How to Find Your Purpose in Life

What do you do when you realise that you've lost a purpose in life? Here's some ideas ...

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"I just don’t have any purpose in life anymore!?"

Throughout our lives we are met by challenges, struggles, losses and change. Each event pushes us to think about our lives, and make some kind of sense out of what is happening, even if it is to conclude there is no sense.

Through this process, it’s possible that we can become aware of not actually knowing what we want in life, or that life has turned out to be pretty dull, monotonous, or plain uninteresting.

This can suddenly hit you through experiencing a life event such as an illness, a loss of someone close, your son or daughter going off to university, or retirement. You may begin to wonder what indeed life is all about, or come to ask yourself ‘why me?’, ‘why now?’ or ‘what next?’ It can be a subtle experience that creeps up on you.

You might notice that you feel a bit flat, or you’re bored with your job, or when someone asks you how you are, you find yourself saying “Same old…. Same old!”

If you’re not alert to the importance of these feelings, and giving them attention, they will need to go somewhere, so that you can carry on with your life as it is.

So, what do you do?

A likely outcome is that you will detach yourself from what youre feeling. After all, what have you got to complain about!? There’s people much worse off than you, isn’t there?

This course of action can potentially lead to a downward spiral of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, physical illness, and a weariness that leaves you lacking in energy. Life then starts to feel a little meaningless.

However, take heart. Renowned philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980), felt that one can only learn to live when life has first become meaningless! So … if you are experiencing meaninglessness, then you are well on the way back to feeling alive.

Your next step then is to re-search for purpose, to find your aspirations, to uncover just what it is that motivates you.

How to begin to find your purpose?

1. Firstly, start with your emotions. It is only in understanding them that you can find your true motivations. In exploring them you can find out what makes you feel enjoyment, and through this what motivates you.

Each day or several times each week, write down some of the things you have enjoyed, times when you have felt alive, and the things that have made you angry and fearful.

2. Explore how you have come to be doing the things you’re doing in life right now. Was your career expected of you, because your parents worked in same job? Or was it because you simply had no idea what to do and somehow fell into your work? You may have chosen a career because you were searching for something.

When I was nearly 17 years old I joined the army because I needed some structure, and I also wanted to experience being part of a team, something bigger than just myself. Within a couple of years however, I recognised this wasn’t my purpose.

3. Explore some of the things that you really love doing. Things that engross you, where time just flies past. Make a list. It may be that you love to cook, spend time with your pets, talk to people, read, or make your finances add up. List everything, and see if there is a theme.

4. Accept that a purpose is so much more than a goal. It’s a deep inner feeling that in what you are doing, you are being true to yourself. This is where you feel at home and aligned – your values, beliefs, and aspirations in harmony.

Purpose is what drives you. It makes getting up out of bed each morning worthwhile. It enables you to appreciate the sanctity of life, people, and your own tiny part in history. It’s what makes life worthwhile.

Now, enjoy the journey of finding what it is that makes you tick, as without it you’ll never quite know what you’re capable of doing, and being.


Dr Tom Barber

Dr Tom Barber has 25 years of experience as an Existential and Integrative Psychotherapist, helping people through a vast array of difficulties. As well as being a bestselling author, his research interests include the study of emotion, and addiction. Tom teaches workshops and lectures throughout the world, and has gained international acclaim for his contributions to psychology, and psychotherapy.


Go to the profile of lorna Sugden
over 4 years ago
I know what my purpose is but the universe does not want me to achieve my dream because it is a dream that is shared by too many people. its dangerous to encourage people like me form small rural places to dream because there's little opportunities and when the dreams we make for ourselves fail there's little more to look forward to than death.
Go to the profile of Dr Tom Barber
over 4 years ago
Hi Lorna,
Thanks for your comment. A purpose and a dream are very different things. To dream of what you could do, from the place you find yourself in, may well bring up difficult feelings if you cannot get out of the place you are.
However, purpose is something inside of you, not what you can get from external factors, or from escaping your life situation. I can appreciate that if your dreams and wishes cannot be fulfilled, then this might bring a real essence of futility to your experience of life.
I hope then that can keep reading my posts here, and subscribe at, where you can begin to learn to connect to something deeper in you, put the notion of dreaming aside, and get closer to your real purpose in life.
I wish you well on your journey.