A MarketResearch.com blog from 2018 claimed that $800 million a year is spent on self-help books and estimated to grow at 6% each year.
Some of that spend are my dollars and probably yours too. Books that teach me how to be a better husband, help me better manage my time, how to become an essentialist as well as how to live life in my strengths and much more. There is a reason that Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life has sold over 32 million copies in more than 85 languages since its release in 2002 (Wikipedia).
Obviously, people want to know their purpose — do you?
Discovering my purpose has fueled my desire to help others know theirs, but it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, I loved watching the stars of the silver screen win at business, woo women and grow their finances with one strike of the pen.
In my adolescent mind, I believed it was pretty simple. If you wanted success, the opportunities would find you because you simply wanted and deserved them. I understood that I had to work, but I didn’t realize the amount of work success would require. I quickly learned that entitlement was not a honorable character quality.
Hollywood is Real Life, Right?
One of my favorite movies growing up (and still one I enjoy today) was the 1987 flick, Secret of My Success, directed by Herbert Ross.
I attached my purpose to be like Michael J. Fox’s dual-character, Brantley Foster/Carlton Whitfield. I would get to the first company I was employed by and make it to the top. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and didn’t know my purpose, but I wanted to taste success.
The first job was not “the one” for me. That led to my open-door policy with my employers. I walked in and walked back out not too long after receiving my first few paychecks.
I switched jobs about four times in my first twenty-four months after graduating from college (I even went back to one). I worked hard but I also cut corners to get ahead. I cheated, stole and was manipulative. When I didn’t like what was going on at work, I simply left.
Life is too short for this successful young man to be waiting around. Take life by the horns was my mentality. I slowly and painfully learned that kind of attitude and unrealistic expectations may work on the Silver Screen for 90-minutes, but not in the real world. My financial and vocational future was looking bleak. I was to blame.
Lacking purpose and direction, I filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy at 25 in 2002. My life felt like the Night Ranger song, “The Secret of My Success” theme song from the band, Night Ranger.
“Worlds collide and hearts will be broken
Over and over it’s the same every day
How can I say what has never concerned me
The secret of my success is I’m living 25 hours a day”
Two worlds collided for me — the real world and my fantasy world. The real world was winning and left me with a broken heart and spirit. My broken heart was a symptom to a bigger problem…
I didn’t know my purpose
I was down and out and wasn’t sure I had one. Believing that there was a purpose for me was difficult. It took hitting rock bottom and searching there for the “meaning of life” before I admitted that I needed help.
I believed I was too far gone. had made too many mistakes, hurt too many people including those closest to me. My bank account, my phone contacts and my resume displayed my narcissistic personality, my entitled attitude and my foolish decisions.
Looking at myself, as a lost person, was hard. Being in the pit and not seeing anything but the walls around me was scary. But something was pricking my heart — mind, will and emotions — saying to me that this is not the last of you. There is a purpose for your life.
Know my purpose? How?
Taking the time to discover and know your purpose can be a monumental task, but do not let it intimidate you. Maybe some or all of these questions speak to your situation:
- Are you in a pit right now and are ready to come out?
- Are you searching for answers In what seems an ambiguous world?
- Has fear gripped you and you feel stuck?
Here are the four ways you can know your purpose:
1. Complete a study, curriculum or program
These are tools created to serve you over a course of a few weeks or months. They provide a framework for self or group study and sometimes a workshop here or there. I like workbooks because they are a nice blend of reading and writing. Personally, I get the sense of accomplishment as I complete the homework and fill in the blanks.
These books / studies have blessed me in different seasons in my life:
- 48 Days to the Work You Love (Dan Miller)
- I Am: Your Identity and Positive Choice Workbook
(William F. Morris)
- You are Created for Good Works – Crossroads Career Workbook (Brian Ray & Brian Horvath)
2. Read & Write Regularly
Here are a few books (some in their 3rd printing) that will serve you in your the quest for your specific purpose:
- The Purpose Driven-Life by Rick Warren
- Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy
- Halftime by Bob Buford
Consider the best-selling book of all time, The Holy Bible
Being a person of faith, I believe this is truth. That the truth from God’s mouth to our ears and mind and heart is a game-changer. Each time I read the Bible, the words connect with me in a different way. If you are a Jesus-follower, read Matthew 22:37-39, for a great word of purpose for all believers.
Hint: If you are seeking great wisdom, the Book of Proverbs is the place to start.
I encourage you to purchase a journal and call it your “Purpose Journal.” Use it to take notes, write quotes or jot down thoughts that speak to you during your reading time.
If you are like me, it is tempting to finish the book quickly and skip the thought-provoking questions at chapter’s end. I implore you to do them! Fill up a notebook and watch the creativity and blessings flow! Keep the notes for later reflection to see how you have grown over the years.
3. Invest in Assessments
Assessments are low-cost tools that provide outstanding insight, perspective and encouragement. These are investments into knowing your purpose.
They will affirm you in the obvious, position you in your strengths and encourage you in your interactions with others of the same and different personality style or strength. Overall, these are good tools to show you how you have been wired, gifted and placed in your home, work or community.
A few great assessments to get started are:
4. Find a Mentor or Coach
People are meant for people and those that get it and live it are the “luckiest people.” We were created to need and rely and help each ohter. Having a mentor is crucial in life.
Make a conscious effort to have people around you in life who you respect. Find people who are further ahead of you in life, not necessarily in age, but in their purposeful progress.
A good mentor will lead you by:
- being authentic
- listening to you
- being resourceful
- praying for you
- challenging you
- sharing perspective
- kicking you swiftly in the rear (as needed)
An effective coach in life usually guide us through a proprietary system or process. They found things that works and they package these lifehacks in a way that can help you. A good coach will provide emotionally-detached insights, offer accountability and provide encouragement.
The mentor and coach will believe in you even on your worst day.
Psst….a secret … going through this journey allows you to become a mentor or coach for someone else.
It’s Time to Take the Time!
Knowing our purpose is a life-long discovery process.
No matter at what age we are, we have not arrived.
It’s work, no doubt.
All of our purposes look different. Embrace those differences, combine them with your spouse and others and celebrate the unique ways in which all were made.
It will take time to know your purpose, so take the time. Use the four tools mentioned above and begin living a life on-purpose!
What tool(s) will you implement this week so that you Know Your Purpose?