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5 unpopular thoughts to discover your purpose

Discover with this article how to uncover your purpose in 5 steps.


Various research shows that having a sense of purpose in life is associated with better well-being and a lower susceptibility to stress, illness, burnout, and depression.


However, many people find it difficult to answer the question of their purpose given the infinite possibilities of books, tools, and solutions.


Your purpose is already within you, without you having to travel the world to find it.


Is a zebra looking for purpose?


Last week, I was interviewed for a study on the topic of life purpose. The study focuses on the effect of life purpose on our well-being and the potential prevention of illnesses such as burnout and depression.


I have been interested in the topic of purpose for several years, so it was natural for me to share my experiences in this study.


The question of purpose is as old as humanity itself. Purpose gives our lives clarity, orientation, and direction. It is a way to develop our full potential and be effective. Purpose can give our lives a deeper meaning.


Interestingly, from my point of view, the question of purpose is unique to us humans. Animals and plants do not ask themselves this question. In their existence, they serve the course of nature and evolution: eating, sleeping, reproducing. A zebra lives a zebra's life.


The search for answers to the question of purpose is a part of human nature and a result of our constant development. According to theories, the question arises at some point in time for every person, every culture, and every society.


There are countless books, videos, podcasts, coaching’s services, seminars, and much more to help you discover your purpose.


However people were skiing long before there were ski instructors.


Let's also be critical: We are often promised that we will be happy when we have finally found our purpose. My practical experience shows that this is not always the case. The search for answers, in particular, can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating.


How about, instead of searching, letting your purpose find you?


In the spring of 2017, shortly after my termination, I was determined to find my purpose to finally be happy. That was the promise, right?


I started an intensive search for answers in the outside and tried many things: events, workshops, coaching’s sessions, books, podcasts, and much more. Although the more I looked outside, the more I lost myself. Sometimes I even felt a sense of envy and sadness when I saw people who had seemingly effortlessly found their purpose and were living it in grand visions and entrepreneurship.


Why was it not possible for me? Perhaps this question sounds familiar to you. The longing for the one answer was confusing and frustrating at some point.


At this time, I just wanted a solution. A trip around the world was out of the question; I was already in a self-financed sabbatical. There must be another way to find the answers. Hands-on and without nonsense. I went back to the beginning and looked at the "problem" from a new perspective.


I asked myself two questions:


  1. What is a purpose anyway? The answer: Wikipedia says that purpose is one's life mission, the meaning of life. Purpose can also be a common unifying thought. (I personally like this definition a lot).

  2. What does this purpose mean to me, to Svenja? My answer found me on Oprah's Super Soul Conversation podcast:

"As long as you breathe, God has a purpose for you."


When I heard this sentence, something inside of me relaxed. If God has a purpose for me, then the answer is already there. I stopped looking outside of myself and started listening to the voice inside of me.


You carry your purpose within you from birth. It is always there. It can be big and do good things for people and the planet, or it can be small and just for you.


Step by step into trust and towards your purpose

In my experience, our needs are often overlooked within the purpose question, which is why I work in two steps.

Step 1: Our 3 deficit needs in detail


Every human has physiological and psychological needs. There are deficit needs that are the same for all people.


  1. Physiological needs: Eating and drinking, sleep, breathing, reproduction.

  2. Safety needs: Physical safety, health and well-being, financial security.

  3. Social needs: Interpersonal relationships, security in relationships with family, friends, and community, love, partnership.


In order to feel a certain degree of satisfaction, these deficit needs must be met, with varying degrees of intensity depending on the individual.


If a general dissatisfaction drives the search for purpose, I always recommend taking a look at the deficit needs first before seeking external solutions.


An important observation from my work with companies at this point: Over the last few months, I have observed that a sense of belonging and community is perceived as much more important than a sense of purpose. People need people.


Step 2: Questions for your self-reflection


  1. Are your deficit needs fulfilled? Rate these by yourself on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 reflects "is not fulfilled" and 10 reflects "is fully fulfilled". An average is normally between 7 till 8. If yours isn’t, I would recommend improving these 3 areas of your human needs first.

  2. Which of your qualities would you like to live out more? Which of your qualities would you like to develop? Which skills would you like to learn? Who do you want to be?

  3. What do you want to experience in your life?

  4. How do you want to live and work?

  5. What bothers you in your environment? What is something that is important to you that you want to change in the world? What kind of contribution do you want to make?


Questions 2 to 4 bring you into contact with your inner core. The more you make this visible, the more your purpose becomes apparent.


Practical examples for question 5:


The way we work it is organized bothers me for various reasons. Part of my work is to make lasting changes to the world of work so that it meets our basic human needs.


It also bothers me when people are treated unequally. A big part of my purpose is to ensure that we evolve as a human race and that injustices are a thing of the past. My vision is that everyone gets the chances and opportunities they need to develop themselves and their potential in the best possible way - no matter where they are on this planet.


There is no universal formula for finding your purpose. Purpose is something very individual and cannot be answered mechanically.


Miracle Questions


  • Let’s play with your imagination: Assuming you have already identified your purpose and were living your purpose today. What would you be different?

  • Instead of the purpose question, ask yourself the following:

How can I be of service today?


I heard this question again on Oprah. It is my absolute favorite question; I ask it myself every day. It will bring you closer to your purpose than anything else. I promise.


Three final thoughts


  • Take your time and space. Your life is already enough.

  • Stay open. Your purpose is not a rigid construct and can change.

  • Enjoy. Try to enjoy every moment of your purpose journey.

Are you already living your purpose? Share with us which steps have helped you.


If you are still searching, I invite you to pause for a moment right now. Breathe. Look around you. Trust that your purpose is already within you. What is for you will find you.




You can read about how to create purpose in your company here (in German).


P.S. I’m going to share how my purpose found me in the next newsletter.

P.P.S. Purpose in the context of our soul is another story, more on that another time.

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