It was 4 am, and the house had long since settled into its frame after a day of heavy traffic. Every creak had worked itself out. Every computer had gone into hibernation. Every child had sunken into their slumber.
It was calm. Peaceful. Silent.
My sleep, however, was interrupted by a deep, unsettling feeling that something was wrong. I gasped for air, sucking in oxygen quickly as if my head was forcefully plunged into a bucket of cold water. My eyes shot wide open, searching for the source of trouble, unable to find it in the black of night.
Somewhere subconsciously I realized that I was late. 30 minutes late to be exact. 30 minutes late waking up to catch a flight home before the weekend—a flight I desperately did not want to miss.
You’ve been there before, right?
Whether for work, school, a flight… you’ve felt that sudden rush of adrenaline from realizing you were far behind schedule. It’s a terrible feeling, but strangely freeing at the same time.
Had you woken up on time, you might have dilly-dallied around the house, slowly sipping your coffee while surfing the internet for useless news. You might have taken a 30-minute shower. You might have even made time to catch some morning television.
But not now.
When you’re late, you fire out of bed like a tomahawk missile, tackling your morning routine with a rare clarity and focus.
It’s not just because you’re short on time. It’s because you are in a situation where nothing else matters. You can only be laser-focused, single-minded, and driven to your one and only goal… get to your work/school/flight on time.
Your situation gives you purpose. And purpose is the greatest, most fundamental life hack everyone should know.
Why Purpose is Important
I love life hacks. Every single one of them. Meditation, rising early, planning my day, etc. They all provide the tweaks my routine needs to be more productive, get more done, stay balanced, and find happiness.
But without purpose, almost none of these life hacks work.
Don’t believe me? Consider these examples:
Meditation is great. It clears your mind. It resets you and recharges you. It’s the medicine for momentary distraction. But without purpose, guess what happens? It doesn’t take long before the “next great idea” clutters your mind, distracting you, draining your decision making power.
Waking early? Another great life hack. It gives you more thoughtful working hours in the day. In the quiet solitude of pre-dawn, one can achieve great things before the world rises. But without purpose, getting up early only gives you more quiet hours, not more productive hours. Without purpose, you may find yourself answering emails, surfing the internet, and otherwise working on distractions (assuming you can will yourself out of bed early to begin with).
Keeping your phone out of sight? An excellent life-hack for some. It’s easy too… when you have a purpose and recognize how the phone distracts you. Without purpose though, you can’t really be sure your phone is, in fact, a distraction, can you? Without purpose, what will you work on when your phone isn’t distracting you?
How about planning your day in detail? A great idea, and one I do every day. But if you don’t know your purpose, what exactly are you planning?
Etc. Etc. Blah. Blah. And so on...
Here’s the deal. Purpose gives you motivation, making it easier to wake up early, easier to put down your phone, easier to put your meditation to work.
Purpose helps you focus, making it simple to filter out the “noise” and clear how your decisions will (or won’t) help.
Purpose helps you prioritize, making it simple to know which tasks will have the greatest impact.
Purpose allows you to know if the people around you help or hurt. Not everyone is a good influence. Not everyone can be the friend you need right now to realize your purpose and achieve your goals.
Purpose lets you set a vision for your life. What do you want it to be? How do you want to live?
With purpose, you can finally concentrate on setting and achieving meaningful goals.
In short, purpose is the critical driver to every facet of your life, and finding it is, therefore, the ultimate life-hack… though to be fair, it’s not really as much a hack as it is a process.
How to Find Your Purpose
According to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to “the meaning of life, the universe, and everything” is 42. Since that didn’t make any sense, the creators of our universe constructed a planet full of people (Earth) to search for the question.
Though this book is science-fiction comedy, it has a ring of truth to it. Our purpose seems to be... to find our purpose?
So how do we find it? What questions can we ask ourselves to understand our purpose, create a vision for our life, set our goals, and forever more be focused, motivated, and clear?
Since the question is well beyond the scope of this post, I’ve pulled a list of over 7 questions and an exercise you can do to find it. Download it here… it’s free. For now, here’s one exercise that helped me discover my purpose, which in turn helped me set goals for the foreseeable future and prioritize each and every day:
The 100 Years Exercise
100 years ago (or so), your grandparents were born. Like it or not, they created and passed on a set of values to your parents and then on to you.
- What values did your grandparents instill in you?
- How did they build a legacy that you are now following?
Once you’ve answered that question, look to “the now.”
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how alive do you feel (where zero represents a zombie-like-state, and ten represents completely-full-of-joy-and-life)?
- Why did you choose that number?
- Why didn’t you pick a lower number?
- What would you have to do differently to select a bigger number? In other words, what would you have to do to feel more alive?
Now zoom 100 years in the future. You’ve got grandchildren.
- What values have you instilled in them?
- What legacy have you left in their minds?
- What things did you accomplish that they will remember about you?
Now you’ve got answers in front of you for 9 questions… all related to where you’ve come from, where you are, and where you want to go. If it’s not sticking out like a sore thumb, look deep into your answers for your purpose. It may be in there, hiding somewhere, staring you in the face.
Use Your Purpose to Guide You
Did you find it? Did you find your purpose?
Comment and let me know! If you didn’t, or would like to really hone in on your purpose for different aspects of your life, consider downloading my free Life’s Purpose Questions and Exercises Worksheet… they might help you drill down more.
However you get there, the alignment of your values with your vision for life will make for a joyful and meaningful existence.
I hope that helps. I’ve spent dozens (if not hundreds) of hours over the past 10 years trying different life-hacks, only to realize something fundamental was missing. That something was purpose, so I took 5 years and went searching for mine.
After reading dozens of books, listening to hundreds of podcasts, and reading even more articles, I finally found a set of questions to help me find it. And once I did, every aspect of my life--clarity, focus, productivity, organization, time-management, everything--became exceedingly clear.
The funny thing is, my purpose has changed over time. Your’s will likely change too.
That’s why I’ll recommend getting my free Life’s Purpose Worksheets… you can use them over and over again to refine the vision you want for your life.
About the Author
Focus, Organization, and Productivity Junkie
I help high-achieving entrepreneurs live their passion and achieve their dreams by consistently saving time, getting productive, and being more efficient and organized.
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