Life Design Journaling Framework: Purpose

What is Purpose?

Your purpose is the core piece of your life design. It is the part that drives all the other parts. It comes from a deep understanding of who you are. Each of us has a unique set of DNA and a unique set of circumstances we’ve lived through.

Your uniqueness gives you the ability to create value in the world in a way that no one else can.

I believe it is your overall purpose in life to discover the unique value you can create and pursue creating it in the world.

When you start to discover and live a life aligned with your purpose you will experience states of flow more often. These experiences will build on each other driving you towards your vision. You will look forward to each new day and the possibilities for flow that they will bring.

Wiki defines flow as:

In positive psychology, flow, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

State of Flow Chart

When you start to discover and live a life aligned with your purpose you will experience states of flow more often. These experiences will build on each other driving you towards your vision. You will look forward to each new day and the possibilities for flow that they will bring.

This is a lifelong process of discovery, creation, and execution. Journaling is a keystone habit to support you in living your purpose.

Living your life on #purpose begins with #journaling #lifedesign #ldjs

You Need Purpose to Create a Compelling Vision

Every year at New Years’ for as long as I can remember I have reflected on the prior year and created resolutions and plans for the new year. A few years back when I was doing one of my yearly reviews I made the realization that there was a difference between purpose and vision.

Up to that point, I was focused on creating goals for the new year based on what kind of life I wanted to live at that point. Sometimes these goals were based on money, sometimes they were based on what next step was available career-wise. Without the driving force of purpose, some of the goals were good and some just took me down a path that didn’t add anything to my life.

Understanding my purpose and creating a vision to fulfill that purpose allowed me to gain greater clarity on the core purpose while refining a vision to fulfill that purpose. Another benefit was that while my purpose doesn’t change, there are many different visions I could create for my life that would fulfill my purpose.

Looking back on my life there have been many times when I was living my purpose to some extent. Even times as a child. I never recognized these events until I went through the process of consolidating my journals into my OneNote system.

Your Purpose Serves Society

We are individuals with unique DNA and life experiences. We are also are part of society. Society has grown from hunters and gathers to the complex society that we know today. There are countless wonders that we as a society have created, from works of art to space crafts to the internet. We as individuals have an obligation, or a purpose, to add value to society to allow society to continue to grow.

Japanese Philosophy of Ikigai

There is a Japanese philosophy called Ikigai that helps to explain purpose and vision.
ikigai graphic - what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, what you can be paid for

To determine your purpose and vision there are four Ikigai questions to be answered.

  1. What you are good at? To create value, you need to be good at whatever it is that is creating the value.
  2. What you enjoy doing? You need to enjoy doing whatever it is that is creating value.
  3. What do others need? Other people need the value that you are creating otherwise it is not helping society to grow?
  4. What will others pay for? Others need to recognize the value of what you have created. The act of exchanging money is merely a recognition of that value.

The first two questions help you define what your purpose is, the last two questions help you define how you are going to create value in society based on your purpose. That is your vision – I believe it is your overall purpose in life to discover what the unique value that you can create is and to pursue creating it in the world.

Why You Need to Understand Your Purpose

Your purpose answers the deep question of why. Why is it important to understand your why? It is the most important aspect to understand. The different parts of your life (life areas) are either going to align with your purpose or conflict with it.

When parts of your life conflict with your purpose you will have discord, tension, anxiety. When all parts of your life are aligned with your purpose, you will have peace, flow, purpose, passion, happiness, fulfillment.

Understanding your why is understanding your core. This will facilitate designing a vision that will allow you to fulfill your purpose. This will produce a cycle, you start moving towards your vision, which will allow you to understand your purpose more which will drive you more towards your vision.

Understanding your why will make you an example for others. If you are living your purpose you will be living a more congruent, meaningful life. That will inspire others to find and live their purpose.

Understanding your purpose will allow you to see meaning in life’s experiences. By understanding your purpose, you can see how everyday activities help fulfill that purpose. Without knowing your purpose, these activities may seem boring or tedious.

How Do You Know If You Have Discovered Your Purpose?

A big question you’ll ask is “How do I know when I have discovered my purpose?”

The short answer is that you will continue to discover your purpose over your entire life. No matter how well you understand your purpose, there is always a deeper level you can go to.

Those experiences in your life when you have experienced a state of flow give you glimpses of what your purpose is. These glimpses can be as small as getting swept away in your favorite movie or book. These will give you a small insight into your purpose. The times when you get swept away in what you are doing will give you the greatest insight.

When you are doing something in accordance with your uniqueness, that satisfies your purpose you feel the state of flow: that feeling that you are doing what you are meant to be doing. Those are the things that get you to jump out of bed in the morning.

Journaling your experiences and reviewing them over time will reveal the themes and patterns of your life purpose.

Finding Your Purpose is a Life-Long Process

No matter how well you are living your purpose, there is always another level. Even people who are masters of their art are always trying to reach the next level.

Continually discovering a deeper level of your purpose, or the next level of what value your purpose can create is a lifelong process.

Learning who you and your uniqueness is a lifelong process.

This lifelong learning is iterative or cyclical in nature. The more you live your purpose, the deeper you will understand your purpose resulting in living your purpose more deeply.

My Experience in Finding my Purpose in Life

I believe my purpose in life is to create structure to capture ideas that will result in bigger ideas. I get to live this purpose as a business analyst when I get the opportunity to understand new business domains and define structures for understanding those business domains. I also get to live my purpose when I help my kids with their homework and provide them with a bigger perspective of why the teacher created that particular homework.

Recently I moved all my paper journals to a centralized OneNote system. One of the revelations I had was that there were clues throughout my life as to what my purpose was. Those moments when I was fully engaged in what I was doing, that feeling of flow, was me living my purpose in some small way. In hindsight, I wish I could have built on those experiences to create my vision sooner.

As an example, I have an interest in nature and I love to hike. What I love about hiking is that everything in nature fits together into one big ecosystem. Each part of the hike reveals the ecosystem, the plants, and trees, the terrain, the time of day, the sounds. All that information can be taken in to give a greater understanding of the trail and what the trail may bring next. For me, it is an amazing experience. Until recently I never related that to my life’s purpose. If I can take the experience of hiking and find a path that gives me the same experience and produces value for others – I have created a vision that fulfills my purpose.

Journaling Technique to Find Your Purpose

The best way to determine your purpose is a business analysis technique named the 5-Why’s.

Applying this to determining your purpose consists of the following steps:

  1. Ask yourself a question pertaining to your purpose
  2. Answer the question
  3. Take the answer and combine it with the original question to come up with a new question
  4. Answer the new question
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have asked why 5 times
  6. You should now have a deep understanding of what your why is.

Questions for starting the 5-why’s

  • What am I willing to pursue regardless of the effort required?
  • What would I do if I only had a year to live?
  • What legacy do I want to leave after I am gone?
  • What would I do if I didn’t have to worry about money?
  • How would I save the world?
  • When have you felt as if you were living who you were meant to be?

Life Design Outcome: Your Purpose Statement

Your purpose statement is a written statement, or pictures, that quickly connects you with your purpose. You will constantly refer to this statement to ensure your decisions help you to fulfill your purpose. This statement is a living thing, as you determine, live, and deepen your life’s purpose you will continually update your purpose statement. For some your purpose statement will be short and concise, for others, it will be longer and more verbose. The point is that your purpose statement needs to connect you with your purpose.

Your purpose statement should be motivational. If living your purpose puts you in a state of flow, your purpose statement should remind and motivate you to reach that state.
Your purpose statement will form the starting point of defining your life vision.

Action Steps for Journaling your Purpose

ActionStep Description
Start a journalStart a journal if you don’t already have one.
Document your purposeCreate a section specific to your purpose. This will allow you to regularly review your purpose.
Document experiences of living your purposeCreate a section where you can document experiences related to your purpose. These will be any experiences where you experienced a state of flow. Reviewing these experiences will lead you towards your purpose.
Document reflections about your purposeCreate a section where you document reflections you have about your purpose. Your reflections are your wisdom pertaining to who you are. Reviewing your reflections will deepen your understanding of who you are and what your purpose is.
Review regularlyReview your journal regularly. Ideally, you would review your journal as part of your morning or evening routine.