Note: “How to Find Purpose in Life: The Ultimate Guide” is a long-form DEEP DIVE article . If you don’t have time to read it now CLICK HERE to download it as a PDF. Or, if you want to be notified when we release our purpose training CLICK HERE.
Part 1: One Man’s Journey of How to Find Purpose in Life
The Call: The First Phase of Living a Life on Purpose
Mark was 26 years old and every morning woke up praying for a good reason to stay in bed that day. All aspects of his life caused him anxiety even though he had a good job, a nice apartment, and friendships. His life appeared good, but there was no fooling his inner perception. (Keep reading if you’re interested in how to find purpose in life.)
Mark was educated, polite, and in decent shape. He had a nice condo, new furniture, and a nice car, yet day-by-day he struggled to start his day. The task felt monumental and he knew in his bones that he couldn’t continue. He knew he’d either end up sick, crazy, depressed, or all of the above.
Getting up out of bed was bad enough, but work was no better. There, Mark would wander aimlessly between ‘water cooler’ chit-chat and boring work. He could have done his job better but didn’t. Staying sucked, but the idea of leaving overwhelmed him because of the effort it would take.
He had the constant feeling he was watching his own life happen to him, but he didn’t feel sad or upset by any of this. He was just ambivalent and not in control. Mark’s life was a solid ‘meh.’
He wanted to travel, but he didn’t have the money. He wanted to volunteer with a charity, but he was strapped for time. Mark was always a little tired and a little bored. After work, Mark would hit the gym. He was relatively strong but had been lifting the exact same weights for a few years in the same pattern. He once wanted to be an athlete, but he got ‘too busy’ and lost focus
His dating life had gone from okay to non-existent. Mark longed to connect with women but was frustrated by the process and more often than not just settled for a brief, shameful porn-date with his computer just before bed. He once justified his porn habit that it helped him sleep at night, but these days nothing helped him sleep. Mark never wanted to go to bed, as though staying up would somehow delay the sun from rising the next day.
One night when he could no longer accept the endless loop of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix, Mark took out a dusty journal and started reflecting. The words came out choppy at first, as he was out of practice and had forgotten what it was like to get lost in healthy mental effort. His mental faculties had begun to atrophy already.
Before long, the choppiness gave way to determination. The feeling of putting pen-to-paper taxed his mind, but just like lifting heavy weight on the edge of one’s ability it felt good. With every frustrated thought, emotional pang, and insight Mark felt stronger.
He pushed through and thought he’d reached his pinnacle for the night, so he decided to stop and chalked it up to muscle memory. He put his pen down and settled in for a good night’s sleep. After all, it was still early compared to his normal habits.
But unlike most nights, Mark’s mind was now infected with emotions and thoughts. Normally, he’d swipe these thoughts away with distraction. But on this night, his feelings had more resonance. They felt connected to a higher purpose.
He was both excited and scared by this development.
He’d always avoided the strange call of such unknown experience and routinely mocked the more spiritually inclined seekers he saw on social media. It unnerved him that he could feel this way. Mark always considered himself a rational, logical guy. He avoided weird shit like ‘spiritual experience.’ How would he explain this? How would he look?
After fifteen minutes of wide-awake contemplation, Mark accepted that he wouldn’t be sleeping any time soon. So, he clicked on his bedside lamp and picked up his pen and journal again.
Whereas he was previously determined, Mark now felt something new — flow. Instead of determinedly scrawling sentences, Mark’s right hand now danced across the page. He made analogies, created imagery, and wrote about his hopes, dreams, desires, and plans. And he did it effortlessly.
Mark had heard about flow before in relation to athletes and geniuses. But he didn’t know he could feel it himself. He was adamant about a great many things, underlining certain phrases until the paper nearly gave way. He KNEW that things had to change and that he needed to take different actions.
When Mark next looked at the clock it was 2:00 am and he’d been writing for three hours. Finally, spent, he put down his pen and notebook. As he finally drifted off to sleep, Mark knew one thing for certain: he couldn’t live another forty years like this. He WOULDN’T live another forty years like this.
Work: The Never-Ending Phase of Living Life on Purpose
If you’ve ever experienced an epiphany, you’ll understand Mark’s experience. He was both thrilled and utterly terrified. He was filled with energy but didn’t have a good idea where to direct it. That night, it felt freeing to scrawl out his hopes and dreams, but upon waking the next morning he found that a fairy godmother hadn’t arrived with the resources to make them real.
Thus began the long process of work. He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but he knew it wasn’t what he was doing. He didn’t know how he’d get to his new destination, he just knew that he would.
Without total clarity, Mark simply allowed himself be guided by his interests. He quit scrolling through the Internet and started reading books, follow blogs, and listen to podcasts.
The answers didn’t come immediately, but certain things became obvious. He noticed that this new way of being gave him FAR more motivation day-to-day. His stagnant weightlifting routine changed when he found a community of others dedicated to fitness. He found himself working harder in the gym and doing different movements. The stubborn ten pounds of fat melted away, and he was lifting more weight than ever before.
Upon arriving home after work, Mark would put on a podcast or audiobook while cooking healthy food. Still listening after dinner, Mark would tidy-up his kitchen and any other part of his house that needed it. Eventually, he extended his tidying to his personal appearance, financial affairs, and relationships. Whereas before he’d make sloppy purchases of stuff he didn’t need, Mark now checked in with his budgeting apps regularly. He saved more money and this felt good.
He spent many evenings calling friends he previously neglected along with new friends. Mark focused on only calling the people who made him feel good. Rather than masturbating to porn, Mark made a point of connecting with the women he was attracted to. Soon dating became part of his life again.
He usually wrapped up his evenings by reading — with a particular focus on learning new ideas that would infect his mind with possibility. Other times he journaled. Sometimes both. But always he would find himself contentedly sleeping by ten o’clock. He had to, because he knew he’d be up early the next morning, pushing his body at the gym with his fitness friends.
At work, Mark still didn’t like his job. But instead of lamenting this fact, he game-ified the experience by trying to complete his tasks faster and better than anyone else, then taking on more work with his excess time. This led to his boss giving him more responsibility. This didn’t come without a cost, though, as some of his co-workers resented him. Mark realized immediately it was a price he was willing to pay. He was making more money, which, when combined with his better budgeting and spending habits meant a healthier bank account. All of a sudden the travel idea wasn’t so far-fetched.
All this time, Mark was developing the capacity to think, learn, feel, and give a shit — all things that were dormant. But living this lifestyle, Mark still hadn’t found any answers to the big questions that began the night of his epiphany. Moreover, he didn’t really understand why that night happened. Could he recreate it? Did it even make sense to try?
Still, even without the answers, Mark was content to feel good again. He didn’t need all the answers, because the process felt good enough. But one evening while reading, he came across an article titled:7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.
The article itself, by über-blogger Mark Manson, was a great read. But it got Mark thinking about a question that he wrote down on a blank page in his journal: What is my purpose in life? It was a question he not only couldn’t answer, but it dumbfounded him. He realized he’d never even asked himself that question before, much less find an answer.
Once the seed had been planted, it took over Mark’s mind. He had to have a purpose, he had to have something to live for. It became almost like an obsession.
Success: Living Life on Purpose Never Ends, But You Can Reach Goals Along the Way
After becoming obsessed with the idea of purpose, Mark began writing in his spare time. The creative outlet felt great and the skills it forced him to develop served him as he took weekend courses that would help him transition in his career.
Mark realized he eventually wanted a family, so he went to work becoming the kind of man a wonderful woman would want to marry and have kids with. He worked at truly connecting on dates and understanding each women as deeply as he could. Mark would graciously, respectfully, and firmly end the relationship with any woman who wasn’t a good fit. He practiced direct, empathetic communication rather than dodging relationship problems.
Mark felt weightless when he finally quit his job and switched careers. He had a serious amount of work ahead of him, but it no longer felt like a burden, it felt like a challenge he was ready for.
Here’s the truth about Mark: he’s actually a composite sketch created from dozens of different men we’ve worked with at ManTalks and who I’ve met elsewhere. Many modern men are some combination of the things we’ve mentioned about Mark, above.
Does any portion of it remind you of your own life?
Maybe you’re not as dissatisfied by your work but still aimlessly peruse social media at night. Maybe you’re in good shape but your relationships are a mess. Whatever combination describes you, we’ve seen that these are universal issues experienced by most men — myself included. Purpose is a lifetime obsession and we can always be better.
Have you ever felt bored and uninspired by life? Ever dragged yourself back and forth between meaningless tasks and distractions? Have you ever seriously wondered what the fuck you’re going to do with the rest of your life? Felt fear, anxiety, or concern that this is all there is and it’s meaningless so what’s the point?
Have you ever turned that struggle into forward movement and had your mind infected by an idea? Ever stayed up late with an epiphany? Have you ever experienced the juxtaposition of living a low energy, unengaged life versus an engaged, learning-centric, healthy life? Most of all: have you ever been utterly obsessed by the question of your own purpose?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, let me ask you:
How would finding your purpose in life (or living your purpose) help you?
Part 2: The Benefits of Living Life on Purpose
Numerous researchers have looked at whether finding a life’s purpose has any tangible impact or whether it’s just a buzzword used by life coaches and gurus.
I’ll dive into it a bit below, but the short answer is “yes.” According to research published in Psychological Science, “[f]eeling that you have a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer, no matter what your age.”1
That might seem improbable, but let me ask you this: have you ever met an elderly person with a sense of purpose versus an elderly person without a sense of purpose? The difference is obvious. Meaning is the one thing that will carry you through life in a healthy way. It’s the one thing between you and living a life of personal hell every day, because there are plenty enough problems in the world that threaten to make life feel utterly pointless.
Another study found that developing a purpose in life can, “slash your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s, curb anxiety and depression, and improve your sex life.”2
So not only will you live a longer life, but your purpose-filled life will be happier, healthier and sexier. We know this intuitively, don’t we? Have you ever experienced been out with friends while feeling full of purpose?
If so, you’ll know that in this state, your words are animated, you listen intently to whomever you’re speaking with, and you glow with energy. Like magic you notice women noticing you. If you’re in a crowd of friends they find ways to sit near you, laughing at your jokes and engaging with you.
Others notice your purposeful demeanor. How could they not? It comes with an unmistakable energy that’s attractive to everyone. If others were to try explaining your attractiveness later, they may say it has something to do with confidence or vibrancy. This is why a sometimes less physically attractive person is sexier. It comes back to the energy they exude, not the ‘toolbox’ of physical qualities.
But confidence and vibrancy are just external descriptors of a process happening much deeper in the human psyche. Why do you feel free to crack that joke that’s just across the line (but not too far)? Why do you feel confident enough to openly discuss your ideas without getting angry when you hit some disagreement?
Purpose (and it’s twin: meaning) is the answer. These deep life experiences breed the surface level expressions of confidence, charisma, and integrity.
If you’ve had the experience of being inexplicably attractiveness you likely only understand it because you’ve also had the opposite: the feeling of being socially invisible. This might happen when you reluctantly drag yourself away from an eight-hour Netflix binge fueled by three bags of Miss Vickie’s Sea Salt & Vinegar chips (with all the attendant self-loathing that entails) and force yourself to socialize.
By extension, you know you’re not experiencing purpose when in that state. Thus it’s not surprising you find yourself quietly sipping your drink on the edge of the table as nobody, least of all an attractive woman, notices you.
It’s clear that there are some powerful reasons to live a life of purpose. But what are the actual mechanisms that create such profound change in our lives? Why does it work?
Living on Purpose Creates Consistency of Action
Our attention and energy are woefully finite. Purpose keeps us consistent in our action so we can build momentum.
As you push yourself constantly along the same path of action you stretch yourself to be better. This is known as healthy stress.
This consistency then helps reduce decision-making complexity. Instead of trying to weigh all possible outcomes, you simply ask: “which action best aligns with my purpose?” This reduces negative stress you experience when you wonder whether or not you’re doing the right thing and trying to keep your head above water. You won’t regret missed opportunities when they don’t align with your purpose.
Anything that reduces bad stress and maximizes healthy stress will improve the quality of your life.
But moreover, consistency of action produces momentum. With a cornucopia of options available to any intelligent adult with internet access, too many of us bounce between priorities. We take on too many goals at once, which to our unfocused mind seems like a good strategy The logic is simple but fals. It goes: “If I do more, I will be more successful.” This is wrong. Less is always more in terms of priorities. In terms of action, more is more only if the action is focused.
Coherence of Goals
Most of us are scattershot and unfocused, purpose aims us.
Having coherent goals helps us achieve real progress, which helps us financially, physically and mentally. Many people have lived this incoherence of goals when it comes to changing their eating patterns. Of course, you can’t achieve anything in a week. So, people move onto the next diet without ever getting a result on the first one.
Their goals are incoherent.
But why do people hop between behaviors when trying to make change? For me it has always come back to lack of clearly defined purpose.
By finding your life’s purpose (and living your life’s purpose) you will be able to better create (and stick to) goals because they align with your purpose, allowing you to stay motivated and dedicated.
A man who can improve his physical, mental, and financial well-being consistently will soon find himself living in abundance. What’s the opposite of that? Bouncing around between targets, never finishing one, never getting the full result of any accomplishment.
Purpose solves this.
A Life on Purpose Gives You More Life Satisfaction
Most of us never even consider what it would take to be truly satisfied, so we substitute satiation with satisfaction. Satisfaction is when you fall asleep at night knowing you did everything you needed to do that day and have no regrets. Only purpose will give you the energy, internal drive, and focus to do that.
A Stanford study looked at the relationship between purpose and life satisfaction for three different age groups: adolescents, emerging adults, and adults. The study, “revealed that having identified a purpose in life was associated with greater life satisfaction at these three stages of life.”3
An important note from the study showed that “searching for purpose” didn’t have the same benefits as finding purpose. Therefore it’s important that you take appropriate steps to ensure you plan your purpose and don’t get lost on the path of constant searching.
This is solved by a mental bargain you make with yourself. We’ll go into more detail about this below but it essentially looks like this: Based on an honest look at your life you set your purpose in some major areas of importance. From there, you simply assume that what you’ve stated is your current life’s purpose. You don’t stay in search mode. But below that remains a layer of awareness where you know your purpose will shift. You set aside time to review and adjust your purpose.
Without this bargain, every new piece of information will feel like a reason to shift course. You will be lost on the path of always searching, never finding, which, instead of adding to your life satisfaction will only take more of your life satisfaction.
We’ve all met someone like this. Don’t get stuck there. Take action and recognize that purpose constantly shifts in small ways.
Living on Purpose Makes You More Attractive to Women
Whether you know it or not, people will admire you for living a life of purpose. This includes women, who will find your purposefulness attractiveness.
We mentioned this above, but it’s worth discussing in a bit more detail. Also note that this applies to you even if you already have a committed partner. Don’t take her for granted. Stay the kind of man she wants to be attracted to.
Though there’s little research behind this, there’s much anecdotal evidence that having (and living) a life of purpose will make you more attractive to members of the opposite sex.
At the very least it will make you attract the right kind of people. If you are wishy-washy, uncommitted, and lost you will not attract a partner who is driven, successful and happy.
Women are pulled in by men who know what they want and are going to go after it, because this energy is safe for them. They know their needs will be taken care by a man who knows how to set a clear purpose and achieve it. These men have learned to differentiate between what is part of their purpose and what is not. This decisiveness is sexy.
But it’s even simpler than that, too. A man of purpose will do things like dress appropriately, practice immaculate personal hygiene, exercise, keep his home clean, read stimulating texts, and have a tribe full of high-quality men as friends. All of these are attractive in their own right, and women pick up on those things, even beyond the decisiveness and direction.
Living on Purpose Anchors You to Meaning
In past times, everyone in society was laden with traditional responsibilities. While this had its negative aspects, there was something immensely powerful in this grounding. The truth is that most of modern people could use more healthy anchors.
Purpose helps keep us strong throughout the hardest of storms life can throw at us.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl said,
“I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones. And I thought that if the point were demonstrated in a situation as extreme as that in a concentration camp, my book might gain a hearing. I therefore felt responsible for writing down what I had gone through, for I thought it might be helpful to people who are prone to despair.
The entire book is, I believe, the most powerful, touching, and elegant description of the benefits of purpose and meaning that exists. If you have no purpose to ground you when life goes sideways, as it undoubtedly will, you are much more likely to get lost and lose sight of hope.
A quick caveat: finding your purpose in life doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. Men will often say, “I’m happy with my life.” That may well be true even while feeling overwhelming emptiness inside. Happiness and purpose are not synonymous. Finding your purpose often brings you happiness, but being happy will not give you meaning.
As one article notes, “A Stanford research project explored the key differences between lives of happiness and meaningfulness. While the two are similar, dramatic differences exist – and one should not underestimate the power of meaningfulness. ‘The quest for meaning is a key part of what makes us human,’ the researchers concluded.”4
If you can’t find deep meaning through purpose in your life, you’re missing out on a key facet (if not the key facet) of being human.
By now you may be saying: “Okay I get it, I need to find my purpose but how?”
Part 3: Action
How to Find Your Purpose in Life
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~ Napoleon Hill
What follows will be a brief overview of the exact steps we use at ManTalks to help our members find their purpose and begin living it immediately.
Note: When you’re ready to do the entire process check out our supplementary article “How to Find Your Life Purpose: A Step-By-Step Guide.” That article will walk you through the steps to creating a powerful purpose statement in detail. You CAN do this by yourself at home using that article.
But, if you happen to live in Vancouver and are ready for a deeper experience I’d encourage you to check out the ManTalks Mastermind or Performance Mastermind where we do an in-person deep dive into creating purpose.
It’s one thing learning how to find purpose in life. But living life on purpose is another. It requires discipline and commitment over years.
Purpose is a beginning not an ending.
You never really ‘achieve your purpose’ you act it out daily. You’ll have a life on purpose when your actions align with your highest self.
Your purpose is already within you. The process I will outline below only helps you uncover the purpose that already exists. This process merely helps align your actions with what you already know is important.
This is (A Sketch of) Our Purpose Training Method
This following brief sketch is the method we use internally at ManTalks and has been proven effective by our members. It was developed by our team, led by Mike Muscari. For a deeper dive into this method check out “How to Find Your Life Purpose: A Step-By-Step Guide.”
To create a purpose statement to guide your daily actions, you must first engage your visionary, creative energy. To do this this you must ‘forget’ about practical concerns and allow yourself to dream without inhibition. You’ll take care of the practical concerns later.
What would living your purpose look like externally? Think about this when you create your goals. It’s vital that you create the right goals, based on true purpose. Refer to your vision when creating goals.
Goals are too big of a unit. To achieve it you must complete several smaller objectives. This process of ‘chunking it down’ is vital to reaching your goals.
Determine the Cost
Every goal and objective comes at a cost. This is an immutable law. Try to ignore it at your peril. It always costs some combination of money, time, and sacrifice. Determining this cost allows you to say no in the present so you can achieve a bigger goal in the future.
Spending your time in a purposeful community keeps you on track. Set up your life so that you’re constantly surrounded by others, who, like you, are living on purpose.
It’s easy to fall off the path. The best way to bring yourself back to the path is to keep score. Set dates with yourself to make an honest evaluation.
Along with evaluation comes revision. As you evaluate you will drop goals that don’t fit your purpose and add ones that do. You will double check the objectives and the cost as you learn new information.
Click the image to take our short purpose self-assessment quiz.
Conclusion: How to Find Purpose in Life
This article contains a lot of information. But don’t let the scope of this task stop you.
Don’t let your eyes glaze over and go back to checking baseball/basketball/football/hockey scores.
Live life like you only have one at bat. Don’t spend it in a wishy-washy grey zone. Build, create, discover and fight for the future you’ve always wanted. As Henry David Thoreau said,
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
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About the Authors
Zander Robertson is ManTalks’ Content Director. Prior to joining ManTalks, Zander had an illustrious career ghostwriting books behind-the-scenes for business and personal development leaders across North America. Zander is at his best when learning something new every day and applying it. These days he’s geeking out on psychology, philosophy, SEO, PPC advertising, and cryptocurrency. Zander has written over 20 books and plans to write more in the future. Why did he join ManTalks? After building his own band-of-brothers, he saw the need and importance of building this space for men. It’s all about the vision.
Michael Muscari is the director of the ManTalks Mastermind program and founder of NanoNutra, an innovative supplement company specializing in liposomal technology.
Michael is a lifestyle architect, serial entrepreneur, biohacker, and purpose seeker. He credits much of his success to a deep personal commitment to living a life of purpose.
Seeing the benefits of living with purpose, Mike now does detailed purpose training both within the ManTalks community and externally. To contact Michael about the ManTalks Mastermind or his purpose training, email [email protected]
Thomas Walker is a frequent contributor to ManTalks. He is also the co-founder of Metta Natural Awareness Beverage, a revolutionary drink built around helping peoples bodies adapt to stress to improve their performance.
Thomas is a passionate fitness enthusiast and world traveller. He gave up a career in law to pursue his passions and become an entrepreneur. He has re-invented his life a number of times, constantly using a return to his deeper purpose to guide him.
Thomas is constantly on the lookout for tools and methods to help himself grow. He is active within the ManTalks community and a proud mastermind member. To contact Thomas go to drinkmetta.com or projectkailo.com