A purpose statement simply captures an overriding theme already present in your life. It puts down in words the true work you are here to do: the cause you will pursue, the wound in individuals or society you will seek to heal, the problem you will devote your life to fixing. It states the highest, purest, most others-oriented aim of your life.
Additionally, I stated that writing it down can be a powerful first step toward seeing your purpose fulfilled. Now I give you five (5) steps for uncovering your purpose and writing a statement of it.
First, however, some do’s and don’ts:
1. A nurse may be able to prick a vein and draw your blood, but writing your purpose statement doesn’t work the same way. You can’t schedule it, force it or hurry it to come forth. Instead, set aside time to quiet your mind and soul and wait (while doing the steps below). Imagine sitting quietly with your camera at the edge of a wilderness to take a snapshot of a deer. You may visit that same spot several times before you are rewarded.
2. Writing a life purpose statement is the polar opposite of writing a term paper in high school or college. No hard work or strain. Instead, put yourself in a mode to recognize a gift that has been given you and fully receive it. It’s easy. Wonderful.
3. Completely set judgment aside. There’s no good, bad, first-class or bottom of the barrel. Rating systems don’t apply here. Your purpose is you. Decide right now to accept and delight in what you see.
Five (5) Steps to uncovering your purpose and writing it down:
1) See 9 Questions for uncovering your Gift, then take a sheet of paper and write “Summary” at the top. Draw a line down the middle, dividing it up into two sections. Title one section “What I care about” and the other “What I’m good at.” Then, take your answers to the 9 questions and write them on one side or the other—or both sides, if appropriate. Your purpose statement will come out of the left side, “What I care about.”
Expand the “What I care about” list by writing down everything you can think of to answer 1) “I love ______” and 2) “I hate _______.” Examples: “I love enthusiastic and well-informed teachers, large family dinners with all the relatives, riding my horse out on the trail, when a politician tells the truth, to read a good mystery…I hate bullying, polluted air and water, when long-term employees get laid off,” etc.
2) Beside every item on your “Care About” list put “A” or “B.” A means this is a “hot” item for me and B means this is important but slightly less than the A’s.
Now make a clean list of just your A’s. (Hopefully you have 20+) Edit the A list by reducing the entries to one or two words. Convert the negatives to positives. Thus, using the love/hate example above, your list might end up looking like this:
What I care about: (My core values)
Respect for individuals
A clean environment
Let this list “set” overnight. Then,
3) From your A list, choose your top ten. These are the things you care about the most. They can also be called your core values or passions. Make a new list: “My top 10 Values.”
Tuck this exercise away and come back to it in a few days. Pull it out and look at your top 10 list of Values: Is there something to be added, deleted or reworded?
4) From your top ten, choose your top three. Take your time. When you are clear that you’ve chosen your top three values, make your final list: “My top three 3 values”
Look at the three values. Which value or combination of values points to what you can do for others? This is your purpose.
(When I went through this exercise and reached this point, my top three values were:
1. Live loved/by God
2. Respect individuality / uncover uniqueness
3. Learn/continually grow
My purpose statement came out of #2: Respect individuality / uncover uniqueness because that was the value that pointed to the work I am to do for others.)
5) The last step is to write your statement in one of two formats. Using the value(s) that express what you most want to give/do for others, fill in your purpose statement.
1. In the first format you use a symbol:
I am the/a___________________(symbol) so that people _________________________________________(action phrase).
I am a lens who helps people see what’s most important.
I am a microphone so that other people (especially the poor and elderly) can be heard.
I am a lighthouse who guides people to greater financial security and freedom.
My purpose statement in this format is: I am a link between people and what they need to find and fulfill the unique purpose for their lives.
2. In the second format, you simply state your purpose:
My purpose is to _____________________________________.
My purpose statement in this format is: My purpose is to help people find and fulfill their unique life purpose.
Now, it’s your turn.
Did the 5 steps work for you? If not, be patient. Remember this isn’t a blood draw—it’s taking a snapshot of a very wild, shy doe in the forest.
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