Are You Living Your Life on Purpose?


As a therapist, one of the core goals with nearly all my clients is to help them be intentional about their choices. This may seem obvious.  Of course we make decisions based on our values, goals, and dreams…right?   Unfortunately, all too often, we become caught up in what is happening around us, or are guided by convenience or fear, rather than intent and purpose. Further, we struggle with the distinction between doing what we want to do, and doing what we think we should do.

As a result, we can end up stumbling into circumstances, with little sense of direction. We find ourselves saying, it just sort of happened.  And I’m not talking about an outfit choice or what you had for lunch.  I am talking about major life decisions—career, relationships, education, kids.  They just sort of happened. As in, with very little intent on our part.

To break the cycle of living life reactively, it takes a concerted effort of living on purpose. Below, are some of the key steps to living life being guided by what matters.

  1. Identify your values. The first step to living intentionally is to identify what’s important to you.  Our values are not only our morals, but also our interests and desires.  Values are the compass that guide our choices. Ask yourself, what really matters to you? What do you want to accomplish in work or love? What qualities do you want to demonstrate as a spouse or a parent? What hobbies or interests do you want to explore? Once we have identified our values, it makes it easier for us to make decisions going forward because we know where we’re headed.
  2. Develop SMART Goals. After you’ve clarified your values, you can then develop goals that are in line with the qualities you have recognized as important. I encourage clients to develop SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  Let’s say that you have identified feeling close to your partner as a value. Instead of the vague goal of, ‘I want to feel more connected to my spouse,’ you can say, ‘I will plan at least one date night per week for me and my partner, starting next week.’ You then have a created a specific goal (date night each week) to bring you in communion with your value (feeling connected to your spouse).  Protip: If you can’t tell whether your actions are moving you closer to your goal, then you do not have a SMART goal.
  3. Check in with yourself. It’s very easy when we are living our daily lives to become disconnected from the plans we have made for ourselves.  However, to know that we are on a path that right for us, we have to pause from time to time and take stock of our current choices. We have to ask if we are acting in accordance with our values and larger plans for our lives. If you find yourself having difficulty remembering to take that pause, it can be helpful to make a note on the calendar.
  4. Mind your language. One of the things that I feel strongly about is the power of language. I encourage clients to use active language that fully owns their choices. Instead of saying, ‘I want to leave my job, but it’s not going to happen this year,’ I urge folks to say, ‘I am choosing not to leave my job this year.’  You would be surprised how powerful this simple shift in language can be. Suddenly, the issue at hand is not something happening to you, but a course of action that you have agency over.  You acknowledge and accept your choice instead of laying it at the feet of the universe. Over time, this helps you recognize your own power and also better accept situations where you have little control.
  5. Don’t be afraid to change gears. This may be the most important and difficult component of living intentionally. Sometimes, our decisions and life circumstances lead us to unexpected places.  They can be places that we love better than our initial goal.  They can also be places that make us feel we took a wrong turn.  Regardless, I have seen folks get stuck on their original plan, insisting that they must follow through even if that path no longer fully makes sense for them.  Step back, and evaluate whether the choices you have made are really working for you.  If you have ended up somewhere unexpected but it seems to fit, then perhaps it is actually a better sync with your values.  If you have made all the choices you thought were appropriate, but find yourself at odds with your present circumstances, then take a look at your original goals and ask yourself if they truly suit you.


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Living life on purpose can be tough.  It requires a basic understanding of self, a diligence in continually evaluating your decisions and goals, and courage to do what may be difficult or uncomfortable in order to develop what works best for you.  However, the rewards—focus, accomplishment, fulfillment—are fully worth it.



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