You know those yellow, sticky Post-It notes that are found in cubicles, offices and classrooms?
Of course you do. You may have a few lying around your home, just waiting to be made into to-do lists or bookmarks…or you may even depend on them to remember where that meeting is on Friday afternoon.
Post-It notes have become so commonplace in homes and offices today that few realize they weren’t always one of the world’s favorite little paper products.
In fact, they almost never came to be.
A Tale About Post-It Notes
In 1968, a scientist named Spencer Silver was working to develop a strong adhesive while working for 3M. During his testing, he accidentally created a low-stick adhesive that was labeled a “solution without a problem.” There simply wasn’t anything that the glue could be used for, according to the company.
Like most of the best inventions, this glue fumbled for years, sitting on shelves, often getting little respect and lots of laughs.
After all, without a purpose, this glue was just a failed experiment – a waste of space. Why would anyone need a glue that only kind of stuck?
But after almost 10 years of floundering at conferences and science labs, this “unsticky” glue met with a small piece of paper and got to work as a bookmark.
Bang! That’s where the magic began…
Before long, people were begging for the product. It offered a great solution to a specific problem. Sales for the Post-It note skyrocketed, and it became an essential part of offices across the world.
In essence, this glue found its purpose.
The Importance of Purpose
Have you ever felt like an early version of a Post-It note? Have you ever felt like you were wandering through life without purpose? Do you feel like you have a really important and useful solution, but haven’t found the problem to solve yet?
It can be a tough spot to be in. Floating through life without a purpose can be bad for your career, social life, and self esteem.
Unless you find your purpose, you could end up settling for a second-rate life, thinking that it’s all you deserve, not knowing if you could have done more…always second guessing yourself.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a positive attitude, and by following the right steps, you can find your purpose. And once you do, both your life and your world will be more vibrant, exciting, and rewarding.
Having a specific purpose can give your life meaning. With purpose, you’ll be motivated to wake up in the morning to accomplish your goals each day. You’ll have a sense of direction. You’ll have more confidence. You’ll be living “in the flow.”
But how can you find your purpose? Should you climb to the top of a mountain, hoping that inspiration will strike? Should you wait for a sign from above to reveal your destiny?
That may work for some people—and let us know if you meet any, because that would probably be a pretty great story.
But most don’t have that blockbuster stroke of luck. Most have to work for it. Discovering your purpose is less about “finding” it and more about “creating” it.
How To Create Your Purpose
1. First, write down your answers to the following questions. Be honest!
- Think of a few times in your life you were happiest. What were you doing?
- Looking back on your life, what are you proudest of?
- What activities do you do that get you super excited?
- When you were a kid, what did you want to do, or be, when you grew up?
- What celebrities or famous people do you admire? List their names, along with traits they have that you’d like to have yourself.
- If you could get rid of any problem in the world, what would it be?
- What do you want to contribute to the world?
- Think of people you know. Friends, family, coworkers. Who do you envy? Why?
- What skills do you want to learn?
- If you didn’t have to worry about money ever again, what would you do with your life?
- When you die, what do you want your tombstone to say?
- What is your dream job?
- What would your perfect day look like?
- When do you feel the most alive?
2. Look for patterns.
Once you’ve finished, go through the list and analyze it. Circle words and thoughts that come up more than once. Make note of any recurring themes.
For example, if you wanted to be a chef when you were a child, and now you would love to cook all day if you could, that’s a good sign you should explore a career or side-hobby in food.
Or if you’ve always been interested in health and fitness, and some of your proudest moments are physical achievements, you’ll probably want to get involved in the health and fitness industry.
3. Translate those patterns into purposes.
Really, finding your purpose doesn’t have to be a deep, personal quest lasting several years. It’s just about taking the time to understand what you’re really passionate about.
Now, keeping in mind the themes/patterns above, spend 10 to 15 minutes writing any purpose you can think of.
Try not to think much, just write. Write as many as you can, and be specific. Instead of writing “be a chef” go with something like “open my own restaurant featuring French cuisine with a down-home feel.”
That being said, don’t think too much. The goal is to get lots of different ideas down on paper.
4. Analyze your list of purposes.
Go through the list and circle any purpose that makes you feel something emotional deep down within you. Look for the purposes that make you excited, or even scared. (After all, if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough!)
After you’ve got a list of the purposes that you have an emotional connection to, rank them in priority order. Ask yourself these questions to help:
- Which get you the most excited?
- When you look back on your life 10 or 20 years from now, which would you be most upset about being left undone?
- Which unfulfilled purpose would cause you the most regret?
After doing that, you should have a good idea of what your purpose is, or could be.
Sometimes you’ll need to take action to find your true, specific purpose, and that may not happen overnight.
So in order to narrow down your purpose to the best one, you’ll want to test each of them. Here’s how you can actively discover and create your purpose, now that you’ve got a specific direction to go in.
How To Start Living Your Purpose
Once you’ve narrowed down your purpose to one or a few options, you’ll need to move toward it. Here’s how you can do it.
1. Get to know people in the industry.
If your purpose is to become a chef, talk to professional chefs so you can learn what their job is like, and to get advice and tips.
If you learn how they started their journey to become a chef, that can give you some good insights as to what you’ll need to do.
2. Assess your situation.
If your purpose requires that you travel, relocate, or make some type of investment, it’s important you understand your current situation.
How much money do you have? What responsibilities can you walk away from? What costs can you cut back?
Related: 5 Tips For Getting Your Dream Job
If your purpose is in a different field than you’ve been working in, you’ll need to become a student of this new area.
That doesn’t mean you need to go back to school, although that could be part of it.
Instead, what books can you read that will get you up to speed? What training courses can you take? Internships? Apprenticeships?
4. Let go.
Before moving to a new chapter in your life, you need to turn the page of the chapter you’re on right now.
That may mean less security from a current job or relationship. It may mean moving to a new city, or even country. It may mean cutting back on some responsibilities so you can free up time to learn and grow in this new area.
Related: 5 Tips For Getting Your Dream Job
Know that some changes for the good mean moving on—and not looking back. That’s why windshields are so big and rearview mirrors so small.
It’s okay to reflect on the past every now and then, but only if you spend most of your time looking ahead in order to build the life you want to live.
5. Jump in.
If your purpose is in a new career field, you may want to test working in it before going in 100%.
That could mean volunteering, or interning part-time, to get some experience.
It could mean starting a business on the side while you stay employed in your current job.
6. Replace negative with positive thoughts.
Any change in your life is going to come along with self-doubt and negative self-talk. That’s normal.
However, you’ll want to minimize this negative self-talk; otherwise it can stop you in your tracks before you ever get started. That’s why the next two steps are so important.
Consciously be aware when you have thoughts like “I can’t do it” or “I’m not ready” or “I’m not good/brave/strong enough for this.”
Before you can replace your negative thoughts with positive ones, it’s important to take inventory of where your thoughts are right now.
8. Replace the negative with positive.
Come up with positive statements you can use to replace the negative thoughts you’ve been having.
For example, if you’ve been having negative thoughts of “I’m not ready to this, I don’t know what I’m doing,” you can replace that with a positive statement “I am smart enough to learn whatever I need to learn” or “Now that I have discovered my purpose, I will do anything and everything to make it happen.”
It’s hard to do anything in your life until you can visualize the outcome.
Spend time every day imaging your perfect reality of you living in this new purpose. Picture what it looks and feels like. Imagine what you’ll be doing.
The more emotions you can use, the better.
10. Set a goal.
The first step in achieving a goal is to set it, the right way. It needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
Don’t just say that you’re going to get a new job working in a field you love. Name the position you want to have, the industry you want to work in, and set a date by which you’ll be working in it.
Now, you get to work fulfilling your purpose.
There’s no better time than now to get started. You only get one life, and you want to spend every second of it doing something you love. Get your thoughts together, figure out what you want from life, and make it happen.
After all, if some “unsticky” glue can find its purpose in a yellow piece of paper and became a household name across the world, just imagine what you can do once you start living your purpose…
Dan Cassidy is CEO and Founder of Inspiyr.com, a health, wellness and personal growth site helping people unleash their potential and live their best lifel. A confirmed self-improvement junkie, Dan is a former collegiate athlete, personal trainer and advertising executive.