If You’re Searching for Purpose, Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

UPDATED: May 27, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 2, 2017

We are all searching for a purpose, a career and a life that really matter. So if you feel stuck, trapped or hopeless—if you want more—ask yourself these five questions to get your life back on track:

Related: How to Find Your Purpose

1. Why am I here?

Seriously. Right now, whatever coffee shop, classroom, cubicle or conference room you might be sitting in, why are you here?

Who you are becoming far outweighs who you are. If what you are doing today is not making you a better human being or the world a better place, you are probably on the wrong path.

I often have my coaching clients write a letter to their future self. If you invest the time to describe in vivid detail the type of person you would like to be a year from now, three years from now or even 30 years from now, then you will be giving yourself an unbelievable gift: the gift of hope.

With a compelling picture of the future, you have a target to aim for.

2. What is my story?

Stories are powerful, regardless of whether they are true. They give you a narrative to live by and life lessons to pass on, that shape and inform the person you are becoming.

One of the reasons you might be experiencing unrest and frustration in life today is that you might not have a better story shaping your life. You need a heroic narrative. A story that calls out your best and highest self. A narrative that demands you bring your full attention, strength and personality to the task at hand, creating a life of significance and substance.

This requires that you acknowledge the good and the bad of your story up to this point. A big part of this is learning how to let go of past guilt and regret, and to start living your life with conviction.

You cannot change your past, but you can create a better future. Make a conscious decision today to stop defining yourself by what you are not. Today is a new day with new opportunities, so start living a better story.

Be accountable to your future self. Live with a deeper sense of responsibility with the amazing talents, genius and strengths you have been given.

3. Who do I need?

You will never reach your full potential without the help of others. Whom you spend time with determines the person you become. Investing in the right relationships and surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial to your success.

It sounds a bit harsh, but there are some necessary endings that you need to embrace—friends who are not really friends, people who suck the life out of you.

  • Who in my life is holding me back from becoming my best self?
  • Who do I need to ask for help?
  • Do I have any honest voices (mentors, coaches or heroes) in my life?

You are built for relationships. You have a calling in your life and a role to play within your team, family and community. Define whom you are fighting for and who is fighting for you.

Grab three friends or mentors in your life and ask them what they think is holding you back in life and how they see you overcoming it. Take notes, do not get defensive and thank them for being in your life.

4. What is at stake?

  • What upsets me about the world today?
  • What frustrates me?
  • What problem do I want to solve?

These are clues to your calling. Windows into your soul. Why? What frustrates you reveals what you care about most. The only way to live life with passion is to discover, name and fight for what matters most to you.

Without something at stake—a cause, person or compelling future—you will merely keep surviving and never experience success, let alone significance. Deep down you know what matters most to you. Who matters most to you.

Procrastination literally means to waste the sacred. Every time you make an excuse, place blame or get distracted from going to work on your life, you move toward an apathetic and happenstance existence.

So stop.

5. How can I help?

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be transformed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.

In layman’s terms, your life can impact and influence others in meaningful ways. Even small ways. A smile, a hug, a thank you, a high-five, eye contact, an email or kind word. All energy transferring in the form of hope from you to another. How beautiful is that?

But you have to start. Commit to serve someone else in some small way. Give more than you take. Listen more than you talk. Write an email or letter of encouragement to someone who has helped you. Get your focus off yourself and onto others.

I guarantee you will surprise yourself with how good it feels to fight for something that matters. For someone who needs your help. If you make a conscious choice to practice empathy, compassion or generosity, then that single choice creates a ripple effect in the lives of others.

You might even spark something in them that causes them to do something for someone else.

Imagine that.

These five questions matter, because you matter. Your life is not your own. The world needs you to discover what makes you come alive and for you to use that in service to a cause bigger than yourself.

Related: Answer 6 Questions to Reveal Your Life Purpose

Steve Knox is the founder of imprinttest.com, a leadership coach and author. For the past 12 years, he's helped people all over the planet discover a different way to live and work. His latest book, Confidence: The Science & Art of Self-Belief, is available online and in major bookstores.