3 Powerful Questions That Will Help You Discover Your Life Purpose

3 Powerful Questions That Will Help You Discover Your Life Purpose

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
~ Maya Angelou

I’m always getting asked, “How do I discover my passion, my gift and my purpose in life?”

It’s such a big question that I don’t even feel like I can do it justice. But what I would like to do is at least share some ideas, thoughts and questions for you to think about, and help get you on track.

When I started my first company, Maritime Vacation, I didn’t have any passion at all for building a vacation rental site. But what I did have was this really strong curiosity around building things, and for me it was development.

Building that website, building a product that people ended up using, seeing the excitement and the website actually come to fruition, was what really set me on this path of continuing to refine my life purpose.

Just like with a camera, when I adjusted the aperture, I was able to bring my life purpose into focus. Every company since then, (I’ve done 5) have always been an opportunity for me to make things better.

Today I’d like to share 3 strategies that I’ve heard over the years from super smart people that will help you discover your purpose, your passion and your gift in life.

The Intersection Between: Human Needs, Unique Gift & Passion

The first strategy is to create a Venn diagram with three key areas.

1. Human Needs

The first of these key areas are human needs that you are passionate about. Think about different areas of life, for example, education or transportation. Which of these human needs do you care most about?

2. Unique Gift

Secondly, what is your unique gift? What do you feel you are really talented at? What do others say you’re good at? Does something come to mind?

You don’t need to be the best in your class, area or the world in this .. but that on average and compared to your other skills, this one seems to come natural to you and you enjoy doing it.

We all have at least one unique gift – our goal is to uncover it.

3. Passion

The third one is the thing you are most passionate about.

The filter for this is the activity that brings you the most joy? Even if it’s flipping rocks, if that makes you happy. Cool. Use that.

The key is to find the area that you can stay passionate about for the rest of your life. It may not mean you’ll be doing this activity exclusively, but there’s always a way to work it into your day.

It’s interesting, because for some people these are 3 different answers! That’s why you want to draw out a venn diagram with each of these three key areas coming together – or overlapping – in the inner section.

It’s a really great way to start looking at what is your potential passion, purpose or gift.

What Could You Create That Would Exist in Two to Three Hundred Years From Now?

The second strategy uses a fantastic question that my friend Tim Ferris once suggested to me. I think it’s such a neat way of thinking about life.

He asked, “What could you create that would still exist in two to three hundred years from now?”

Think about that!

What could I work on today, that would still exist and be relevant to people two to three hundred years from now?

Every time I think about that question I think of Steve Jobs.

He built a company that, from my perspective, will be around in one hundred, two hundred, and hopefully even three hundred years from now.

Will they be making iPhones and computers? Probably not, because most of these technologies are essentially in 7-10 year cycles.

But what he has done is created an infrastructure, a culture and a system that will be sticking around.

That’s the way I like to look at what I work on as projects.

Tim Cook, (CEO of Apple) just announced one of the largest financial quarters in the history of any public company (or any company for that matter). I believe it was like $74.5 billion in revenue in just one quarter!

Recently my startup Clarity was acquired, and the company that acquired us had the same vision as we did, which is why it was such an amazing fit.

I wanted to share that with you because I think it’s something worth thinking about.

Whenever I am deciding what projects to start, I’m asking myself, “Do any of these projects have potential to be around in two to three hundred years?”

Great question, right?

Start using it to help shape your decisions.

What Would You Do With a Billion Dollars?

The last strategy is probably the best of the three strategies. The question I like to ask people is, “If I gave you a billion dollars today, what would you spend it on to make the world a better place?”

You don’t have to wait until you are a billionaire or have a lot of money.

Pretend I gave you a billion dollars, what would you spend it on? How would you get leverage? Where would you invest that money to make the world a better place?

Think about it. Over the next 50 years, how would you deploy that capital, that cash, so you left this world truly being a better place?

I think the answer to that question is an amazing place to start looking at where you should be spending your time, where you think you can discover your purpose, your passion and your true gift to the world.

I hope you have found these ideas to be really valuable. I know they have helped me refine every company I’ve started and every new project I think of starting.

It helps me to create a “filter” by asking, “Will this have an impact? Will this leave a legacy? Will this matter?”

I believe our time here on earth is very short and we shouldn’t waste it. Make every day count!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, let me know what idea, suggestion or takeaway was the biggest for you.

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  • scottannan

    I like the focus on the “examined life” and think these are great questions to ask ourselves. I ask myself slightly different questions:

    1. Is what I am doing now the best thing I could / should be doing with my life? Yes or no answer.

    2. What could I be doing with my skills that would truly matter and could have the greatest impact?

    3. What would I do right now – dedicate my life work to – if money was not a factor?

    … then check back on the answer to the first question.

    IMHO, in most developed countries we live a privileged life and we have an obligation to focus externally on doing things that matter and have an impact. Coincidentally, focusing on big external opportunities helps us live much happier and meaningful lives.

    Just my 2c.

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Scott, great feedback and questions.

      There’s been some great research on happiness and living life (even if it’s not your primary role) of contribution plays a huge page.

      That’s why I like the “Human Needs” question above. It seems we’ve all been through challenges in our lives that guide us to care about a specific need more than another (i.e. Adam @ Pencils of Promise (Education) vs. Scott @ Charity: Water (Clean Water)) – but that aligning with that is a great way to discover a more fulfilling path.

      Love that term “Examined Life” .. never heard it, may start using it.

      I just believe in a growth mindset and that means growing all aspects of my life to thrive and do more.

      Thanks for the comment.


      • scottannan

        Agreed on all points. The examined life is from a quote by Socrates:
        “The unexamined life is not worth living”.

        Best book I’ve read on happiness is a psychology book written in 1990 by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “Flow”. It’s considered the bible for video game providers.

  • mjankowski_XXX

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for posting all those inspiring articles and videos.

    I have couple of direct questions if you won’t mind.

    What are your plans for the next 2-3 years?

    seem to be growing an audience of people around personal development
    with your quotes and videos – is that what your next big thing is going
    to be?

    Imagine, if I had a thought out idea for
    building a tool (or call it a framework) to help people materialize
    their dreams and goals whom should I reach out to for mentorship and/or
    money to make it happen?

    You were the first person who came to my mind to ask about it.
    What are your thoughts?

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Plans for next 2-3 years.. don’t know. For next 10 months gonna not start a company, travel the world with my family and continue putting out great content that I feel can be helpful and that inspires me (i.e. instagram / fb / youtube / etc).

      After that, undecided but told myself I’d take the year to read and experience new things and delay the decision.

      re: Mentor for your framework – I always reach out to people who have been successful at the thing I’m starting AND that inspire me. That’s how I create my list.

      Hope that helps.

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