Find Your Life Purpose: 4 Tips for Discovery

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The One Thing" by Gary Keller. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is your life purpose? Are you living it?

Your purpose is the one thing you want your life to be about more than any other. Your life purpose determines your priority. Connecting purpose and priority with productivity determines your success. To live an exceptional life, live with purpose, live by priority, and live for productivity.

Continue reading to learn how to find your life purpose.

Finding Your Life Purpose

Identifying and living your life purpose is one of three components to implementing your One Thing and achieving exceptional results. Priority and productivity are the other two components. Your big One Thing is your purpose, and your small One Thing is what you do now—your priority—to achieve it.

Purpose, priority, and productivity are like three parts of an iceberg. Productivity is the tip or part you see (just one-ninth of the iceberg). Priority is directly under the surface and purpose is deeper. Your purpose determines your priority, and both purpose and priority drive productivity.

How well you connect your life purpose, priority, and productivity determines your personal level of success; the same formula applies to business success as well. The formula for an exceptional life is to live with purpose, live by priority, and live for productivity.

Live With Purpose

Your life purpose is the one thing you want your life to be about more than any other.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens illustrates how purpose sets or changes the course of your life. At first, Scrooge’s purpose is to have money. His priority is amassing as much as he can. With maximum productivity, he accomplishes his goal/purpose. By his standards, he’s extraordinarily successful.

However, later in the story after being visited by ghosts, he changes his purpose. This changes his priority and how he focuses his productivity. Scrooge’s new purpose is caring about people; his priority is using his money to help people, while still making as much as possible. He’s productive in accumulating as much money as he can to help others.

When it comes to purpose, happiness is what we want most; it drives most of our actions.

Most people pursue happiness the wrong way. Acquiring money or something else you want can make you happy for the moment, but having things doesn’t guarantee lasting happiness. If you don’t have a big-picture purpose, you can fall into a pattern of always seeking more. After you get what you want your happiness diminishes as you get used to it, so you seek something else.

In reality, lasting happiness comes from becoming engaged in and finding meaning in what you do; your daily actions are driven by a bigger purpose. Happiness occurs in the process of fulfilling your life purpose.

Find Your Life Purpose

Following are some tips to find your life purpose. Remember that you can always change it; the key is to get started. (Shortform note: For more details, download the author’s free worksheet here.)

  1. Write down a handful of activities you’re passionate about—for example, activities involving family, work, community, or a hobby.
  2. List several outcomes you’re passionate about.
  3. Pick one activity and one outcome most important to you.
  4. Combine your activity and outcome to answer the question, “What’s the One Thing I can do that would mean the most to me, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” 

Post your One Thing where you’ll see it often. Try it for a while, even if you’re not completely satisfied with it. You can always revise it or develop a better one later.

Find Your Life Purpose: 4 Tips for Discovery

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Gary Keller's "The One Thing" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The One Thing summary:

  • Why focusing daily on one thing, rather than many, is the key to success
  • How success is like dominos
  • The six common myths about success

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She has always appreciated nonfiction, especially about history, politics, and ideas. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. As a former intelligence analyst and a teacher of critical thinking skills, Elizabeth enjoys analyzing arguments on all sides of an issue. Her nonfiction preferences include theology, science, and philosophy. She studies the intersection of these three in pursuit of the highest truths. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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