Finding Your Purpose Isn’t Easy – But Neither Is Having It Handed To You

Find Your PurposeSearching for your purpose can be exasperating.

I’ve talked to folks who have reached the point of tears over not being about to find their purpose. Everything they do is a dead end. Every time they think they have it figured out, it falls through.

All they want is to be able to do work that they are passionate about, and that is in line with their purpose – their calling.

Only, they have no idea what that is.

“Congratulations, You’re the Next Dharma King…”

In “What Should I Do With My Life?,” Po Bronson tells the story of his friend Choeaor Dondup, nicknamed Ali:

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you got a letter in the mail when you were seventeen, signed by someone who had a direct pipeline to Ultimate Meaning, telling you exactly who you are and what your true destiny is?

The letter said he wasn’t Choeaor Dondup after all. Instead, he was the reincarnation of a warrior who, along with his five brothers, had ruled a poor and remote region of eastern Tibet six lifetimes ago…. Ali’s real name was Za Rinpoche, which is Tibetan for “The Dharma King.”

We have mixed feelings about the seductive notion of destiny. There’s a persistent tension between wanting our life’s purpose to be revealed to us by some higher power and wanting to scrap and fight for it against all odds-to earn it without help.

I’ve had a number of conversations with people who dream about having their purpose revealed to them in some obvious way. The struggle to find their calling is too much. Why can’t someone just tell them?

For some, they already did. It’s called your day job. Someone else defined your destiny for you, and it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger, But It Still Sucks…

The search is part of the process. Finding out who you are is one of the key steps in finding out what you are here to do. And in my opinion, the most important step.

It’s the quickening, and the discovery process is difficult at times. Other times it’s down-right painful. But it’s necessary.

Having your passion or purpose provided to you with a bow and a kitty-cat card is not as great as it may sound.

When you find it, you know it’s right. It’s like falling in love. You move from thinking or believing to knowing.

That knowing is what will guarantee your success…


  1. It is painful to try and discover (your purpose). I suppose I’m still in the process. “Purpose” doesn’t reveal itself to everyone when they are just getting out of school. Sometimes it’s years later. My thoughts are that what you do NOW, really is leading you toward that purpose. That’s why it’s important to be the best you can at everything you participate in……because ultimately, the knowledge you gain will help define your purpose.

  2. Anthony – You’re right, and after the fact you can look back and see all the little things that were pointing to it along the way. Like most things in life, it’s obvious in hindsight – but not so much when you’re in the process.

    Peter – Thanks. Focusing to the process is key. There aren’t any shortcuts that I’m aware of (and I’ve studied this stuff extensively in my own search). The process IS the discovery mechanism.

    DanyO – Glad I got you thinking. It’s one of the things I do best 😉

  3. I think in life, that is the hardest thing to search for. Most people remain mediocre not because they’re stupid, lazy, or unlucky. But the reason is because they haven’t found what’s their purpose in life, their aims.

  4. That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger, But It Still Sucks…

    THAT one earned a smile 🙂

    I like Neale Walsch saying, “There’s no blackboard in the sky…Your purpose is what you say it is.”

  5. IQM – Great point. Having a purpose is like having a map. Without it, things are often a shot in the dark

    Steve – That’s an awesome quote. It also goes back to the fact that we all know what we should be doing. It’s just hard to see sometimes.

  6. In my own experience I have been able to do work I’ve been passionate about without articulating my purpose in so many words. It’s only in middle age that I get my purpose. What helped me over the years was trusting myself, trusting when I felt good, and following where my energy wanted to go, even when my head didn’t always understand.

  7. A friend of mine was playing golf with a man in his mid-to-late 60s. At one point during the game the older man turned to my friend and said, I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

    I suspect figuring out your life’s goal has little to do with age and more to do with the effort put into figuring it out.

    I always thought the older you are, the better chance you have of playing the “process of elimination game” to see what you don’t like.

    Anyhow, interesting post, Tony. Keep it up.

  8. I find it both very sad and somewhat frustrating (when I have to deal with people) that most people in society seem to have no clear purpose for their lives in mind. This is definitely the case in Australia, and I suspect it is true in many western societies – perhaps it’s even the human condition.

    It has been said that most people spend more time planning their weekend or their forthcoming vacation than they spend in planning the rest of their lives. When people have no purpose in life they do not see the need for planning, goal setting or developing their lives in any meaningful ways.

    I guess this is true of the majority who live only for the next pay day, or the next meal, or the next weekend, or the next ball game or whatever. How shallow. How deadly boring. No wonder there is so much mental illness, so much rage, and so much disillusionment.

    I have always been purpose driven, so this is why I feel alienated to some degree from many others. I have known from a very early age (about 8yo) what and who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do with my life. My frustration has been in not having enough time to fulfil all that I could be – or want to be. I’ve sometimes been sidetracked on minor activities too. So be it – those experiences can be life enhancing too.

    To have a clear and determined calling, destiny, purpose, vision – call it what you will – colours every thing I do, say and think. I didn’t have to “find” it – it found me. So you could say I’ve been blessed, or fortunate, or unique.

    For me, the discovery was the easy part.

    The hard part for me was the journey – damned hard in parts but oh so satisfying.

  9. Debbie – I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes you can do work in-line with your purpose without even knowing it.

    Dave – You’re absolutely right. Some folks find it early in life, because they chose to pursue it. Others never find it. It all comes down to the decision to explore and discover.

    Trevor – Very well put. Once you know it, things tend to fall into place. And even on the journey, as you look back, you see that things were heading in that direction all along.

  10. Ahh.. Both ways, I would agree that it isn’t easy. It is always the case of the greener pasture on the other side of the land.

    Say for 2 kids, one from a poor family and the other from a rich one. The poorer one always have to fight for his survival, to eat and to live, but his life is of a carefree one. He admires the rich kid for what he possess. The rich one can have everything in the world, yet his life is constantly one of pressure ( his purpose is to take over the family business), and he admires the lifestyle of the poorer kid.

    I wonder how much people actually think of their own purpose in life rather than comparing theirs with others.

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