Do you know your life purpose? Do you have a mission that guides you in your daily actions? When you are old and gray, what do you want to know that you have experienced and accomplished with your life?
Stephen Covey suggests that to discover your real purpose in life, you must first "Begin with the end in mind." To do this, use your imagination to project yourself years into the future.
In order to begin, imagine walking into a funeral parlor and seeing a casket at the front of the room. Next, you saunter down to the coffin and look inside, only to come face to face with yourself. You are attending your funeral.
Next, step back from the casket and peer around the room. As you do so, you notice the seats filled with the people in your life that matter the most. Your family and friends have all come to pay respect to your life.
Finally, you find a place to be seated and watch as the most important people in your life take turns saying beautiful things about you while expressing their love and appreciation.
3 Steps to Discovering Your Life Purpose
1. Identify the key people in your life.
Begin by making a list of the people you want to speak at your funeral. The people you choose should represent all the major areas of your life, from family and friends to work and even the community.
There is no need for every one of them to speak, pick one from each of the key areas of your life to represent that group. For instance, if you have more than one child, then you might have one of them speak, having their words represent all your children.
2. Describe how you would like each of these speakers to remember you.
- What do you want them to say about the way you lived your life?
- What kind of spouse, friend, parent, and worker do you want them to remember you as being in their lives?
- What do you want them to remember you being passionate about in your life?
- What achievements would you like them to remember you accomplished during your life?
- What contributions did you make in their lives?
3. Create a vivid purpose statement for each of the key people in your life.
By completing steps one and two, you should now have a clear vision of what is most important to you in all areas of your life. Now it is time to identify your specific purpose for each of those critical areas.
Try to be as concrete as possible in describing how you wish for them to remember you. Instead of saying you want your children to remember you as a loving father, be more specific by explaining what a loving father looks like to them.
How would your children know that you have loved them? Describe how you will have shown love to them, not just that you are.
For example, instead of saying, "I want my children to remember me for loving them and always being there for them." You might instead say something like the following:
"I want my children to remember that I was always showing interest in their lives by attending their school events, and by intently listening when they spoke. Next, I want them to remember how I supported each of them when things didn't always go their way as well as when they did. I also want them to have learned how to treat others with kindness and respect from watching me interact with the people in my life."
Doing this exercise may feel a little surreal. Nonetheless, I highly recommend doing it.
What are Your Deepest Values?
Think deeply about your answers, because they should reflect your deepest values.
When I did this exercise, I imagined the speakers to be my wife, my kids, and my grandkids (which I don't even have yet). In this instance, the words I heard them saying were loving, loyal, supportive, fun, happy, kind, thoughtful, there for me, and always learning and growing.
Knowing how I wanted the most important people in my life to see me gave me a new sense of purpose. It gave me clarity on how I wanted to live my life and how I wanted to spend my time.
Making decisions became easier once I had clarified what was most important to me. So, when I'm forced to make a tough choice, I can now reflect on how the consequences of that decision would affect my purpose. If it didn't support my life purpose, then I could easily say no.
How Knowing Your Life Purpose Effects Your Decisions
When I was younger and just starting a family, I was working as a car salesman at a large dealership. One day management decided that even though my shift was over at 4 p.m., I should stay late that evening.
My wife and I had made previous plans about a week before to go and see my parents. Consequently, we were to leave as soon as I was off work to make the 3-hour drive.
When my shift was over, I politely told my boss about the situation and said that I couldn't stay any later. He wasn't happy with my decision, but I had no problem walking out the door and keeping my promise to my family.
I'm not so sure that it would have been as easy of a decision if I hadn't already established my priorities. The approval that I sought in life was not from my boss, but rather from my family. In case you're wondering, he didn't fire me, but I did soon resign because they began to regularly ask me to stay later and come in on my day off.
Surprisingly, they even tried to tempt me to remain at the dealership by offering me a management position and a yearly salary beginning at $100,000. And while many people would jump at that kind of money, the truth was that even though I was flattered, I simply wasn't interested.
And the reason is simple. Yes, part of my purpose is to provide financially for my family, but it is also essential for me to be there for them physically and emotionally.
As well as providing for them financially, I also want to be a positive role model for my children and an all-around supportive husband and father. And I knew I wouldn't be able to do that working twelve hours a day, six days a week.
So, because I knew my priorities and purpose in life, for me, choosing family over money was a natural choice to make.
Take the time to complete the exercise and let me know in the comments below your personal experience with doing it. What did you learn or discover about yourself and your priorities? Are you living in accordance with your answers or do you need to make some changes in your life?