How to discover your life’s purpose

The Mentor List Podcast Blog article Jon Yeo - TedX Melbourne - Executive speaker coach

How to discover your life’s purpose

If I asked you what your purpose in life is, what drives you, would you know the answer?

Don’t worry, you are not going to lose points if you say, “I don’t know”. You won’t be the only one either.

It’s important to note that knowing your purpose in life is not the same as knowing the career you want (although the two may overlap).

Part of the reason many of us don’t know what drives us is that no one has ever asked us that question before. Until recently, most schools did not actively provide the opportunity for us to delve deep into our beliefs and values to discover what motivates us. However, many people discovered their lifelong passions in childhood anyway.

Solange Cunin, the founder of Cuberider, an Australian start-up that allows school students’ theories to be tested on the International Space Station, wanted to work in the space industry from a very young age. Jan Owen had a strong sense of entrepreneurship and social justice as a child so it was almost inevitable that she went on to become the CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians and YLab, the global youth futures lab.

These two women had a sense of their future direction quite early. Others, such as Malala Yousafzai, even knew the specifics. As a young child in Pakistan in the early 2000’s, she had the privilege of having access to education and constantly questioned why other girls and poorer children weren’t given the same opportunity. Later, when the Taliban banned girls from attending school, she fought back by publishing an anonymous blog through the BBC, telling her story to an increasingly global audience. Even after being shot in the face by a Taliban gunman and being forced to move with her whole family to England, she continued to campaign for educational rights. Malala’s work led to her becoming the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Sometimes, the driving purpose you end up with is not the one you started out with. Nadine Champion was a world title-holding kickboxer before cancer set a new path for her. Nadine now uses the knowledge she gained through years of high-level martial arts to help others overcome their own major life challenges.

Why do I need to know my purpose?

To be honest, you don’t. You might be happy simply being who you are and following where life takes you and that’s ok. However, if you have a goal of making a different in the world (in whatever form that takes) it helps to know and understand what you want and why you want it.

This is especially true if you own or run a business as your personal and business values need to align and your customers want to know what your business values are. In her article, Why Discovering Your 'Why' Is the No. 1 Business Move, on the Entrepreneur website, Renee Warren states the case for knowing your business ‘why’ but this also flows back to your personal ‘why”.

“With so many social marketing campaigns, customers want to feel like they are supporting a cause, not just buying a product. If your audience knows that you love what you do, not only will they be more confident that you’ve made the best possible product, they’ll want to support your enthusiasm by giving you their business.”

Jon Yeo, conveyer of TEDx Melbourne, has seen thousands of people give presentations on their topic of interest. Those that stand out for him are the people who have a clear understanding of their purpose and the message they want to share.

“Clarity is so important in terms of who you are, what you stand for, where you spend your time and who your friends are. The greater the clarity the faster you will get where you want to go, everything else must be secondary to that. Clarity is probably the easiest thing to say but quite possibly the hardest thing to do.”

Even if you are not planning on being on stage in front of a huge crowd, knowing what is important to you can help shape your decisions in many aspects of life, such as:

  • Which political party to vote for
  • Whether to take action against something you see as unfair
  • How and where to spend your holiday
  • Where to send your child to school

How to discover your ‘why’

Yeo believes that to gain this level of clarity, you need periods of stillness. Time to let your thoughts flow unhindered in any direction and reflect on the insights they bring. For some, this could be through meditation or mindfulness. Others may have similar experiences when out jogging or maybe just doing the housework.

To get you started, try reflecting on questions like these.

  • What does your perfect day look like?
  • Who do you like to surround yourself with and why?
  • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world in later life?
  • How do you define success?
  • What would you do right now if money was no object?
  • Who do you admire and respect and why?
  • What would you change about your world if you could?

The Mentor List specialises in interviews with amazing people who share their personal stories, including what motivates them and their tips for your success. If you haven’t already, be sure to spend time listening to previous episodes to help you shape your own journey.

Call to action…

Jon Yeo is the Curator of TEDx Melbourne and Chapter President of Professional Speakers Australia. Part of his varied role is to help presenters design a meaningful and compelling story that connects and engages audiences.

Jon has learned to use stillness to create clarity by setting aside 3 hours every Monday afternoon to focus solely on the one thing most important to him at that time. Hear more of his story by listening to his podcast interview on The Mentor List as soon as you get a chance. You’ll be glad you did.

Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List.

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