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A quick hack to find your life purpose and mission

How do you find your personal life purpose? Your life mission? Here is a quick hack that should bring focus to this often-perplexing question.

In a previous article we looked at the three layers of calling. You may remember we found the final layer is that of life purpose, of your personal mission.

However, thinking about your life mission is one of those scary-big-and-seemingly-impossible-to-unravel topics. Sometimes thinking about it can be paralysing. So I’ve been giving some thought to a “quick hack” that can get us something close to what our mission might be.

Introducing the life purpose / mission formula

We need a simple definition of our life purpose or mission. Here’s mine:

Your mission is where your greatest contribution meets your greatest cause.

Let’s break that down:

Your greatest contribution

Your greatest contribution is found within that bundle of strengths, personality, assets, relationships and availability that you bring in the current season of your life.

It might be a particular skill or talent, from leadership to brainstorming to songwriting to Web design. It might be a character trait such as patient endurance or enthusiasm. It might be the relationships and networks you have credibility with, and access to. It could just be your physical presence in a world where everyone else is just too busy.

Your greatest cause

Your greatest cause is the fundamental external concern that moves you.

For some of us, this will be obvious. For others, we might need to do a bit of digging to discover this. What news stories particularly move you? What charitable organisations do you have a soft spot for? What areas of concern do they focus on? What issues particularly concern you?

Jamie, the achingly funny and slyly perceptive “very worst missionary”, has a wonderful article called “Tired of caring” where she said something pretty life-changing (well, paradigm-changing perhaps) for me:

“So I gave myself permission to stop caring a little bit about everything I saw. I spent some time figuring out what I felt most passionate about and how I could focus my energy into that one thing and, hopefully, use it to make a difference. I decided to be a girl with a cause.”

The point is that when we identify that one particular cause we can focus. This allows us to bring our strengths to bear on it and really make a difference. Without that clear understanding we find ourselves paralysed. We resign ourselves to ‘just getting by’ and looking after our immediate concerns. Let’s not be that kind of person.

Applying the life purpose / mission formula

So the formula is “personal mission = greatest contribution + greatest cause”. Let’s try it out with a few examples:

  • Attentive neighbour: “listening” + “local community”
  • William Wilberforce: “political activism” + “abolition of slavery”
  • My mother: “empathy” + “supporting parents of children with Tuberous Sclerosis”

Now have a go at applying the “life purpose / mission formula” to yourself.

Remember, don’t overdo this:

  • You don’t need to get it perfect. This is something that can be iterated and honed down over time. But put something out there.
  • This is not a decision you make once and for all. What you see as ‘your greatest contribution’ and what you feel to be your ‘greatest cause’ will both change over time.
  • Don’t let financial considerations influence you for the time being. How you integrate your mission into your life comes as a second step.
  • P.S Think carefully before putting ‘family’ down as your greatest cause. Whilst family is absolutely important, a family without an external cause becomes inward-looking and self-serving. Far better in my view for parents to teach their children, by example, of the virtues of serving a greater cause.

Going further

As ever, I strongly recommend you write your life purpose / mission down. The very act of putting something to paper forces clarity and generates a kind of commitment to the idea.

What is the greatest contribution you can make? What is the greatest cause on your heart? Please share below: the act of writing it down will crystallise it for you, and it will inspire and encourage us too!

Spread the word
  • Victoria Wadsworth-Hansen

    Communication + helping people and organizations tell their stories powerfully

    • Richard Medcalf

      Thanks for sharing and getting the ball rolling Victoria! It’s pretty good already, but if I was to push you a little on this, mightn’t “communication” be the same thing as “helping people and organisations tell their stories powerfully”? So – what kind of people or organisations? What are the themes? Presumably there are some people and organisations who you WOULDN’T care to help!

  • Wapler

    (Apostolic) Creativity and taking risks + enabling the integration of some Syrian refugees into the church community. Seasonal mission statement.

    • Richard Medcalf

      Great stuff – love the clarity and specificity! And the idea of a ‘seasonal mission statement’ – getting clear about what the focus is right here, right now. Thanks for sharing.

  • Encourage Husbands and Wives + to Lead Meaningful Lives

    • Richard Medcalf

      Thanks Lori! Appreciate the input. And yes …. I really believe that the more families that can be released as “teams of blessing” to others the better! But so often we decide that – for example – “the kids activities” are the top priority in our family lives, so opportunities for community service or participation are passed by.

      But as someone once said “in your quest to give your kids what you never had, make sure you give them what you DID have!”

  • Mohsin Majid

    The first layer, “Who am I?” It is harder to define than I expected. Do you think Myers Briggs can be helpful in thinking through this?

    • Richard Medcalf

      Hi Mohsin. You are probably talking about the first layer of the ‘cake’ from the previous post? I’d say a couple of things.

      Firstly, it is a difficult question, and it’s best to jot down what you DO know, in terms of strengths and convictions. I have written a MEGA-post about strengths – http://purposefulpeople.net/find-what-are-my-strengths/ – and a shorter one on convictions is in the works. Myers-Briggs is good but there are complementary approaches too.

      Secondly, I know not everyone will agree I personally find the external reference point coming from my religious beliefs extremely helpful in this area… we receive an identity as much as invent it.