3 methods to get clarity on purpose

Last week (here) we went through part 1 of how to find clarity on purpose. This week, I’ll show you 3 practical methods you can help you identify things of purpose and meaning for you.

Methods to help find clarity on purpose

There are many different exercises that can help find clarity on purpose. The 3 that I find most useful are listed below. When doing these, the most important thing is that we are 100% honest with ourselves. This isn’t about impressing others or doing what other people want or living someone else’s life. This is for you and no one else.

List of 20 – Part 1

This involves making a list of at least 20 things that you like to do (download an Excel template). It is important that you keep going until you get to at least 20 – this may mean you need to take a break and return to this after a day or 2, and you’ll find you uncover lots more things that we’re apparent the day before. It is worth revisiting this list regularly, as things will ebb and flow in importance over time.  

Having now developed this list, you can now start to fill in the other columns that answer these questions:

  • How long since you last did this?
  • Is it free or does it cost money?
  • Do you do it alone or is it social?
  • Is it planned or spontaneous?
  • Do you consider it work or leisure?
  • Does it involve risk?
  • Is it fast or slow paced?
  • Is it focused on your mind, body or soul? (or a combination)

List of 20 – Part 2

Having developed this list, step away from it for a while.

Upon your return, take another look through the list – all the columns. What do you notice? What themes are appearing? Are there a number of things on the list that are related? What does this tell you about yourself?

I bet there are things there that you’ve lost sight of in all the noise, things that you think ‘I really have to make time to do that more often’. Now have a think about 1-3 actions you could take to include more of these meaningful things, and hopefully less other stuff in your life from now on.

Coming out of this, you should have more clarity on purpose, in particular:

  • Sources of meaning and purpose in your life
  • Areas of under-focus at the moment (important things that you’re not doing, or not doing enough)
  • Areas of over-focus (non-important things that you spend way too much time on)
  • Some actions you can take to improve things

Wheel of purpose

This is a great exercise to help us get clarity on purpose, in particular, what is important and how we prioritise our time in relation to these things. It involves us getting a little creative to help us to unlock what is really important, and to really feel it. Put simply, it involves clarifying what is important to each of us in terms of:

  • Health
  • Peace of Mind
  • Relationships
  • Money
  • Contribution
  • Spirituality

Rather than writing lists, this exercise involves visualisation. So rather than writing, we draw a circle, split it into 6 segments and then we draw pictures of what that means to us. Like most exercises, this one should be revisited regularly and reviewed.

Thanks to a friend of mine, Conor Neill, for introducing me to this one here.

3 Questions

This is a great exercise to help you get clarity on purpose by exploring what is really important in your life. Imagine that you have reached the stage of your life where you have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life. Nice, huh? From here on in, it is up to you what you do with your time. You can work if you want to, or you can do other things with your time, or you can mix things up.

There are 3 parts to this, that are done in distinct stages:

  1. What do you want to focus on? How do you wish to live? What do you do regularly? What things will you now include in your life? Who do you spend time with?

Write this all down. It might be a list, it might be a number of descriptive paragraphs. It could be a story, it could even be a series of pictures or images.

  • You’ve been told that you only have 5-10 years to live. Assume you will be health and able right up to the end. What will you prioritise? What are the things you still really want to do? How will you spend your time? Who will you spend your time with? What will you let go? What do you want to be able to hand over to others?
  • Now, it turns out that the diagnosis was wrong – you’ve been told that you only have 1 day left. How will you spend this last day, assuming you can do what you want? Who will you spend it with? What would you do? What would you regret not being able to do again? What do you regret that you never did? It is normal to find this quite emotional – that’s a good thing. It means you care about things. It is way better to think about this now, while we have time to do something about it than waiting until it is too late. It is also important to be kind to yourself in this process – this isn’t about beating ourselves up, this is about self-improvement. You’re in the right place!

Having done these 3, have a think about what that tells you about yourself and what you’ve been doing lately?

  • What could you stop doing?
  • What meaningful things do you need to start spending more time doing?

State of mind

Being in the right state of mind to work on purpose. Just because we want to face into these important questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that now is the right time. You may be tired, or wired or stressed or just worried about something else in your life, like ‘did I leave the iron on?’ or ‘I haven’t prepared my slides for my 3pm session’ or ‘I really feel terrible about yelling at the kids this morning’. These things are called incompletes or blockers. They occupy our focus and/or prevent us from moving forward until we:

  • deal with them
  • find someone else to help us with them.
  • Accept that they can safely wait until we’ve finished this current activity

It is important to acknowledge and deal with these properly before moving into an important activity like this. I love the phrase ‘the obstacle to my goal becomes my new goal.’

What Next?

What comes next is the best part. This bit still seems magical to me, even though I’ve experienced it many times. The opportunities start to come to us. Yes. I know this sounds like mumbo jumbo, but it happens. Time and time again.

Once we start to get clarity on purpose and meaning, we look at things differently. We start to look for opportunities, and when we look for opportunities, we generally find them.

Need a little help seeing the opportunities?

This involves freeing your thinking up a little. I tend to go for a quick walk, or take a few deep breaths, or do a few push ups to get the blood flowing and break the cycle of whatever I was just doing.

Then I think about an area of my life that that is important and I imagine how awesome it could be. If everything was perfect. If it was the best it could ever be. Don’t worry about what is possible and what isn’t – that doesn’t matter. The idea here is to get thinking positively and to open your mind to opportunity.

Your mind will only see what it is looking for. It’s like yellow cars. We used to play a game with the kids on car trips when they were little, called Spotto. We started with yellow cars – later we moved on to Teslas. You just had to be the first to yell out “Spotto” when you saw a yellow car. Before that, I never thought about yellow cars. For a few years, I couldn’t drive anywhere – even by myself, without seeing yellow cars.

Now that I have an idea of what awesome looks like – I’m seeing opportunities everywhere. I don’t pursue most of them. I don’t have time. Most of the ideas are only half formed. But my mind is now spending much more time thinking about things that could go well. But there really are opportunities if you look at it right. Like my decision to get into coaching, training, and speaking.

Having decided I wanted to do that, and having shared that with a few people, guess what happened next? Opportunities appeared. Like the hospital asking me if I would speak at a fund raiser, which lead to me being asked to speak at the NSW Health Expo at the ICC in front of thousands of health workers. People put me in touch with other people in their network. And off we went. They never would have happened if I wasn’t looking out for opportunities. Ironically, this didn’t require anything to change in my life other than my attitude … now that’s awesome!

Help yourself

Most important of all, is to cut yourself some slack. The simple fact that you’re taking time out to think about this and work on it deserves acknowledgement. You’re taking the first step towards living deliberately and living a life of purpose. That makes you special just there. This will evolve over time, so do your best to improve your clarity and then take it out on the road and test it out – see how it works. Talk to people about it. Share your thoughts with them and ask them about the things of purpose in their life. How did they work them out? And remember, you get to decide, so if one thing doesn’t work out for you, change it!

We’re all human, and life doesn’t normally go to plan. Only you can live your life, please don’t try to live someone else’s or even live up to other peoples’ expectations. This is for you to decide.

Whatever you do – do it with Heart.

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