10 Questions for Discovering Your Purpose From the Inside Out

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and dig into the underlying qualities that define your purpose. In this exercise, answer the following 10 questions as fully as possible. Your answers may relate to your current position, but they may also come from entirely different areas of your life. It’s important that you be honest. You’re assessing your interests and your ability to make big changes in your professional and personal life, so you need to be straight with yourself.

  1. What brings you your greatest joy?
  2. What are you most curious about?
  3. Who are the people that light you up and bring you the most joy?
  4. What gifts, talents, and skills come to you naturally?
  5. What are your weaknesses?
  6. What are your strengths?
  7. What inspires you?
  8. What annoys you?
  9. What would you do on a perfect day?
  10. What would you do every day without pay?

Writing Your Personal Purpose Statement

Now that you’ve explored your purpose, I’d like you to use your answers to the questions above to create your personal purpose statement. Your personal purpose statement should be a simple sentence that expresses your values and what you want to share with others through your life’s work. Your fellow dreamers, ideal customers, future business partners, mentors, and colleagues should be able to easily remember your personal purpose statement. If I had to guess, I’d say that Richard Branson’s personal purpose statement is “to build brands that allow others to experience life as an adventure.” I think that the musically talented Adele’s purpose statement is “to reflect the world’s emotion through music” and that the late Steve Jobs’s personal statement was “to create a future forward world through technologies.” My own purpose statement is “to create platforms that allow people to activate their purpose and empower their dreams.”

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Now create your own purpose statement. If you need help getting started, choose five words from the purpose word bank below.

serveteachgiveprovide
lovecreatebuildgrow
futuretechnologyinnovationdevelop

Use those words to craft a personal purpose statement such as, “My purpose is to provide books in rural communities,” or “My purpose is to create more learning opportunities for senior citizens.” Use the following space to develop your own personal purpose statement.

After you develop the first draft of your personal purpose statement, invite a fellow dreamer or mentor to “interview” you with the following questions. Do your best to answer them as fully as possible:

  1. What did you learn from exploring your purpose?
  2. How are your currently using these new findings in your business, company, or venture?
  3. How does your purpose connect with your dream?
  4. If you’re not living your purpose now, what would you need to do to close the distance between your purpose and where you want to be?

After you answer these questions, ask this person for feedback about whether your personal purpose statement matches what he or she knows about you. Also, ask your mentor to suggest ways that you can demonstrate this purpose in your everyday life. Sometimes, others are able to recognize gifts, talents, and skills that we don’t see in ourselves.

Next, you’ll work on your clarifying your dream’s purpose, which is somewhat different from your personal purpose. Again, your personal purpose is an overarching motivation that guides all the dreams you’re going to develop. It’s the backbone of what matters to you and what you want to contribute to the world, and we’ve distilled all that into a personal purpose statement. Your dream’s purpose is specific to one particular project—the goal, product, service, etc., that you’re developing at the moment. It’s the heart of the reason that you’re going after this dream, and we’re going to distill that down into a mission statement.

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5 Questions to Discover Your Dream’s Purpose

It’s time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your dream. Invite your idea into the room and tell it to have a seat. This idea might be a book, a new invention, a new blog, a new community, or a new movement. Speak as you would to a dear friend. Say, “Hey, Dream! I’m delighted that you’ve chosen me and thrilled that we get to make this journey together. I know you’re giving me a chance to leave a mark on the world, and I want to give you a chance to fulfill your purpose of serving others.” In this exercise, you’ll speak for your goal as you answer the following five questions. Be as specific as you can. Even try to provide details of a timeline or the number of people you expect will be affected. Remember, your dream is a grand opportunity, so the more detailed a description, the more vivid the dream will seem.

  1. Why do you want to exist?
  2. Who will you help when you get here?
  3. What benefits and/or possibilities will become available to others because you will exist?
  4. What problems will be solved because you exist?
  5. What joy will you bring to the world?

Developing Your Dream’s Mission Statement

In this exercise, we’ll develop your dream’s mission statement, which will guide the actions of your new company, startup, nonprofit, or idea. Your dream’s mission statement should motivate you into action and help you clearly articulate the mission to your community. To help you get started, let’s take a look at a mission statement from a startup company, a Fortune 500 company, and a nonprofit organization.

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Startup Mission Statement: DIA & Co

DIA & Co provides a clothing subscription box for plus-size women. The company’s mission statement: Shopping for clothes should be fun and easy, no matter what your shape or size.

Fortune 500 Mission Statement: General Motors

General Motors is a Fortune 500 company that has been manufacturing and selling automobiles throughout the world for nearly 100 years. Its mission statement: We sell products and services of superior quality and are committed to sharing our success with our employees, business partners, and stockholders.

Nonprofit Mission Statement: United Way

The United Way is a nonprofit organization that provides community services throughout the United States. Its mission statement: The United Way envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, financial stability and healthy lives.

Grab your notebook, because it’s your turn to develop your dream’s mission statement. It should include the core beliefs of your idea and the opportunities, services, and products you’ll provide.

The Big Stretch

Excerpted from The Big Stretch: 90 Days to Expand Your Dreams, Crush Your Goals, and Create Your Own Success, p.93-98 (McGraw-Hill November 22, 2019).

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