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Ten Catalytic Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Purpose

Oct 23, 2023

Discovering your purpose can be a long journey, often evolving as you grow and change. It's a central theme in psychology and self-development to examine one's purpose as it shapes goals, decisions, and even daily habits (Deci & Ryan, 2000, "Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation"). Understanding your purpose can also significantly impact your level of success in various areas of life. Getting clear on your purpose can have a transformative and empowering impact on your life.

Grab your journal and ask yourself these ten questions...

1. What Makes You Lose Track of Time?
When you're truly aligned with what you enjoy, time seems to fly by. This could be a significant indicator of what your purpose might involve. Think of the last time you lost time in this way. What was it that you were doing? When you identify this activity, something of your purpose is baked into it. 

2. What Are You Naturally Good At?
Your skills and talents are crucial to recognizing where you can make the most impact. Often, where we make the most impact, we are also most aligned with our purpose. When we are engaged in activities for which we have a natural ability, we tend to enjoy them more. They are often thought of as "our gifts." Clearly define your gifts.  

3. What Problems Do You Want to Solve?
Your purpose often aligns with a problem or set of challenges that you feel passionate about tackling (Wrzesniewski et al., 1997, "Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People's Relations to Their Work"). What we see as needing addressing in the world naturally aligns with our most authentic selves. We can trace what we see here to the deepest parts of ourselves. It becomes a tether connecting us to the world.  

4. How Do You Want to Be Remembered?
Legacy often ties closely to purpose. Consider what you would like people to say about you after you're gone. If there was one inscription you could inspire on your tombstone, what might that inscription be?

5. What Inspires You?
Inspirations can be a guiding light towards your purpose. They often show what you respect and what you aspire to become. Trace your moments of inspiration back into yourself. Here you'll find a clue to your purpose.

 6. What Are Your Core Values?
Your purpose is generally profoundly aligned with your values. Knowing what you stand for is crucial (Schwartz, 2012, "An Overview of Schwartz Theory of Basic Values"). A good life is the healthy expression of your values. In the end, this will be an illustration of your purpose.

7. What Would You Do If Money Was Not an Issue?
Often, financial pressures can sway us away from our true purpose. Remove the money factor to see what really matters to you. At times, we have to do what we have to do to survive. This type of behavior can tend to steer us away from the passionate purpose awaiting its opportunity to arise within us. Take some time to imagine if money provided no obstacle. 

8. What Fears Hold You Back?
Understanding your fears can be an enlightening experience. Sometimes, they're the very things you should be confronting to fulfill your purpose. Our natural nervous system has evolved to protect us over thousands of years. However, in modern times it is often activated when it is not necessary, causing undue stress and anxiety. These can sum to generalized fears. Often a paradox arises, having us fear failure for what we really want to engage in. And so we avoid it. Is there something like this there for you?

 9. Who Do You Admire and Why?
The people you admire can reveal much about what you find important and what you might want to strive for in your life. Don't just consider celebrities but people you see on the street, coworkers, or people you see at the grocery store. The qualities they possess point back to your purpose. 

10. What's Your 'Why'?
Simon Sinek introduced the concept of 'Start With Why' in his book and TED Talk. Knowing your 'Why' can serve as a compass for your decisions (Sinek, 2009, "Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action").

These questions are not just a one-time exercise; they require ongoing reflection. The answers may change over time as you evolve, but you'll gain a clearer sense of your purpose each time you ask them. As you refine your understanding, aligning your actions and decisions with what truly matters to you becomes more effortless.

So ask yourself these questions, and take one more step towards a life lived with purpose.


- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. *American Psychologist*, 55(1), 68.

- Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People's relations to their work. *Journal of Research in Personality*, 31(1), 21-33.

- Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. *Online Readings in Psychology and Culture*, 2(1).

- Sinek, S. (2009). *Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action*. Portfolio.

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