What is purpose and how do I build it?

Purpose. It’s an elusive concept for me and something I’ve spent a long time looking at my whole life. I think we all are - consciously or unconsciously.


Regardless, I don’t believe it’s necessary to have a 'calling', but if you do, great! I believe we build purpose rather than find it. If we build it, there’s something we can do about it. It’s something we can intentionally create.

Creating purpose

If we’re finding it, there’s a chance we might not discover it, it’s a gamble that’s not in our control. For me, purpose is ultimately about how we chose to contribute to the world; it is linked to the value we want to add or how we want to give. It’s the mark we intentionally choose to leave through the actions we take during our life. There’s an active decision when it comes to purpose - it’s having a philosophy or belief that informs our decisions.

Rather than letting life float along, it’s a decision to say, “Who do I want to be in the world” and "What do I want to give/teach/show to others?"

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why is it hard to fulfil my purpose? 

If you haven’t necessarily thought about this before, it can be hard to know what your purpose is. If you haven’t consciously decided to think and take action, how would you know? Sure, some people might know instinctively, but lots of people won’t.

Purpose is also about choice and sometimes hard choices too. In those situations, it can be easier to bury our heads in the sand, not decide and run away. When we do this, we aren’t allowing ourselves an opportunity to learn about our values.

If we’re continually trying to protect ourselves, control our environment, and keep it safe, we’re focused on threats and defending ourselves. It’s then impossible to be inquisitive about your purpose. Our brains are too busy trying to ensure we exist so we can then later mull over our purpose.

Over time though, we tend to get stuck just trying to create certainty rather than build our purpose. Certainty about money, relationships, family, career, status, health. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have certainty in these areas. Rather, past a certain point of wealth, stability, social connection etc. we need to give ourselves permission to get to know who we are and what we care about on a deeper level.

So, how do I do that?

Well, one way is to hire a coach! And I would say that wouldn’t I? The second is to do a lot of self-reflection about your values, passions, skills, and experiences. Again, a coach can help with this process. It takes time and might include accessing parts of yourself that you’ve previously shunned. Third, you can do various exercises (there are lots online to help you uncover your values). I have a free workbook that I email to people if they get in touch. Fourth, you can ask yourself what is the one thing that you would love to show the world - about yourself, others, or a situation? How does it make the world, a group of people, or a community better?

Whichever approach you take, it’s important to remember this isn’t a fixed thing. It can change and evolve over time. That is entirely OK and part of the process. Give it a go and get in touch if you feel a bit stuck! I’m happy to help.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW1V & NW1
Written by Rebecca Cockayne, BA. (Oxon), MSc, GDL | Delphi Coaching
London SW1V & NW1

Bex is a coach who loves journeys. She's done a lot and has been on many internal and external ones. She loves to help people long their path too.


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