Steve Pavlina: The Meaning of Life – Discover Your Purpose

By Steve Pavlina |

Do You Have a Pre-Encoded Purpose?

Many books I’ve read seem to assume that we’re either genetically or divinely encoded with some sort of built-in purpose, and all we need to do is take the time to discover it through private introspection. You just sit down one day and write a mission statement and trust that what comes out of you will be the guiding force for the rest of your life. Perhaps every 6-12 months you update it.

Personally I think that’s nonsense. I see no evidence that there’s any pre-encoded purpose in any of us. You may have experienced strong social conditioning towards a particular purpose, such as if you’re born a prince or princess, and certainly your DNA will control some aspects of your life, but that isn’t sufficient evidence of any sort of divine will at work. I think in most cases you’ll just end up with a wishy-washy mission statement that doesn’t mean much.

If you begin with the assumption that you have a pre-encoded purpose and attempt to discover it merely by sitting down and writing a mission statement, I think you’ll end up building a house of straw for yourself. You won’t have a rational foundation for trusting your purpose. In most cases you’ll feel like you’re just guessing, and you might look back on your mission statement a week later and find that it’s not so interesting as you thought it was when you wrote it. You’ll always have doubts about what you’ve written.

When people try to sit down and write out a purpose or mission statement, they usually lack sufficient clarity to do so intelligently. How exactly are you supposed to define your purpose? Are you simply supposed to know it and squeeze it out of your brain like a sponge? What if you can imagine several different missions that might fit you, but you have no idea which is better? What if you can’t think of anything at all that seems meaningful to you? What then?

Just because you may not have a pre-encoded purpose doesn’t mean you don’t have a purpose though. It simply means that it will take more work to define your purpose. Your purpose isn’t really something you discover. It would be more accurate to say that your purpose is something you co-create based on your relationship to reality. I wouldn’t exactly call it a free choice though. There may be multiple choices for you, but all choices are not equally valid.

What is needed is an intelligent method for developing your purpose, a process that makes sense, such that when you arrive at your final answer, you have high trust that it’s correct.

If you’re wondering why defining a purpose for your life matters at all, read this:
Why Does Purpose Matter?

How to Intelligently Define Your Purpose

I’m going to suggest two different methods for defining your purpose. Ideally you should use both of them, since each will help you understand different aspects of your purpose. This is going to be a lot of work, but the end result will be worth it because you’ll reach a point of tremendous clarity. In the end it will be far easier to make decisions and take action, and you’ll find that your life just seems to work once you know your purpose.

Method 1: Emotional Intelligence

The first method is to consult your emotional intelligence. Passion and purpose go hand in hand. When you discover your purpose, you will normally find it’s something you’re tremendously passionate about. Emotionally you will feel that it is correct.

I’ve already written up this method here: How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes.

The answer you get from this process, however, depends heavily on your ability to generate good input. Essentially what you are doing is exploring the search space of possible purposes, and you’re using the heuristic of your emotional reaction to gauge how close you are. But one thing I failed to mention in the original explanation of this process is that it requires you’re clear about your overall context for life first. If you don’t have that level of clarity yet, then you’ll have a hard time making this approach work successfully — you’ll be approaching the problem from the wrong context, so the potential answers you generate will all be in the wrong neighborhood. Garbage in, garbage out.

Read the rest of the article here: Steve Pavlina

1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thank you for this perspective. It has a very genuine and real…grounded…feel to it. The hologram image of life was interesting and helpful. Also the explanation of how to blend the two parts of the method was very well done and helped me really grasp the whole concept. I like that the blended approach creates a sort of balancing safeguard so that you have a better sense of clarity about what you truly are “about.” This was an excellent article, and I look forward to reading the rest of “The Meaning of Life.”

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