishing boundaries will be the healthiest thing you can do to support yourself through this transition.
You've heard the idiom "Good fences make good neighbors," right? Well, setting boundaries makes happy relationships.
You might not realize it, but everything you do is being observed and emulated by those who look up to you. You are a role model to everyone you interact with. When you give away your power by people-pleasing and thereby disrespecting yourself, you show, by example, that it's okay to live life that way.
Boundaries With Purpose helps you protect your most precious asset - TIME. If you want to uncover your purpose, you need to set the kind of boundaries that support you in that quest; doing so will set appropriate expectations for yourself and others.
Why Should You Care?
Maybe your idea of your best life involves sitting on a tropical beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing (that sounds divine!) In that case, why should you care about life purpose?
There's a difference between living "the good life" and becoming complacent. Midlife is a gift! You can elevate the world - even from a tropical beach - you just need to tap into what's inside.
Your purpose may involve helping the neighbor kid whose parents aren't there for them or getting involved with your community. Your purpose may include volunteering or teaching or selling your artwork or writing a book. You won't know unless you commit to taking the purpose journey.
When you discover your purpose, life takes on new meaning. It's no longer something you want a vacation from (or to escape to a tropical beach because of). When you're living a purposeful life, everything changes; it's a life-expanding experience.
So move to that tropical destination, but don't miss the opportunity to live life to the fullest. You need to use purpose to create your best life, and this is why: Even the most ideal surroundings lose their magic when you sit among them idly. Something other than your location is responsible for your happiness, and that something is life purpose.
Example of Tapping Into Your Curiosity
Using the “retiring to a tropical beach” scenario as an example:
After a few weeks, sitting on the beach, drinking Mai Tais and reading has lost its luster (hey, it could happen!). Soon, you find yourself following your curiosity and exploring every inch of the island. You learn so much about the area. Before you know it you're effortlessly answering tourists' questions about local geography and customs, where they should eat, etc.
Something else has happened too; you've been intrigued by how one of the island birds builds its nest, and that's inspired a necklace design - you can't get this design out of your head! You've never dabbled in jewelry making, but you can't resist the pull and start learning the craft.
You learn how to replicate the nest's look exquisitely and with a splash of color infused with alchemy - your creations are stunning! The first ten you make sell out in less than an hour. Your customers are delighted that they've found such a beautiful keepsake from their visit to the island.
Can you see what happened there? You didn't have to go through something difficult to find your purpose. You followed your inner guidance through curiosity, interest, and intrigue, and it led you to elevate the world through your unique design. Your purpose went from your initial desire to enjoy life on a tropical beach, to helping others capture the magic of their visit in paradise.
That's what happens when you live a purposeful life - It's magical! .
How to Discover Your Purpose
We’ve all heard “follow your passion” as a way to discover purpose in life, but there’s so much more to it than that; especially if you’re looking to start a business with your purpose. Either way, the key to choosing a purpose that lights you up and allows you to make a difference in the world, is to first get clear on your values.
When you’ve hit the midlife wall and all you want is relief, it’s way too easy to jump on the first idea that seems like it might change things for the better. I’ve mentioned before that the best way to reset your equilibrium is to STOP and take stock of what’s going on inside you.
What's holding you back?
This is where your inner journey begins. Your most essential relationships help to form your belief system. From the time you're born, people label and create stories about you. You've heard them all your life: You were such a good baby, or you cried until you were three years old. Teachers and classmates label you as a teacher's pet or a trouble-maker.
Before you try to figure out your next steps in life, you need to shed everything that's not intrinsically you. Before you can do that, you need to identify it.
Purpose Finder Lab is set up to allow you to take your deep-dive into who you are to the next level. You'll learn how to identify stories and expose patterns holding you back; more importantly, you'll learn how to let them go.
The Purpose Finder Lab is where you get to see what others are doing (side-hustle anyone?), identify your personality traits, assess your skills, and test your ideas for your next step BEFORE jumping all in.
It’s an in-depth workshop where, among other things, you'll:
Set Your Direction by examining skills, strengths, weaknesses and your personality
Identify and solidify your Mission, Vision, and Values, which inform your decisions
Run your ideas through a revolutionary testing ground to discover which are viable
For anyone who has so many ideas they don’t know where to start, Purpose Finder Lab is for you. We hear sayings such as “Love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life,” but loving what you do isn’t ultimately what makes something a good fit for your life. Instead of wasting your time chasing something you love, how about confirming it’s a viable option first? Where else do you get to vet your ideas and develop a game plan before investing valuable time?
If you follow the pull of your curiosity and intuition, and you take the time to reconnect to who you are, assess your life, and make small changes consistently, you’ll be on your way to discovering your purpose and living a new, vibrant life.
I’m proposing a new saying: “Follow your values and you’ll find your true purpose.”
Check out the resources mentioned above.