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Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover Your Personal Mission

Photo by Thomas Hawk

I believe that we were all sent here for a reason and that we all have significance in the world. I genuinely feel that we are all blessed with unique gifts. The expression of our gifts contributes to a cause greater than ourselves.

First, a personal story

Last year, I was running at full speed; chasing after my dream of money and ‘success’. However, I had forgotten why I was running. Luckily, I met Jim (not his real name). Jim had achieved all the financial goals I was reaching for. He had financial independence, several successful businesses, homes in multiple countries, and the luxury to afford the finest things money could buy.

Through hard work, persistence and sheer action; he had made it! But, Jim was not happy. He did not have the free time to enjoy his wealth. He wanted a family. He wanted peace. He wanted to live his life… but he was not able to. He had too many responsibilities, too much to lose, and too many things to protect. He had spent years building his castle, and now that it is complete, he is spending his time keeping it from eroding.

Getting to know Jim was a life altering and eye opening experience. His words snapped me out of my state of ‘unconsciousness’. It became clear to me that, “I did not want to spend the next 10 years chasing after money, only to find that I’ll be back at the same place I am at today; emotionally, mentally, and spiritually”. My ‘chase’ came to a screeching halt, everything was put on hold, and I spent the next two months re-evaluating my life and purpose.

These questions were running through my mind:

What am I chasing after? Why am I chasing it? What is my purpose? Why was I put here?

While reading “E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work“, I found myself in tears during the chapter on finding purpose. In that chapter, Michael Gerber asks the readers to do a visualization exercise. Through his guidance, he instructs you to vividly picture the day of your funeral. What do you want your eulogy to consist of? What would your lifetime achievements be? What would matter the most at the end of your life? Is it what you are doing right NOW?

I started writing. It began by listing all the things that are most important to me. I wrote down all the things I wanted to do. I re-visited my personal mission statement. I decided that whatever venture I commit to must align with my personal mission, my values and my goals. For every new opportunity that comes along, I would ask myself how it aligns with my goals. Regardless of how much money I could acquire, if the venture did not align with where I wanted to be, then I would not pursue it. Here is my personal mission statement:

To Empower, motivate and inspire people to living happier and more fulfilled lives.

Here are some of my values and goals:

  • What matters most is my connection with myself, being present and feeling blissful.
  • What I value most is having meaningful relationships with people. Being able to connect with people on deep levels.
  • I plan to be financially independent, and have control of my time and location. I plan to work only on projects and causes that I connect with. I plan to acquire my finances without violating my values, goals and personal mission.
  • I plan to travel and live in different parts of the world. Experiencing different cultures, documenting them in photographs and sharing them with others.
  • I will buy my mom a house in Vancouver with a ravine in the backyard. That’s a dream of hers and I’d like to fulfill it.
  • Having a family is important to me. I desire a deep, loving relationship with my spouse.
  • To live everyday fully as if it was my last.

15 Questions to Discover Your Life Purpose

The following are a list of questions that can assist you in discovering your purpose. They are meant as a guide to help you get into a frame of mind that will be conducive to defining your personal mission.

Simple Instructions:

  • Take out a few sheets of loose paper and a pen.
  • Find a place where you will not be interrupted. Turn off your cell phone.
  • Write the answers to each question down. Write the first thing that pops into your head. Write without editing. Use point form. It’s important to write out your answers rather than just thinking about them.
  • Write quickly. Give yourself less than 60 seconds a question. Preferably less than 30 seconds.
  • Be honest. Nobody will read it. It’s important to write without editing.
  • Enjoy the moment and smile as you write.

15 Questions:

1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)

2. What are your favorite things to do in the past? What about now?

3. What activities make you lose track of time?

4. What makes you feel great about yourself?

5. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?

6. What are you naturally good at? (Skills, abilities, gifts etc.)

7. What do people typically ask you for help in?

8. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

9. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

10. You are now 90 years old, sitting on a rocking chair outside your porch; you can feel the spring breeze gently brushing against your face. You are blissful and happy, and are pleased with the wonderful life you’ve been blessed with. Looking back at your life and all that you’ve achieved and acquired, all the relationships you’ve developed; what matters to you most? List them out.

11. What are your deepest values?

Select 3 to 6 (See list of words to help you | list in pdf) and prioritize the words in order of importance to you.

12. What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming? How did you do it?

13. What causes do you strongly believe in? Connect with?

14. If you could get a message across to a large group of people. Who would those people be? What would your message be?

15. Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute? ( to people, beings, causes, organization, environment, planet, etc.)

Your Personal Mission Statement

“Writing or reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully, and to align your behaviour with your beliefs”
~Stephen Covey, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’
A personal mission consists of 3 parts:

  • What do I want to do?
  • Who do I want to help?
  • What is the result? What value will I create?

Steps to Creating Your Personal Mission Statement:

1. Do the exercise with the 15 questions above as quickly as you can.

2. List out actions words you connect with.

a. Example: educate, accomplish, empower, encourage, improve, help, give, guide, inspire, integrate, master, motivate, nurture, organize, produce, promote, travel, spread, share, satisfy, understand, teach, write, etc.

3. Based on your answers to the 15 questions. List everything and everyone that you believe you can help.

a. Example: People, creatures, organizations, causes, groups, environment, etc.

4. Identify your end goal. How will the ‘who’ from your above answer benefit from what you ‘do’?

5. Combine steps 2-4 into a sentence, or 2-3 sentences.

What is your purpose? What is your mission? We’d love to hear about your goals and aspirations. Please share with a comment!

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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337 thoughts on Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover Your Personal Mission

  1. You asked for some feedback, so here you go…

    Thank you for this simple, yet thought provoking exercise. I’ve thought about some of these ideas before. Sitting down and writing them out was key, because by seeing them I could pull them all together. I now have a mission statement and a better idea of where I’m going.

  2. excellent post.. reminds me of the things that I value in my life. Thanks for the reminder

  3. Very good article! It motivates me to think about my mission even though I already wrote one. But live is always changing and perhaps I have to adjust my mission too.

    Ivan
    http://www.blatternet.ch

  4. Peter

    Do you have any idea how much fear does this kind of suggestions stir inside a person?

    I’ve tried suggesting to people an exercise like this one, only simpler, the one found on Brian Kim’s blog.
    You list Skills and Interests and then try to find an answer to the question “What would I love to do on a daily basis utilizing both my skills and interests that will add significant value to people? ”

    Not one of the many people I suggested this exercise to did it. None of them told me their answer to this question.

    The reason for this, in my opinion, is FEAR.

    People fear this kind of exercises.
    They fear the kind of change it could bring.

  5. Hi Tina,

    Bradley from Victory Darwin’s 4HWW Ning group here.

    Very glad to have the benefit of your fantastic effort in summarising, simplifying and presenting these powerful tools of self-discovery.

    I did the eulogy visualisation exercise as part of a two day seminar I attended about a month ago.

    It is an extremely powerful, emotive experience, and as the previous poster said it can drive up a lot of fear.

    This exercise was on the morning of the second day, where we had already spent much of the first day on exploring, driving up our fears and shining the gentle warm light of loving kindness on them to cause those fears to disappear.

    For anyone contemplating undertaking this exercise, if you think you have unresolved fears in the way of getting to the source of yourself and knowing exactly who you want to be for yourself, I can only suggest you do the fear removal healing work with someone you trust to empower you in that, before you undertake this kind of exercise.

    So, who exactly am I, as per the testimony of those at my future imagined eulogy?

    I am a wise mentor, a masterful communicator, and a powerful loving contribution to all the people in my life.

    happy regards,

    Bradley C Hughes

  6. Colleen

    Great article Tina!
    Your sharing of your own personal experiences is heartwarming, and helpful. This guide has prompted me to write my own long delayed ‘Mission Statement’…thanks again for sharing!

  7. I ”stumbled” on you on Digg. I do like the way you put this together and included your personal journey. I will visit your site again. Truly well written blogs with consistent value are a rarity. I would really enjoy reading some of your previous posts, especially how to let go of unfulfilling relationships. Kudos Tina.

  8. Tina,

    thank you so much for posting this. I’ve done this myself and yes it puts things into perspective as to how you go about pursuing your dreams/goals in life. I did my mission statement around 8 months ago after reading The Leadership Challenge and later True North which is also about leadership. I encourage people to read both these books as we are all leaders in one way or another as well something more to add to your post. You’re a true leader

    “We lead from the essence of who we are as a person.”

  9. jun

    Hi Tina,

    I was researching for a workshop I’ll be conducting and google’d life purpose. A good thing your site is in the first page on the search results.

    This is a great help for me, personally and for the workshop. Though I’ve made my own life purpose exercise two years ago, I’ll be re-doing it with your help.

    Great insights!

    A Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  10. I agree that creating a mission statement is an important step in living your life purpose. The mission statement helps clarify what your right livelihood is and it serves as a beacon of light to help you stay true to you life’s path.

  11. Tina, thanks for the questions and story. I printed out your article. When I have some free time, I will definitely sit down and write out my answers to those questions. Thanks for sharing them.

  12. Tina: As I’m browsing your blog, I’m finding some nice gems. This one in particular is very well thought out. I look forward to using your steps to redo my mission statement.

  13. ben

    And now imagine reading this article as a sort of pessimistic nihilist. Kind of depressing, really.

    Sorry, I understand that a lot of thought and work have gone into this.. I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy the read, but though..
    What am I trying to say anyway?

    I’m sorry. never mind.

    (I am enjoying reading other stuff on your blog right now though – nice)

  14. This is something to get back to. I don’t think this could be done in afternoon, but after some given thoughts… anyway, it’s a really good way to start. Thanks for sharing.

  15. jd

    Hey Tina –

    Nice write up and great integration of related and relevant sources.

    I think clarity of personal missions can very a great deal on based on where you are in the stack of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

    For me, my mission is pretty simple — exponentially improve the quality of life for the underdogs.

    Here’s a related post on finding what you really want that you might enjoy — http://thebookshare.blogspot.com/2007/11/how-to-figure-out-what-you-really-want.html

  16. Emma

    Thank you, this article is just what I needed. Several changes have occurred in my life that I have yet to analyze. After doing the questions, I realize that my deepest joy in life is in connecting with others. I could happily spend the rest of my life on the back of a horse or in a tango embrace, communicating in a language without words. Right now I am studying for a loveless job to finance my passions and to provide for my family, but these revelations have made my question my career choice – is there something I can do that allows me to connect to others without pretense?

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