Until I found my purpose in life, my life wasn’t really working.
I was passed over for promotions four times in three years. Every time, a peer became my boss.
My wife hated me. Whatever I did, it just made things worse.
My brother told me I’d been complaining for five years: “Do something about it or quit complaining.”
He’d rung my bell. I wasn’t a complainer. I was a man of action.
He pointed out the story I’d shared with him five years prior. When I told him that previous story, I’d been sitting in that same green mini-van, after a day at that same job, on the driveway of that same red brick house next to a lake.
My first instincts just perpetuated the problem.
I did what any Berkeley grad might do: I took more classes and read more books.
It turned out all that education is what got me to the point where I was passed over at work and miserable at home.
Like many, the advice I’d followed was to get a diploma and a good job. Always an over-achiever, I doubled down and got three diplomas. Then I started a family.
Nonetheless, I was unfulfilled and deeply resentful, and I felt very alone.
I saw what had been holding me back.
When I started spending real money on therapists, counselors, coaches, doctors, attorneys, and immersive experiential programs, some things became clear to me.
After spending $10s of thousands of dollars, I realized I’d been going through the motions in my career and in my life. I’d been along for the ride, just doing my job.
My whole life, I’d been following someone else’s plan. I wasn’t present anywhere in the goals of diplomas, jobs, family, homeowner, or anything else.
Never had I chosen any of it. It felt like a role I was playing in someone else’s life, playing a part in a script I didn’t write and didn’t even understand. I’d never chosen it, and I’d never really committed to it. I hadn’t committed to much of anything.
I began to wonder what I wanted in all of it. It took me several years to clarify what I wanted and several more years to admit it and start taking action toward it. 
When I took new actions, I got new results.
As I pondered my purpose in life, my self-awareness expanded and I made several discoveries about myself, including:
- The quality of relationships in my life had been terrible for years, since my childhood. Maybe my dad was right: I did get a psychology degree to figure out my messed up family!
- Despite nearly $100,000 in grad school, where they assigned us to do a team project in every course, and a career where every work group was described as a team, I’d never committed to putting teams to work or to being a leader. I figured I must be a leader because my graduate school promised to mint “leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion.”
I created a vision statement and my life changed.
When I committed to creating fantastic relationships and high-performing teams in every area of my life, my life turned around. I lost 50 pounds, was trained for my first two marathons by an amazing woman who inspires me to this day, became a triathlete for fun, brought my allergies and autoimmunity under control, got promoted, and was picked to lead teams. Now Lori and I ride a tandem bike for weeks at a time. We’ve even ridden five hours uphill in a desert, and no one got off in tears or refused to ever speak to the other again.
My relationships and teams work today because I know that my personal vision statement, my purpose in life, is to create a world that works for everyone, with no one left out. I’ve seen that begins with fantastic relationships and high-performing teams.
I intend to help 10,000 people bring success as they define it to their lives, teams, families, and communities, and I intend to retire myself from my full-time job and travel half-time by doing so.
You can find your vision statement too.
The exercises that follow will give you a taste of how you might find your own vision statement. Writing a vision statement is one step of eleven that can help you find your purpose in life.
If you think you might enjoy clarifying your purpose in life, click one of the images below and download your own Life Purpose Blueprint, so you can find your purpose in life too.
Alternatively, if you prefer to start simply by writing your vision statement, that exercise follows here.
Practice: Use these exercises to begin finding your purpose in life by writing a vision statement.
- End the confusion and create clarity about what you really want.
- Stop being frustrated in your attempts to get what you want.
- See one of the tools great athletes and high achieving leaders use to define THEIR best results.
Define your purpose clearly
or lose control of your results
Since you’re here, you probably already read the background to this assignment. The key takeaway: it’s critical to know where you’re going. Either way, you’ll get somewhere, but without a clear purpose, it may not be where you want to be.
If you need more inspiration about this, or you just want the full experience, go read the first part of this assignment. Don’t worry, the page will open in a new tab, and there’s a link back also! You’ll have two ways to get back here.
If you’re already fired up, or you just want to start work:
Write A Vision Statement and Find Your Purpose in Life
Instructions To Write Your Vision Statement(s):
Schedule an uninterrupted time and place where you can relax.
- Find a nice, comfortable place, and seating position.
- Maybe grab yourself a nice, warm (or cold), relaxing beverage.
- Choose your favorite writing tool(s).
Write for 10 minutes each, on the writing cues below. Follow these guidelines.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes. Start writing or typing after you start the timer and do not stop writing or typing until after the timer expires. Fingers keep moving even if you don’t know what to write. If you’re really stuck, write “I don’t know what to write” repeatedly until a new idea surfaces. I promise, it won’t take long (you’ll have a new idea before you’ve written the sentence TWICE).
- Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are not important. The un-edited output of your unconstrained imagination is what we want.
- Write from YOUR point of view and YOUR ideas, not what “they’ve” told you or you believe someone else wants to hear. No judgments: just let it fly.
- This is an individual brainstorming activity, so “reality orientation” isn’t useful here (if you are interested, see more about this under “More Information” below). At this stage, think of yourself as if you are Leonardo DaVinci inventing the submarine or Dick Tracy using a smartphone, centuries, and decades before they were actually created. (for another description of this activity, and more sample questions, see this article: “The two-hour rule: taking time to think”, linked below.)
- Write vividly, in the present tense, as though you’re standing in the future, and what you’re describing already exists.
- The most important thing is your unconstrained thinking about what’s most desirable to you. Don’t edit, just write.
- Write in detail. Describe events, locations, people, places, activities. Use your senses. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste?
- Finish whatever thoughts you still have in mind after the timer expires. Continue writing until you’ve exhausted ideas. You may write 10 minutes 2 seconds, or you may write 29 minutes. Exhaust your ideas.
- Have fun with it! Begin when you start the 10-minute timer. Do not stop writing or typing until the timer runs out or you run out of things to write, whichever comes LATER.
- You may want to take a break between each 10-minute writing block, as writing all in a row may be tiring. However, if you are up to it, you can write at any time, or in any sequence you like.
Cue 1: Your Perfect World
Write your vision statement to clearly define your purpose for a perfect world, from your point of view. How do different countries, societies, cultures, religions, and beliefs interact and manage the resources available to us?
Cue 2: What You Love
Describe your passions, the things you love, and things you’ve always wanted to do. Later, expand this into a Bucket List.
Cue 3: Your Purpose in Life
Write your vision statement to clearly define your purpose for your perfect life. This is you, standing in the future, having achieved your most important goal.
“Describe your perfect day, week, month, and annual cycle (your perfect lifestyle), as YOU define it. Think King or Queen for a day (for life).”
Now, think of a three-word (or fewer) brand promise for the difference you make, (such as, “World That Works” or “No More Toil” or “Everyone Gets Along” (but don’t get stuck on this goal — just consider it for a moment — you will improve it over time until you find the perfect label).
Cue 4: Your Perfect Job
Write your vision statement to clearly define your purpose for your perfect job.
“Describe your perfect workday, week, month, and annual cycle (your perfect work-life), as YOU define it. Think I’m the Boss, I love my job, I do what I want, and I make all the money I want.” This is you, standing in the future, working in the job you love.
Next, think of a three-word (or fewer) brand promise for the services or products you offer, (such as, “I paint houses” or “the ultimate analyst” or “writes cool code” (but don’t get stuck on this goal — just consider it for a moment — you will improve it over time until you find the perfect label).
Cue 5: Your Perfect Product
Write your vision statement to clearly define your purpose for your perfect product. Describe the result of a product you’d like to create, and the positive difference it will make in the world. Describe the world that will result as it is impacted by this product.
Again, think of a three-word (or fewer) brand promise, (for example, “finally thin forever” or “ultimate driving machine” or “strategic defense initiative” (but don’t get stuck on this goal — just consider it — you will perfect it over time).
- Describe in detail who would buy the product, who would use it, and who would pay for it.
- Where would the product be sold?
- Where would it be used?What would it look like?
- What resources (people and things) would be required to design it, manufacture it, distribute it, operate it, support it, and maintain it?
Cue 6: Your Perfect Career or Business
Write your vision statement to clearly define your purpose for your perfect business.
“Describe your perfect business operating model, business cycle, processes, employees, customers, marketing, manufacturing, operations, service delivery, and support models. Describe the typical customer’s workday, week, month, and annual cycle, as THEY define it. Think I’m the Boss, I love my job, I do what I want, my customers are thrilled, and I make all the money I want.”
One more time, think of a three-word (or fewer) brand promise for the core processes, services, or products delivered by the company, (such as, “we paint anything” or “high performance, delivered” or “the document company” (but don’t get stuck on this goal — just consider it for a moment).
Example Vision Statements
- Personal vision statements
- Non-profit vision statements (after much revision and editing)
- Corporate vision statements (after much revision and editing)
Review and Reinforce what You Learned
Answer these questions in writing, for the greatest benefit (download a printable form here):
- What did you learn in writing these that you didn’t know before?
- What did you learn in writing these that surprised you, or that you weren’t expecting?
Validate Your Results
You now have one or more statements, that will serve as a guide for your future practices (put these statements in your PowerBoard, notebook, drive).
For More Information
-  Why it Took Me Twenty-One Years to Find My Purpose in Life
- The two-hour rule: taking time to think)
- Get unstuck: How to stop screwing yourself over | Mel Robbins | TEDxSF
- A twist on 3 Word Product Name: Steal This Running Legend’s Mental Strategies for Success, Lindsey Emery
- More About Vision Statements
- Peter Drucker’s Virtuous Firm Vs. ‘The World’s Dumbest Idea’
- More About How this practice works
- More questions to evoke your passion and purpose: 7 STRANGE QUESTIONS THAT HELP YOU FIND YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
- Deeper Dives on finding and living your passion, from LiveYourLegend.net:
- Free Self-Discovery Writing Challenge
- 21 Days to Discover Your Passion
- Live Off Your Passion Discovery Course