How do I find purpose and direction in life? Life often feels chaotic, we are constantly busy with work or other responsibilities, so it feels like we don’t have any control over the direction of our life.
If you are looking to add purpose to your life, keep reading as we will talk about 12 questions you can ask yourself to help you realign your compass.
1) What do you believe in?
When you are trying to find purpose or direction in your life, it is essential to ask yourself, “What do I believe in?” While this might sound like a simple question, it is pretty hard to answer cause we often don’t know what we believe in. For myself, only recently did I discovered that my ultimate belief is in the power of truth.
Truth can be a complicated topic, but it means telling our stories and helping others make sense of the world around them.
Whether or not I am right about the truth or knowing how to guide people in the right direction is a different question. Nevertheless, what matters is that truth is driving me forward and serves as a motivation for taking action. So ask yourself, what idea drives me? What vision do you believe in?
While you can’t always put all your efforts towards something that you believe in, knowing what it is that you believe in is helpful as it gives you direction.
So think about what is important to you and ask yourself why it is so? Maybe your answers to these questions will help you gain some perspective on what is worthy of your time.
2) What are you good at?
Often the best place to put our efforts is towards the things we are already good at. People often say we should focus on our weaknesses so we can get past them. But if you good at something, you already have a headstart, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it? If you are already good at something, it will be worth working at it so that you can become an expert.
Sometimes we don’t know what we are good at, but if we like doing something, that can often serve as a hint.
So if you want to do something and you’ve been doing it for a while, you might already be good at it. For example, when I first got started in my industry, I had no idea what I was doing. But as I learnt more, I got better and focused on a specific skill set, so now I’m an expert.
Working on what we are already good at will give us a headstart, and having expertise is going to make it easier for you to make money doing what you do.
Don’t get caught up in making money; know that if you are good at something, you might be able to figure out a way to make it work as a business for the rest of your life.
3) What do people ask you about?
What do people ask you about when they have a question? My family has always turned to me for questions about their computers, which was an excellent place for me to put focus. Even before I went to college or university, I was always the computer expert in the family; now, computers are my job.
If people are asking you about something, they most likely have faith in your ability or expertise.
If you are looking for direction in your life, then focusing on what people already come to you for answers about. If you can already answer people’s questions, then you are already an expert in their eyes.
When it comes to purpose, we often find it in doing the things that help other people. So if answering questions about computers or whatever you are good at brings other people joy or removes stress from their lives, then there might be something there for you to pursue.
Remember, if you don’t know what you are good at, other people might.
4) What are you drawn to?
Sometimes we are drawn to things for reasons beyond our understanding or for reasons that we can’t explain. For example, I have been curious about dreams throughout my life and have kept dream journals at different times. While I didn’t often read about my dreams, I sure did get good at keeping a journal and writing.
While my curiosity about dreaming has made me an interesting person, it hasn’t translated into a job or anything, but a byproduct of it was a passion for writing. So while I was drawn to one thing, something else came out of it that has become a big part of how I find purpose and meaning in my life.
If you are having trouble figuring out direction in your life, ask yourself, what am I drawn to? What do I want to do or think about doing?
Put another, is there something you are pulled towards and you don’t know why? Try to figure out why that is happening as it might be giving you guidance on what would be helpful to try next.
5) What does the world need?
Sometimes if we can’t get clear direction from what we are interested in, it is time to ask the world what it is looking for. Unfortunately, there isn’t any oracle out there who can answer all your questions and provide you with the direction you seek, but there might be some hints.
Many years ago, my boss said to me, “we need someone to do web accessibility; how about you?” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I said yes and started to learn. Now I’ve been doing it for many years and am an expert in the field. While I wasn’t exactly passionate about it initially, I did stick with it, and now it is my job, and I enjoy it.
We don’t always know the gaps that need to be filled, but sometimes the world gives us a hint, and we can fill in the spaces that need to be filled.
So if you aren’t exactly sure about what to do, go with the flow, and maybe something will pop out that gives you some direction.
6) What do you want to change?
Sometimes what gives us the most direction is the things that we hate, and while we don’t want to focus on the negative, what we hate can lead to something positive. For example, in a previous article, I talked about a friend who hated child slavery in the chocolate industry, so she focused on fighting it and found a lot of passion in that.
What bothers you about the world? What do you think could be better or done in a different way? Maybe the answers to these questions will help you get an idea about what could give you some direction.
While you might not like something, you might be able to find joy in going against or fighting it.
If you can’t find something that you love, maybe there is something you hate that could be changed for the better. If you can make the world a better place by fixing a wrong, it might be a worthwhile effort that gives your life purpose and direction.
7) What does your gut tell you to do?
While we talked about being drawn to things earlier in this article, it is important to distinguish those things from internal feelings that push us towards ideas. For example, when I was younger, I was always interested in science and experiments. I even got a chemistry set for Christmas one year while I was in high school.
For some reason, I was always interested in making sense of the world and trying to understand what was going on. While that feeling never went away, my gut did lead me to study science at university, which gave me a well-rounded education. I couldn’t tell you why I liked science, but I always had this feeling inside that it was necessary pursuit.
Trust your gut; if your heart tells you to try something out, it might be worth giving it a go.
While we can’t always be sure about why we feel a certain way, it is best not to ignore our instincts and follow them when we can, at least a little. Is your gut leading you towards something different than what you are doing right now?
8) Have you tried out something new recently?
Often we get stuck in a rut, or at least we get stuck in the habit of doing the same things over and over again. And at times that can blind us to the excitement that is happening all around us. Put another way; if you haven’t tried something new in a while, then you aren’t giving yourself a chance to find new potential opportunities.
I, for one, am a creature of habit; I only like one type of ice cream and only ever eat the same submarine sandwich when I go out for lunch while at the office. While this might sound boring, to you, it makes sense cause I’ve already solved the ‘lunch problem.’ But the risk here is that I’m missing out on lots of different delicious foods.
The more we stick to what we know, the less we know about the world around us and the unique things that are going on.
There are an infinite number of things worth pursuing at any given time, but if you don’t know they exist, you will never give them any attention. Being open to new experiences gives you lots of chances to find different things that can inspire purpose and direction in your life.
9) What have you enjoyed in the past?
Sometimes we get caught up in what we are doing today or what we have been thinking about recently. But what about all those things in the past that we used to like? Maybe there are gems in our histories that we have forgotten about but could provide us with some value today?
My wife learnt how to play the electronic organ as a child, she hasn’t practiced in years, but whenever she sees a piano, she likes to play around with it. It is not that she could make a career out of it, but she enjoys making music and trying to figure out a tune.
Lessons from the past are a good starting point for our passion of today.
Purpose and direction in your life don’t need to be about a career; it can be a hobby or pastime that brings you joy. While we might think we need to dedicate our lives to something to make it meaningful, sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a hobby that makes you happy.
While it might not be your everything, it could be enough to feel like you have more direction than you had before.
10) What would you do if you didn’t need to work?
A common question people ask when looking for hints about what they should do with their lives is, “what would you do if you didn’t have to work?” But this is a serious question, what would you do? Maybe it’s not about finding a new job; it could be about something that you enjoy doing and would like to get better at.
Looking at the clock, it is 10 PM, and I am sitting in my office writing this article. This isn’t my job, but I like to do it regardless, and here I am doing it during my free time. What we enjoy doing often gives us direction as to what we should do more of. While I couldn’t write for 8 hours a day, getting to do it for a couple of hours is satisfying and feels like it gives my life purpose.
What we do for free is often a hint about what we should do more cause we are already doing it out of desire rather than need.
This isn’t to say you can’t get paid to do things you like; instead, if you do what you like, you don’t need to get paid to do it, so you will keep doing it. Ask yourself, what am I already doing for free? Maybe there is more to that than you realize?
11) Are you overthinking this?
In the past, when I thought about this question, I used to go through lists of ideas. Then, I could build out some of those ideas and see where they went. Often they went nowhere, other times I was into them for a while. But in the end, I realized that I liked writing and wanted to do that more than anything else.
If you are ambitious and want to make a significant impact on the world, you might think you need to do something big and influential. And while that is a noble goal, it might blind you to the real opportunities out there. You might not be able to build the next Facebook out of your garage; that is almost impossible, but you can more easily find something that will bring you joy.
We often overthink things because we think they are more complicated than they have to be, so keep it simple and focus on the small stuff.
For example, rather than thinking about the impact you can have, think about what you enjoy, what you are good at and what the world needs; maybe all you need is ikigai.
12) What is your plan?
In a previous article, I talked about living with purpose and how it comes from having a plan. While planing purpose and direction in our life might be a complicated task, there are simpler things for us to map out. As I mentioned before, I like writing and it is easier to keep writing if I have a list of articles that I want to write. Whenever I’m in the right state of mind, I look at the list and get started.
Often purpose and direction come from what we are doing every day, and while our lives are busier than ever before, there is always a chance to spend a couple of hours on something important to us. So work on a plan, it doesn’t need to be huge, but it might need to be big enough to keep your on track so that you know what you are going to do next.
If these questions have been helpful, then you might have a better sense of what you are looking for. But even if you haven’t figured it all out, you can use this as a starting point, so write it down. Then take some time to look at your notes and try to develop them; often, clarity is the best way to ensure you accomplish a goal.
That said, having a goal that you are working towards is often what it takes to give your life purpose and direction.
Hopefully, this list of questions has helped give you a sense of where you might find some direction. Don’t give up either; this is a tricky question to answer so you need to stick to it, but someday it will just pop up, and you will know what you need to do.