“Your father has suffered a severe stroke that has left half of his brain damaged and irreparable. If he wakes up, he will have a very low quality of life… unable to ever speak, swallow, eat, walk, or breathe on his own.”
As I played these words on repeat, the 14 hour flight from LAX to Taiwan literally felt like a month as I sat in my seat with tears uncontrollably rolling down my cheeks.
By the time I made it to my dad’s bedside, I experienced almost all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. Acceptance had not come yet as I prayed for a miracle everyday until I started to see a steady decline.
While these past two weeks have definitely been the most challenging in my life as I was losing the best father I could have ever asked for, I never felt more at peace realizing my father lived a purposeful (and therefore fulfilling) life.
Everyone is Born with a Life Purpose
If I had asked my dad, “What is your life purpose?” or “What do you think you were put on this Earth to do?”
He would have responded, “I don’t know” or “I don’t have one.”
The truth is everyone has a life purpose even if they are unaware of what it is or don’t believe they have one.
Our life purpose is the special gift or impact we make on those around us. It’s not a clock-in and clock-out type of job. Instead, it’s an everyday life expression of who you are when you’re at your best.
When sharing my dad’s grim prognosis with those that personally knew my father, messages of his life expression started to flood my screen. His life purpose was crystal clear.
Those that knew him described him as the most humble, honest, and selfless person they knew. They talked about the positive impact my dad made in their lives – always giving, always helping – without asking for anything in return. Every single person shared how generous he was with his time, effort, and money.
My Dad’s Life Purpose Became Crystal Clear
My dad’s life purpose was to help everyone around him experience a better life in some way.
My dad was truly special. He was a pure minimalist at heart – long before Marie Kondo popularized sparking joy. In fact, when needing to sort through my father’s belongings, all of his possessions could fit into a single carry-on luggage. Along with a few outfits, he had a laptop, a pair of eyeglasses, a mobile phone, a wallet, a photo of us, and important paperwork. That’s it.
He endured all of his life to support his children. On the exterior you would have thought my dad was poor. He drove a beaten down 1993 Camry which he used a rope to secure the trunk down with because the latch was broken. He superglued his dentures. He had taped his reading glasses until I bought him a new pair for $20. Even then, he pushed back and told me to not waste my money.
He never wore name brand clothes and never wore anything new. In fact, in every identification photo from 2006 – 2018, he has the same blue and white checkered button up shirt. What’s more is every time my brother and I bought him new clothes he would donate them.
He used to tell me Olive Garden and Applebee’s was 5-star luxury treat as his daily meals consisted of cooked eggs and instant ramen.
Yet when my father passed, he had left my brother and I more money than we have saved up despite us having an income 10x greater than my father’s in the past decade. My dad was far richer and wiser than he let anyone on to know.
I learned from my aunt that my dad’s wishes were to help my brother and I both buy a house. Until the very end, my father was always giving, always helping, without asking for anything in return.
How to Find Your Life Purpose
When my clients feel they are purposeful, they feel fulfilled. Similarly, when they feel they are just going through the motions without any intention, they feel unsatisfied, no matter how much they are paid in their careers. They often describe a sensation of feeling disconnected or directionless. These feelings are simply signs that it’s time to reflect.
My goal for you is to create a life purpose statement which can serve as a north star. Whenever you’re feeling “off purpose”, you can go back to this and connect back to those characteristics around what makes YOU uniquely you.
Here’s a quick exercise for you to follow, as taught by my coaching certification program, Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching. Take some time to reflect on these questions and know there is no judgment. Share what intuitively comes up for you. Don’t overthink this!
Answer the following questions:
- What is your most desired state of being? (what emotion do you long to feel)
- What do you most appreciate in the world?
- What is one positive action that you can do? (make this a verb)
- What is one of your gifts?
Now fill in this statement with your answers:
I, _____name_____, that the purpose of my life is to be , to enjoy . and to  for myself and others using my .
Here’s an example:
I, Emily Liou, know that the purpose of my life is to be joyful, to enjoy adventure, and to spread positivity for myself and others using my cheerful attitude.
This statement is aligned with my mission in both my professional and personal life. I strive to infuse joyful energy. At my core, I am detached from any final results or outcomes as I am just enjoying this journey called life. If I can make another person smile or help them with any challenges they are experiencing, I feel very content and fulfilled at my core. Whenever I feel things are “off”, I return back to this life purpose statement and ask what needs to change to get back on track.
Now it’s your turn. Share with me in the comments below your life purpose statement (and don’t forget to write this somewhere you can easily retrieve at any time). You may need to change the wording so it flows naturally.
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How Do I Figure Out My Life Purpose?
How do you feel when you repeat your statement back to yourself?
If you’re thinking, “Who the heck is this person? That doesn’t sound like me at all!” then work back through the steps until you read back a statement you can feel proud about. Please note: refining your life purpose statement can sometimes takes weeks, months, or years. You’ll get clearer and clearer with experiences and encounters as time passes so don’t stress. For now, use this as a rough outline to help you gain clarity as you start stepping into this and gauging how purposeful you feel.
If you’re thinking, “Yes! This explains my desire to my core” then, congratulations, you’ve got your life purpose down!
Next, I want you to ask, “What is one way you can express your purpose in your life today?”
Keep in mind that you can serve your purpose today. You don’t need to wait until you land a new job as your life purpose extends beyond your career. Just by stepping into your life purpose, you’ll feel instantly aligned and fulfilled.
If you can live and express your life purpose, you’re on your way to living a life worth living as my dad has personally showed me.
Rest in Peace, Dad.