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How are you spending your day? Chances are, you might only be living by the moment. Drifting. Just taking everything life gives you day in and day out. You have no goals, no aspirations, and have nothing to look forward to. Worst, you may even start asking yourself, “What am I here for?“
I’m describing myself a few years back.
Purpose is important because it generally gives one’s life drive, direction, and meaning. People who live purposefully serve others and help them live better lives. Those who have found their mission are generally happier and more fulfilled. Life becomes extra special when you find its purpose.
What does it mean to find your purpose in life?
Many equate finding purpose as being happy with their life. That is why people tend to switch jobs, migrate to different countries, and go into various relationships when they do not feel happy anymore.
Finding your purpose in life means committing yourself to a cause you care about. It is being part of a solution to a certain problem where you can use your gifts, talents, and skills. A purposeful life is about the willingness to serve passionately. It is something you want to do even if it is difficult, and you gain nothing in return.
To give you an example, here is the purpose statement of our family:
Our purpose as a family is to empower our neighbors from hopelessness and enable them to empower others as well, through the means of generosity.
In essence, our mission is to be prudent with our resources so we can be generous towards those who are in need. We aim to empower people who are broken and feeling hopeless by sharing with them our time, money, talents, and knowledge. By doing this, we hope one day we can lead them to a position where they can also empower others through their own advocacy.
Life is more fun when you have found a purpose to devote your life to. But that does not mean it will always feel that way. Living your purpose can sometimes feel like going to the gym. There will be days when you do not feel like doing it. You know it is a calling when you find yourself doing it anyway.
If you want to learn about our family’s mission and vision, you can follow the links below:
How to know when you found your purpose in life?
There is no metric system that can say you have certainly found your purpose in life. We all base it on assumptions and gut feelings. These are some hints if you want to know whether you have already found your purpose in life:
- You put others before yourself.
- You serve without expecting anything in return.
- Working for eight hours a day isn’t enough.
- You find joy and fulfillment in what you are doing. Not in the results.
- People are inspired by your work, and they tell you about it.
- You have the drive to do things even when nobody is pushing you.
- You can more or less see where your life is heading.
- You do your best despite no one is watching.
- Your heart aches for people who are experiencing the issue you are trying to solve.
- You feel the burden of doing something even if you do not want to do it.
- It is an activity you are willing to engage in for the rest of your life.
- You do it despite the hardships.
When I consider all these things, what I think of is writing. I told my wife if I became too broke to give financially, or too old to volunteer, I could continue being generous by blogging or writing a book. I can pen all the lessons I have collected throughout my life, which hopefully add value to the reader.
Some people will connect their purpose with their work, others, with roles in their families. The majority, perhaps, have tied it to their spirituality or religious beliefs. These all have their own truths. But when you strip everything away, what you will see is that purpose is fundamentally about service. Everyone’s purpose is to serve. We are not here for ourselves. We are here for each other.
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Do we all have a purpose in life?
I was having fish for dinner on one occasion. Out of the blue, I felt emotional as I saw its entire body lying on my plate beside a cup of steamed rice. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of thanksgiving as I realized the sole purpose of the fish. It was born specifically to feed me that evening. I mean, don’t you think it is mind-blowing to think there are living things whose primary calling is to die and give us life?
We depend on others, and others depend on us. Hence, everyone has a purpose in life. But the call for each individual is unique as we all have different skill sets, experiences, and responsibilities. Nothing is ever created to benefit itself. We all exist to have each other’s backs. If you think you do not have a purpose, you just might not have found it yet.
My wife and I prayed and reflected for four years before we found our purpose. It took so long because we looked for meaning in the wrong places. If you’re like us, you may have already found your calling. The problem is you are hesitant to accept it because it is different from what you expected. We tend to search for a grand purpose; like being one of the first people to land on Mars. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But what if your purpose lies in ordinary things? Like being a loving husband and an amazing dad?
I hate to break it to you, but there are even people who have found their purpose in suffering and tragedy.
Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, he wrote how he found his purpose while being a prisoner in a concentration camp. The suffering he endured and the lessons he learned motivated him to stay alive, so he would be able to write about it when he gets out.
Another example is Candy Lightner. On May 3, 1980, her 13-year-old daughter was killed in a hit-and-run by a drunk driver in Fair Oaks, California. By September 5, 1980, Candy transformed her tragedy into a mission to stop drunk driving by organizing a group called MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Driving. As of March 30, 2020, MADD has saved around 350,000 lives and helped more than 850,000 victims.
Most often than not, we begin to find purpose when we are at the lowest point of our lives. This is why many of us never find it. Not everyone sees hardships as opportunities.
The reason why Lalaine and I chose generosity as our advocacy is because we both experienced the plight of being dead broke and in serious debt. We both traveled and weathered the season of hopelessness, and it is a predicament we do not want other people to experience.
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How to find your purpose in life?
People often believe you do not have to find your purpose because it will instead find you. They expect they’ll get the eureka moment some day. I’m not sure if there are individuals who suddenly found their meaning in life while binge-watching Netflix or playing video games on PS5. But based on our experience, purpose is something you have to pursue through prayer and observation. You will only find it if you search for it intently.
There are generally two ways to find your purpose. First is the treasure hunt method. You journey through life and look for clues about the reason for your existence. The second is the menu method. You browse through all the issues of this world, and then choose which causes you are willing to be part of based on your passion, gifts, experience, and expertise.
The treasure hunt method
I am sure you are familiar with how treasure hunting works. You might have seen it in movies, or have experienced playing it every Easter. It is a game where you follow clues and solve puzzles to uncover hidden treasure. You can use the same method when finding your purpose in life.
Here are some of the action plans when going for the treasure hunting method:
- Observe your surroundings.
- Look for signs
- Ponder about your situation.
- Recognize your strengths.
- Identify your comrades.
- Chart where your life is heading.
- Decode the lessons.
- Connect the dots.
- Explore the opportunity.
- Find the next clue.
- Follow the trail.
Treasure hunting is what most people use in finding their life’s purpose. Viktor Frankl and Candy Lightner found theirs through this method. They were led into a situation where they had to respond in such a way that eventually gave meaning to their lives.
The treasure hunt approach is a fun way to find meaning in life. But the downside of this process is that it can be unreliable, confusing, and takes a great deal of time to get results.
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The menu method
When you open the menu in a new restaurant, you can more or less see a shortlist of items you are inclined to try. Depending on your budget, you will order a few and ultimately discover the dish you most enjoyed.
Finding your purpose in life can also be approached this way. As mentioned earlier, purpose is all about service. It is being a part of a solution to a problem. So the menu we are going to open is a choice of the tribe of people we want to help, and an ongoing issue in their lives we wish to alleviate.
Here are the guide questions to the menu method:
Who is the group of people you are most compassionate about?
|Teen moms||Empty nesters||Orphans|
|Artists||Atheists/Agnostics/Other faiths||Business people|
What issues break my heart the most?
|Domestic abuse||Arts||Reaching the lost|
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What can I do?
What are the tools I can use?
|Reshaping mindsets||Manual skills||Finance|
What outcome do I wish to see?
Now complete this sentence once you have picked the items that spoke to you from the menu:
“My purpose is to (what you can do) the (group of people) from (an ongoing issue) to (the desired outcome) through the means of (the tool).“
Lalaine and I used the menu method to determine our purpose — as I had shown earlier:
Our purpose as a family is to (empower) our (neighbors) from (hopelessness) and (enable them to empower others as well), through the means of (generosity).
Personally, I like the menu approach because it is simpler, easier, and more practical. Of course, whatever we have come up with is not set in stone. Feel free to revise along the way in response to the ever-changing priorities and circumstances of life. There is an element of trial and error in finding your purpose using the menu method.
In addition, as followers of Christ, our family also used another “menu” which is the Holy Bible. Overall, we believe we exist to be in a relationship with God and to use our lives to please Him. One of the items we picked out from the Menu was 2 Corinthians 9:7 which reads:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
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The key: Know thyself
Whatever method you chose, the key is to know yourself.
Here is the process I have undergone to learn more about myself:
What ongoing issues in life do you feel most connected to?
- Financial difficulty and being in debt.
- Broken families.
What is one thing you did ten years ago, still doing today, and would be willing to continue doing ten years from now?
What is one thing you like to do even without getting paid?
What are your strengths?
According to CliftonStrengths:
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What are your gifts?
Based on GiftsTest.com
What are your traits?
Results from 16Personalities.com
An Advocate (INFJ) tends to approach life with deep thoughtfulness and imagination. Their inner vision, personal values, and a quiet, principled version of humanism guide them in all things.
What is your personality type?
Based on Tony Robbins DISC Assessment Test:
- Dominance = low
- Influential = very low
- Steadiness = very high
- Conscientious = high
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What do you value?
From Tony Robbin’s Assessment Test:
What is your number one driving force?
Who are the people you look up to?
- Warren Buffet
- C.S. Lewis
- Craig Groeschel
Of course, it is unrealistic to assume all test results are accurate. But I must admit they did help me a great deal with understanding myself more. It was interesting to note that a few things consistently showed up in the test results, such as learning and giving.
Fun fact: these results are what inspired me to start this blog. Hence, the name The “Learning” Dad Blog. The idea is to create an online journal to share my learnings with others — and hopefully make it into a business to support my passion for writing.
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Here is our family’s official mission statement which I suppose everyone can also apply in their lives: To bloom wherever you are planted.
The truth is, finding your purpose in life is a step of faith. You do not have to wait for the perfect moment to make your life purposeful. You have to try things out and see where they lead you. Yet, wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you are with, however you live, there is always the opportunity to serve others.
Live your life with purpose today.