How to fulfill your purpose in life

One key element of a flourishing life is a sense of purpose, which allows us to find our passions, pursue important goals and ultimately live lives of authentic happiness. Most of us go about our daily lives without actively thinking about what purpose we are trying to accomplish. However, there are steps we can take to develop a more deliberate awareness of our goals and live lives that are filled of meaning.

1. Define your goals

First, be clear about your purpose and intentions: Who do you want to be? How do you want to live? What do you want to do? How are you going to do it? Then explore the roads that lead to your goals and the obstacles in your way. Often, these obstacles will become opportunities for growth and change.

Purpose is about intention—having goals that help build the framework for your plans and fulfillment in life. Those goals can be large or small in scope. If you want to eat more healthfully, you’ll be motivated to buy more fruits and vegetables. If you want to have a positive effect on the environment, learn more about the issues and join like-minded people so you can get your cause on the next ballot.

2. Look at the big picture, then fill in the details.

From the time you are small, those around you—from your parents to the society at large—influence you, tell you what is important and how they expect you to live. While these influences can be helpful, it is crucial to find your own meaning and purpose. The easiest way to begin is to look at the big picture and then work out the small details.

Recently, I began working with a client I will call Kelly. Kelly was raised by a single mother who barely scraped by financially. If it weren’t for the help of close friends and community organizations, Kelly felt she would not be the successful businesswoman she has become. In a big-picture sense, Kelly decided her purpose in life should involve giving back to others. She began to think about ways she could give back. The most obvious was to write a check, but that did not feel like it would fulfill her true intention. After some reflection together, we came up with a plan to give back in three categories: money, hands and heart. The money was the checks she would write to deserving organizations. Her hands would dish out food at a local shelter on Saturdays. Her heart came into play when she aligned with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and mentored a young girl. Her tactical goals led to the fulfillment of her overarching purpose in life.

3. Consult your morals and values.

If you want to live with purpose, you need to understand and explore what you value most. If you value teaching children, you can focus on that area. If you value creating beauty, you can grow a beautiful garden or express yourself through art or music. If you value helping others, we can find a way to make that happen.

4. Use strengths and build up weaknesses.

Often we need the weaker parts of ourselves in order to accomplish what we desire. If you feel stuck in an unsatisfying job because you are averse to risk-taking, work on building up your courage. If you struggle with time management and don’t have time to add volunteer responsibilities you’re interested in, work on your organizational skills and start small with just an hour every other week.

We all want to live a life of purpose. The key is to figure out what in life creates meaning for you, and then create goals and behaviors that support your intentions.

A longer version of this article was first published in the October 2017 issue of Live Happy magazine.