No one ever said the Dalai Lama lacked a sense of humor.  

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others,” he explained to an eager follower seeking enlightenment. “And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

I was blindsided by the “What’s your life’s purpose?” question on my very first date.

“I want to see my name in lights on Broadway!” I proudly told my date. 

Lines creased his forehead; confused by my response.  He asked, “Don’t you want to experience something deeper?  What legacy do you want to leave behind?”

That question about legacy and the footprint I want to leave on this planet changed my life.  In an instant, I knew I wanted to do more than sing and dance and perform in front of others.  I wanted to help others – especially teens – discover their own voice and share it with others.

A personal purpose statement defines who you are and how you want to live your life.   It provides clarity and reflects your commitment to your dream.  A purpose statement articulates what you bring to the people around you and what brings meaning and fulfillment to you and your life.

When composing your own purpose statement, consider the following:

Brainstorm:  A purpose statement reflects your core values.  Think about the following questions:

  • What values reflect your character?
  • Who inspired you?  Does that person have qualities you want to possess?
  • What events impacted your life?  Think about your life’s big moments and the lessons you learned from them.
  • What do you love about your work?  Your work?  Friends?  Family?  Other relationships?
  • What brings out the best in you?  The worst?  What would you like to improve about yourself? What are your gifts and talents?
  • If you had unlimited resources and unlimited time, what would you choose to do?  What promises would you make to yourself?

Compose Your First Draft:  Give yourself permission to write your purpose statement without making corrections.  Use your responses to the brainstorming questions for reference.  Your statement is a reflection of you and that which drives your personal convictions.  Be honest with yourself.

  • Relax.  If writing complete sentences seems too daunting, begin by writing short phrases.  If “purpose statement” sounds too overwhelming, call it something else like a personal guide, a statement of intent, or a declaration of your personal fantastic-ness.
  • Be creative. Write it as a poem or verse if that inspires you to put pen to paper.  Add stickers or illustrations if that brings out the creative genius in you.
  • Take your time.  There is no rush.
  • Don’t over-analyze it.  Over-thinking the writing process can freeze your thoughts and hand into paralysis.  Write something.
  • There is no word-count limit.  Although some people may suggest one or two paragraphs, I say get to the point.  I suggest one powerful, meaningful sentence.

Use Your Draft to Create a Second (or Third) Statement:  It is much easier to edit than compose.  Your purpose statement becomes more clear and concise when you edit it.  The more relaxed and the more you allow yourself permission to let words flow (rather than constructing them into something that sounds good), the more closely your purpose statement will authentically align with who you are.

Sign It:  Allow a space for your signature at the bottom of your purpose statement.  You can adhere a gold seal, add your fingerprint, or kiss it with lipstick to “seal the deal.”  A signature reflects your commitment which will guide your words, actions, decisions, choices, and behavior.

Display It:  Print your personal purpose statement on fine or colorful paper.  Frame it or display it in a place where you will see it.  The daily reminder of seeing, reading, reflecting upon, and holding your purpose statement close to your heart will act as a compass with which you steer your own life.

Your personal purpose statement is a work in progress.  It is a reflection of who you are, not who you believe others want you to become.  The Dalai Lama also adds, “The purpose of your life is to be happy.”  Your task is to consider what gives you and your life meaning.  You may possess powerful courage and an unlimited commitment to hard work, but we also need purpose to drive our efforts into a specific direction.

Are you ready to begin?  The time is now.

What are your priorities?  How are they guiding you towards your purpose?


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Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, describes Why You Need a Definite Chief Aim (and how you can create one).


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