Purpose The Gist of Purpose Parts of Purpose Purpose Fundamentals Purpose in Context Purpose as your Work Should You Quit Your Job Purpose Myths Hindrances to Purpose Benefits of Purpose Passion The Purpose Journey Clarify your Purpose Align with your Purpose Support your Purpose Purpose Practice and Exercises Purpose Resources


If you were offered a magic pill that gave you motivation and energy, made you feel more fulfilled, improved your sleep and sex life, enhanced your immunity, and even added seven years to your life, would you take it?

That “magic pill” is Purpose.*

Right now you’re likely operating with your culturally-informed conception of purpose, which isn’t necessarily wrong, but is presumably incomplete. There is far more nuance to purpose than Oxford Dictionary’s definition, “the reason for which something exists.”

Understanding purpose more intimately can empower you to experience the benefits of the “magic pill.” This page will start you off strong to fill in the “far more nuance” you may be missing out on by walking you through its three main components: Meaningfulness + Goal-Orientedness + Self Transcendence.

Furthermore, greater elaboration on the broader nature of purpose is in “Purpose Fundamentals.” (Read that after this page for things to make the most sense!)

*A Note Regarding Magic Pills: As with many magical stories the magic in question can occasionally have unintended consequences. Purpose can be challenging and often involves sacrifices- and, most purposeful people will claim those challenges and sacrifices are worth it. You can read more about these aspects of Purpose in The 7 Myths of Purpose, The Purpose Journey, and Hindrances to Purpose.

“A purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self.” – William Damon, one of the world’s leading researchers on the development of purpose.

Purpose provides an “overarching framework that connects disparate parts of your life into a meaningful whole.” –Rick Hanson

Purpose is  “an overarching, self-organizing future-oriented aspiration that energizes one’s effort and is a central source of meaning and significance in your life.” – Scott Barry Kaufman

This 15-minute video (see the full version here) from Psyche called, “Yves & Variations,” follows the multi-layered life of a man with many pursuits. He is a concierge, a father, a violinist, an art curator, and a general altruist. The film shows how various aspects of his life weave together without narration, allowing the scenes to speak for themselves regarding the meaningfulness and purpose behind his many pursuits. Several of the things he engages in are purposes because they are personally meaningful to him, are goal-oriented, and self-transcendent. As you watch, try to see which of the following of his activities meet the criteria for purpose: Playing the violin – Being a concierge – Being a father – Curating art – Learning and speaking multiple languages – Contributing to the Harlem Fine Arts Show in order to raise funds for a new school in Haiti – His relationship with art and music overall

There are three main components to Purpose

Before you get overwhelmed by the above diagram, remember the three puzzle pieces from the top of the page. Purpose is made up of three factors: It is personally meaningful, goal-oriented, and self-transcendent. Those are represented here as the three circles. There is additional information in this graphic to help illuminate how they relate to one another, which will be divulged in more detail as you read along.

The three components have been agreed upon by a slew of modern researchers dedicated to understanding purpose and its impact on our lives. Purpose emerges at the intersection of the three factors; any factor alone is not necessarily indicative of purpose (as we’ll explore below).

Purpose and Meaning were initially explored as keys to resilience by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl while he was held prisoner in concentration camps during World War II. He observed that prisoners with something to live for were much more likely to survive than those who did not.

While his work showcased that having purpose could keep you from metaphorical “drowning,” the study of purpose today has shifted to its ability to empower you to “swim”… and to swim very, very well.

To help you conceptualize each of the three facets, you can think of them in terms of “Why,” “How/What,” and “For.”

Personally Meaningful Why you do what you do.
Goal-Oriented What you do and How you do it; the specific actions and strategies you use to put meaning into action.
Self-Transcendent Who or what you do it For.
Purposeful Person Mother Teresa Ai Wei Wei Maya Angelou
Why To serve God/Jesus To challenge authority and inspire change To highlight the experiences of those who have experienced racial prejudice and bring attention to inequity and suffering; to
What/How Through being a nun who ran and expanded the Missionaries of Charity Uses conceptual art as political activism to start conversations about human rights and contemporary culture. Through poetry, story-telling, and civil-rights activism
For The poorest of the poor Mostly modern chinese citizens, but also the average person around the world African americans and anyone experiencing racial inequity and discrimination

None of these puzzle pieces individually constitute a purpose. For example, it is not Mother Teresa’s purpose to be a nun or missionary. Being a nun and missionary was her what, it was the form through which she executed her why, which was to love and care for those who society was not interested in or prepared to support.

WHY: Something Personally Meaningful is the Foundation of Purpose

Your Why is the reason behind what you do, driving your choices and actions (and determining your goals!). When it comes to purpose, this particular “Why”  is deeply, genuinely meaningful to you and significant for you personally. A fat, juicy “Why” is the basis of a purpose.

AMeaningofLife.org structures meaning into the Four Cornerstones, offering that meaning in life is experienced through the domains of Love, Service, Expression, and Discovery. A purposeful “Why” will hit some if not all of these domains.

However, not anything meaningful that satisfies the Cornerstones will suit you specifically. To make things personal we can look to our values.

The term ‘values’ often gets tossed about as a catch-all for anything we care about. As it pertains to purpose, “the things we care about” need a deeper examination so we can boil them down to their essences and acknowledge their hierarchy.

AMeaningOfLife.org has a section dedicated to the concept of values that untangles their nuance and highlights their profound potential for enhancing our well-being. You can also do a deeper dive into values as they pertain specifically to purpose on the Clarify Your Values page.

Without diving too deeply into the details (the above links spend quite a chunk of time doing just that!), the values that apply to purpose are the kinds that you can foster for others. The following list offers a collection of relevant values (and you’ll find some storied examples of values a little further down).

It could be fairly easy for any of us to go through this list and pick out what we believe to be our top ten. You may find this insightful, and, you can go much, much further into the cave of personal values than that.

You can travel all the way to the heart of the “cave system” and uncover where each of these values originated, if they are truly yours or you inherited them from someone else, or if they are roaming about actually obscuring a deeper value that could provide you more direction. Deeply examining each value you claim as a top value and then ranking them according to importance will offer you more traction in cultivating purpose. (Values is a whole section within purpose. Check it out to go in-depth).

Try This: Determine & Examine Your Values

This is a shorter, “sampler” version of the values exercises in the Clarify section of Purpose. Go there to get a more comprehensive and impactful exercise.

  • Using the list of values above, make a list of all the ones that stick out to you. Then narrow that list down to ten. Take a moment to define each one and think about it in your life. Are there any similarities between them? Can you combine any of them (are any an umbrella for others)? Rank them in order of priority. It’s okay if some of them tie. Finally, narrow that list down to a final FIVE.
  • For each of your final five, answer the following questions:
    • Where/from who do you think you learned to value this?
    • What is your earliest memory of this being important to you?
    • How does having this value influence your decisions?
    • Ask “Why?” x 5 : Essentially, ask yourself “Why?” In response to “I value ___,” and ask again in response to your answer. Go until you can’t go deeper! When you start getting to questions that are harder to answer, it’s okay to acknowledge that you don’t know. Those are places for exploration and reconsideration.
      • Example: I value success. (Why?) Because it demonstrates my capability. (Why is that important?) Because it indicates my freedom. (Why does that matter?) Because… I’m not sure of it if I don’t test it, possibly. (Why is that?) Because I don’t intrinsically believe I have freedom without success..maybe?
      • Possible Conclusions: I use success to facilitate the deeper value of freedom, which I feel insecure about being accessible.
  • Adjust your list according to any conclusions you drew from answering the questions.

The next step after examining and ranking our values is to assess and align with them. You can learn more about that here.

What is personally meaningful will be unique to each of us because we all have different life experiences. Even if you go through the same event as another person, each of you could easily take away different life lessons, feelings, and interpretations of the experience.

Two friends who experience their respective parents’ divorces can easily come away with totally different narratives. One could believe, “Choosing to end a relationship can be a way of taking care of yourself,” while the other comes away with, “Ending a relationship ruins everything else in your life.”

Likewise our preferred domains of meaning or sources of value will be built from the unique influences on our lives and how we’ve chosen to interpret and react to them. Understanding why the things that are most meaningful for us are that way can connect us to our unique drives and motivations.

Know Your Why, Michael Jr.
In this clip from comedian Michael Jr.’s youtube show, a man in the audience is asked to sing Amazing Grace. The first time he sings it as a task, and the second time he sings it empowered with meaning. This video does an excellent job illustrating the difference between doing something with or without meaning.

A Meaningful Mission

Following a tragic separation from a toxic partner, Lila Reyna turned to martial arts as a means of self-healing and found self-empowerment. She became passionate about offering this to others and began a martial arts school with her second husband. Then years later following a health crisis with Lyme disease she became invested in nutrition and energy healing. These practices helped her combat fear. Today she combines all these offerings in order to support others.

“My mission is to help as many people empower themselves to develop powerful life skills – skills to confront your challenges and gain the awareness needed to use for the benefit of your greater self, your personal safety, and your quality of life.” – Lila

When people define and tap into a “why” in their life, productivity and satisfaction increase. In a 2017 study on meaning at work, BetterUp found that…

  •  Employees were not only more satisfied when they believed their work was meaningful, they also worked an average of an extra hour per week and took two fewer days off a year.1  Perhaps that doesn’t initially sound like much, but for every 1,000 employees who believe their work is meaningful that’s roughly 52,000 extra hours of work and 2,000 extra days of labor.
  • Employees who said their work was meaningful stayed at the job an average of 7.5 months longer than those who lack meaning.1
  • Employees also said they would give up on average 23% of their future annual earnings if it meant they could have more meaningful work.1

While meaning independent of purpose can be responsible for a wonderful host of positive life outcomes, not all things that are meaningful to us are a part of a Purpose. Purposeful meaning is meaning that we apply through actions, and likewise has an effect on the world beyond the self. The fact that we ACT on meaning and do it FOR someone or something else makes purpose what it is.

For example, your mother may be a very meaningful person in your life. However, unless you have a goal around nourishing your relationship with her or supporting her in some way, that doesn’t mean your mother factors into a purpose of yours.

Her being meaningful + impacting her life + defined goals to do so = A purposeful pursuit.

“Socrates, Pablo Picasso, William Shakespeare, and author David Viscott have all had virtually the same deep quote attributed to them: “The purpose of your life is to find your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away” or “The meaning of your life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

I know they sound like the same thing, but there is a subtle difference. So, which quote is more accurate? In other words, chicken or the egg: does purpose or meaning come first? Here’s my take, which you may or may not agree with.

Meaning is personal, while purpose is communal. Discovering your gift—while it may manifest publicly—is something that you feel inside. It’s that feeling of being in the flow with a talent, idea, or way of being that feels deeply personal to you.

While purpose may feel personal as well, there’s often a beneficiary of your purpose. Purpose doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s something people rally around, and there’s often a sense of generosity associated with being purposeful. Put another way, meaning is inflow, and purpose is outflow.

So, all that said, in my humble opinion, here’s the ideal way to consider this directive from the four wise men listed above:


“The meaning of your life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.”

— From Chip Connoley’s Wisdom Well at the Modern Elder Academy

HOW/WHAT: We enact our purpose through goal-oriented actions

Purpose itself is not a goal. Purpose is a direction. Psychologist Rick Hanson says purpose can function as an “overarching framework that connects disparate parts of your life into a meaningful whole.” While there is more to it than that, this side-effect of purpose indicates that there are an array of ways to live our purposes while purpose itself is not a goal or state to be achieved (this idea is explored more on the Purpose Journey page)

Rather than being a goal, purpose is goal-oriented. Instead of being like a goal you can check off a list, it is a perpetual effort that can’t be completed. Think of the goal of “Feed a homeless person” versus “Feeding homeless people.” One of those is a defined goal that can be measurably completed. The other is goal-oriented; a mission defining various smaller goals (more on this later).

Purpose involves working actively towards specific aspirations that fulfill the values and meaning of your “Why(s).” Having long-term life aspirations empower us to think about the future and organize our actions in the present in meaningful ways.6,7 

If one imagines purpose as a journey, the goals that derive from our “Why”s become something like landmarks along the path of aligning with a purpose.

Another metaphor to consider is purpose as a wheel. In this instance, the “Why” would be the hub and the “How/What” would be the spokes; the spokes represent a variety of ways that we enact the meaning at the hub of the wheel.

There are many, many different ways to live in alignment with our values and contribute to our senses of meaning. When it comes to the “How/What” of purpose, these various manifestations of meaning in action show up in a goal-oriented way.

The goals (specific actions) on the path to purpose constitute the “How,” as in how you fulfill a purpose. On the other hand there is the “What,” (which was mentioned earlier) the overarching mission that defines your specific goals and actions.  You may not always need a specific “What” (mission) to pursue a “How” (goal), and they’re often a package deal.

Additionally there is the concept of Form. A form is the role through which you fulfill your “What.” A form could be things like a mother, a CEO, or a gardener. While not essential to the purpose model the idea clarifies how roles are related to our purpose(s) and not the purposes themselves.

All that is a bit complicated, so let’s explore some examples…


“Personally Meaningful”
Things like…


Things like…
Running a martial arts school
Mentoring youth
Feeding the homeless
Protecting indigenous lands
Preserving the heritage of disenfranchised groups
Increasing access to affordable housing
Making good education accessible
Raising my children to become compassionate


Things like…
Secure a job teaching at a school whose values I align with
Volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club weekly for a year
Vote on policy affecting the causes I care about
Run a fundraising campaign for the causes I care about
Write a book about the topic I want to affect change in
Offer a free online class
Expose my children to many types of people


Things Like…


Things like…
My children
Impoverished groups of people
Indigenous populations
A certain ecosystem
Young adults without support
People who are often stressed out
People looking for inspiration
Animals impacted by conventional farming and meat production practices
The next generation

Here are the same terms over-laying the wheel metaphor:

Each spoke represents a different action or goal that aligns with the meaning at the center of the wheel. The goals in each color represent actions that are a part of different “What”s or missions. E.g, “Get a Masters in Social Work” is a “How” representing one “What” that shows up in the primary form of a Human Rights Activist. (More examples below).

Elements within your wheel can shift and serve the same “Why.” Consider the following alternative Purpose Wheel examples of someone who could also easily create purpose through the form of a Police Officer, Soldier, or something else entirely:

Looking at it this way can clear up the misconception that a “How,” “What,” or a “Form” could be a purpose on its own. Likewise, a “state of being,” such as being happy, successful, or gracious is not a purpose. While pursuing a state of being may be a worthy goal, they tend to be self-focused rather than self-transcendent (a key element of purpose).

The following are goals, forms, or “states of being”, not purposes:

  • To graduate with honors {a goal}
  • To be happy {state of being}
  • To become a ___ (e.g., lawyer, nurse, gymnast, etc.) {form}
  • To be rich {form/goal}
  • To be at peace {state of being}
  • To be wise {state of being}
  • To be a master at playing piano {goal/form}

Enablers of Purpose

While “states of being” mentioned in the list above are not Purposes, they’re still related to the cultivation of Purpose. These “states of being” can be considered as something that supports the pursuit of your goals: Enablers.

Enablers are skills, tools, and philosophies that can enable living with more purpose, intention, and joy. AMeaningofLife.org features sections unique to each Enabler. (See them all here.)

Such as: Hope, Curiosity, Money, Gratitude, Habits, Perspective, 100% Responsibility

Some Enablers include within them ways of being traditionally considered as virtues. These are orientations towards life that are influenced by your personal values.

Such as: Courage, Honesty, Patience, Humility. Courage would fall under the umbrella of the Fear Enabler, Honesty would fall under Integrity, Patience under Mindfulness, and Humility under Wisdom.

Think about the goal from the above Self-Defense Instructor, “Learn and practice your Martial Art multiple times per week.”

The Self-Defense instructor can practice Self-Care in order to sustain their goal as well as approaching their Martial Arts with Wisdom through their Humility, which  will empower them to be a better learner.  Both of these things buttress their efforts in Purposeful living.

While the above examples tend to focus on purpose as it relates to a job, don’t misunderstand that purpose is always fulfilled through a career. Oftentimes the goals that arise from our sense of purpose bleed into our jobs, but purpose may have nothing to do with the work you get paid to do! There’s no getting away from purpose being work, and, work doesn’t necessarily only mean your job. You can do a deep dive on how purpose relates to work in the section, Purpose as Your Work.

To sum up the monstrous role of goals as they relate to your purpose(s), goals are a natural byproduct of purpose. When we feel called to do something meaningful, that purposefulness will determine related goals, actions, and strategies. Those goals will be served by other elements of our lives known as Enablers (which include Virtues). Acting on goals is part of the Aligning phase of cultivating purpose.

Try This: Fill out a Purpose Wheel 

This is a thought experiment exercise to help cement the concepts illustrated above, and therefore you will be provided examples to work with. Should you prefer to work out a personal idea for purpose, feel free- and, *take note that there is a great deal of excavation and reflection that can be done to empower you to have greater clarity before trying to determine goals. This clarification gets elaborated on in the section, Clarify. (Also, keep in mind that you can have more than one purpose! This exercise simply focuses on one at a time).

  1. Choose one of the following examples of meaning and value (“Why”s):
    • I value environmental stewardship
    • I value caring for those who can’t care for themselves
    • I value inspiring others and learning
    • If doing your own, take care that it is self-transcendent.
  2. Make a list of six “What”s or forms this person could take that would pertain to their “Why”; E.g, a role in a community or family, a job, or other type of role. Don’t think too hard, list things as they come to you and feel free to jot down as many as you come up with if you come up with more than six.
  3. Choose three from your list and come up with a few specific, actionable goals (“How”s) for each “What.”
  4. Draw these out on a Purpose Wheel based on the one below. (You can leave off the “For” for now)
  5. Answer the following questions, either to yourself or in writing:
    • How do the “What”s you came up with differ? What do they tell you about what else the person values or enjoys?
    • Do the “What”s you came up with possibly meet other “Why”s for this person?
    • How difficult was it to come up with goals that didn’t pertain to a job?
    • What other observations or thoughts do you have regarding what you came up with?
    • What would your current life look like if you tried to plot it out on a Purpose Wheel? (Feel free to try if you haven’t already!*)

FOR: Purpose impacts something larger than ourselves

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is : What are you going to do for others?” –MLK Jr

Humanity evolved to be social because working together was advantageous to our survival. Being able to value and understand others has impacted our psychology in many ways; one of which is by influencing what we find meaningful.

Sociologist Paul Froese offers in his book On Purpose that, “Meaningful life…consists in belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self, and humanity creates all the positive institutions to allow this: religion, political party, being green, the boy scouts, or the family.”

Thus purpose (for the most part) is prosocial, meaning it is behavior that at its essence positively relates to others through being helpful or promoting social acceptance. Being generous or cooperating are prosocial behaviors. An antisocial behavior would be something like lying, cheating, or isolating.

Researcher Paul Froese suggests that beyond obviously social arenas like community, nation, art, politics, family, religion, and our jobs, purpose can often unfold in a few non-prosocial arenas like climate, conservation, or animal welfare. Interestingly enough,  non-prosocial aims incidentally (or not) often are prosocial. E.g., Supporting biodiversity directly positively impacts humankind.

Purpose is distinct from other kinds of life aims because of this contributive nature. Unlike life aims of being happy, rich, or powerful, purpose is FOR the benefit of someone or something. Even if the contribution being made is not for people per-se, it is still for something beyond (and seen as more important than) the self.

Contributional life aims (i.e, Purposes) positively impact things like the following:

Even more examples of things that can be impacted: Your friends or family, the climate, coral reefs, homeless populations, people with leukemia, erosion and habitat degradation, wildlife protection/endangered species, unborn children, people who are disempowered through lack of knowledge or resources, people who aren’t aware of their options, mistreated dogs, people with learning disabilities, anyone who might experience more joy or laughter…

More than funny | Michael Jr. | TEDxUniversityofNevada
In this entertaining TEDTalk and comedy set, comedian Michael Jr. tells a variety of jokes and ends up explaining how he transitioned from the perspective of “getting a laugh” from his audience to “giving the opportunity to laugh” to his audience. He compares purpose to the art of telling a joke: you have a set-up (your resources, talents, and opportunities) and a punchline (revelation, fulfillment, and joy). Michael Jr. offers that your set-up is what you receive in life while your punchline is what you deliver. He suggests that many folks get confused and think they need to get more “set-up” for their lives to be better (e.g., more education, wealth, connections, happiness, etc.) when what they really need is more punchline, which is what their set-up enables them to give to others.

In contrast to contributional aims, the below are simply goals and not purposes, as they are not (on their own or without further definition) prosocial or contributive:

  • To homestead and be self-sufficient.
  • Start and run a successful business.
  • To have a big family.
  • To climb Kilimanjaro.
  • To learn three languages by age 50.
  • To retire wealthy.

The following video showcases an incredibly passionate man in his early 70’s who has dedicated the last 13 years of his life to a solitary adventure across the US on his mountain bike. While he is motivated, loves what he is doing, and has goals– what he is doing is not considered purpose according to the scientific community because he is focused solely on himself. That’s not a bad thing; and, he could experience more fulfillment if he were to add in a prosocial or self-transcendent element to his journey.

80,000 Hours is an organization passionately dedicated to the premise that we should spend our careers (to which we commit roughly 80,000 hours over our lifetime) doing something impactful rather than prioritizing other career aims like success, income, happiness, or passion. They have done extensive research on how to address the world’s most pressing issues through your work and provide countless resources on their website to help you do just that.

In this TED Talk from 80k, CEO Benjamin Todd explains that they believe “follow your passion” is bad career advice because it is unlikely to lead to success or fulfillment. Instead, 80k proposes choosing a career in which you’re doing something valuable and making the world a better place, and that will lead to passion and fulfillment.

There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”*

We’re wired to be prosocial, evidenced by the psychological benefits we reap from engaging in prosocial behaviors:

  • Contributing to others’ well-being results in a well-documented phenomenon called the “Helper’s High,” in which the giver literally gets endorphins from helping others.3
  • Altruistic behavior is correlated with greater longevity and better overall health.4,8
  • Prosocial behavior can even mitigate the impact of stress.5

But be careful not to misunderstand all of the above. Your “For”(s) do not have to be epic missions like eradicating cancer or saving the entire Great Barrier Reef. Like the myth that a Purpose must be grand, it’s more accurate to claim that the impacts you make in your life will be varied in breadth and depth, and do not have to be epic to be purposeful.

*You don’t have to help people to be happy. And you can help people and be happy without purpose. Having an impact on others creates meaning, which can have a greater impact on life satisfaction.

Impact is a complex concept to capture, and you can dive into the nitty gritty in the dedicated section in Alignment. In the meantime to keep things simple, we can use the above impact map to help us visualize possible arenas of impact in our lives. No arena on the map is any less valuable than the others in regards to purpose (except, of course, the center- you’re the actor in this case, not the one directly being impacted!). Any given individual may not hit every ring on the map in terms of purpose, and someone may have multiple purposes that have different areas of impact.

Consider these example Impact Maps:

Jerry experiences purpose in his job as a criminal defender, but he’s not really as passionate about it as he used to be. At the same time, Jerry runs a community game night that he’s passionate about organizing, enjoys thoroughly, and finds meaningful because it brings people together to form relationships and strengthens the community overall. Simultaneously, Jerry may also have a sense of duty to care for his aging parents, something he’s passionate about but doesn’t find sustainable (and according to the feedback from his parents, might not be very good at).

Sam experiences purpose in their job as biomedical engineer, in being a support for those they care about, and through supporting sustainability initiatives in their community.  Sam is the person all their friends and family rely on – they come to Sam when they need a hand and know they can always ask them for help. Sam deeply loves being of service to others. At work, Sam has become an expert over the years and is a source of wisdom and insight for their entire team. In fact, being a source of wisdom is a meaningful role Sam carries into other groups they are a part of. On a community scale, Sam has a purposeful impact through participating in sustainability initiatives in their city. And ultimately Sam feels they are making a contribution to the world through the work they do at their job– engineering effective and life-changing medical equipment to support the lives and health of families around the world.

Elaine is a young woman who works as an assistant at a personal injury law firm. Having been someone who experienced a great deal of physical trauma and injuries herself, she feels very driven to support the clients she engages with at work; being a reliable and efficient employee also feels meaningful to her because she sees it as supportive of her boss and coworkers who are working towards the same end. In her home life, she invests most of her time and energy in being a companion and emotional support to her husband, mother, and siblings. Beyond the realms of work and home, she endeavors to stay informed on world events and engages in civil dialogue with people she initially disagrees with in an attempt to foster empathy and understanding on a larger scale.

The purpose impact map is a simplified conception of impact that focuses on possible regions of impact. Assessing and understanding impact is far more complicated and nuanced than the areas offered in this model. Once you’ve clarified what purpose you want to cultivate, the Align section of Purpose covers how to plan and design approaches to your vision, and in that phase, there is a more in-depth impact exercise. You can find it here if you’re curious (although it requires some serious pre-work first!).

Simon Sinek’s Life Advice Will Change Your Future
In this 20 minute talk (followed by a 20 minute Q&A) author Simon Sinek explains how important relationships and caring for others by helping them is to leading a meaningful and satisfying life. He uses example stories of marine, healthcare statistics in hospitals, and your personal experience at work to illustrate how investing time and energy in others can make us feel wonderful.

“When people have a real sense of legacy, a sense of mattering, a sense of contribution, it seems to tap into the deepest part of their heart and soul. It brings out the best and subordinates the rest.” –Stephen Covey

Try This: Make A Purpose Impact Map

Consider the things you do in life that feel meaningful to you and impact others (dare we say your purposes?). It’s okay if you haven’t figured out specifically what your purposes are for this exercise– what’s important are things you do that are meaningful to you and positively affect others. Print out or draw the following map and fill in the regions with ways you make an impact in each area.

Helping others makes us happier — but it matters how we do it | Elizabeth Dunn
In this 14 minute TED talk from researcher Elizabeth Dunn, she explains that giving to others makes us happier. She elaborates on this premise to specify that being aware of how our efforts and contributions specifically impact others has a greater effect on our well-being than giving in a vacuum.


  • There are three main components to purpose: purpose is Personally Meaningful + Goal-Oriented + Self Transcendent.
  • You can conceptualize these three components as:
Personally Meaningful Why you do what you do.
Goal-Oriented What you do and How you do it; the specific actions and strategies you use to put meaning into action.
Self-Transcendent Who or what you do it For.
  • Meaning in our lives can be found in the categories of the Four Cornerstones and in our personal values.
  • Rather than being a goal, purpose is goal-oriented. Enablers support our goal-oriented strategies and actions.
  • Purpose is self-transcendent and involves impacting the world beyond ourselves. There are many different regions of impact a purpose might have; you may also have different purposes that impact different regions.

Up next is Purpose Fundamentals where you’ll explore various elements of the nature of purpose, such as the fact that it doesn’t always show up “optimally,” how it is different from meaning, happiness, and passion, and how it is a process (amongst other things!).

Purpose The Gist of Purpose Parts of Purpose Purpose Fundamentals Purpose in Context Purpose as your Work Should You Quit Your Job Purpose Myths Hindrances to Purpose Benefits of Purpose Passion The Purpose Journey Clarify your Purpose Align with your Purpose Support your Purpose Purpose Practice and Exercises Purpose Resources


  1. Reece A., Kellerman G., Robichaux A.. (2017) “Meaning and Purpose at Work.” BetterUp. https://f.hubspotusercontent40.net/hubfs/9253440/Asset%20PDFs/Promotions_Assets_Whitepapers/BetterUp-Meaning&Purpose.pdf
  2. Tyler F. Stillman, Roy F. Baumeister, Nathaniel M. Lambert, A. Will Crescioni, C. Nathan DeWall, Frank D. Fincham. “Alone and without purpose: Life loses meaning following social exclusion.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45 – 4, 2009, 686-694, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2009.03.007.
  3. Luks, A. A. (1988). Helper’s high. Psychology Today, 22(10), 39.
  4. Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It’s Good to Be Good. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327558ijbm1202_4.
  5. Raposa, E. B., Laws, H. B., & Ansell, E. B. (2016). Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life. Clinical psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 4(4), 691–698. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702615611073
  6. Seligman, M. E., Railton, P., Baumeister, R. F., and Sripada, C. (2013). Navigating into the future or driven by the past. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 8, 119–141. doi: 10.1177/1745691612474317
  7. Baumeister, R. F., Oettingen, G., and Vohs, K. D. (2016). Pragmatic prospection: how and why people think about the future. Rev. Gen. Psychol. 20, 3–16. doi: 10.1037/gpr0000060
  8. Martela, F., and Ryan, R. M. (2016). The benefits of benevolence: basic psychological needs, beneficence, and the enhancement of well−being. J. Pers. 84, 750–764. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12215