Finding Your Life Purpose

The ancient Sanskrit Vedas, consisting of numerous volumes and texts, all point to the same fundamental questions, “Who am I?” and “What is the purpose of my existence?” In this article, we will endeavor to illuminate your Life Purpose or what is meant to be achieved by you while in this body in this particular lifetime. In addition to this material consideration, the Vedas illuminate knowledge of your spiritual nature and your ultimate goal beyond this lifetime. We will only touch on this latter subject in this discussion.


The first question we must ask is, ”What is my purpose in this lifetime?” If you already know the answer to this and are clear on what your Purpose may be, then there may be no need to read further. But if you don’t know your Life Purpose or if you lack some clarity in this matter, then it may benefit you to read further.


The first thing that must be clearly understood is the difference between Purpose and Desire. Not surprisingly, people often confuse Purpose with Desire and reduce their all-important Life Purpose to a collection of self-serving Desires.

Purpose represents principle and encompasses identity. It brings meaning to your life. Purpose is who you are and what you’ve come here to do. It utilizes your natural and God-given talents and abilities. It defines your capacity to give from the heart and is the true and ultimate expression of Self.

A person ruled by Desire, on the other hand, takes the attitude of, “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of it? I have to meet my own needs first.” It represents what you’ve come here to get or to take. Desire may only use a small part of your natural ability or it may neglect it altogether, such as when choosing a job just because it pays more money. People motivated by Desire may not be interested in a high standard of performance if they can get away with something less. Desire is generally the expression of ego or self-involvement. Simply put, Purpose is giving and Desire is taking.

Under the weight and stress of modern-day life and our need to achieve the status quo, many of us sacrifice our true Purpose to the god of wealth and material success. Sure, it’s true we set goals and objectives and when we meet them there is a sense of accomplishment, but the emptiness we may still feel within is caused by a lack of personal fulfillment and lasting satisfaction due to a neglect of our real Life Purpose.

Let us now expand our questions to help identify our true Purpose:

Who am I?

What have I come here to do?

Am I acting in accordance with my nature?

Am I making a contribution to the world around me?

Am I fulfilled by my work?

Am I following my heart?

The sacred Vedas caution us in this way: Never abandon your duty, purpose or principles for the fulfillment of a desire. The connotation is that if you sacrifice your Purpose, you risk losing the meaning of your life, thus reducing your own intrinsic value and worth.

If we examine the nature of Purpose versus Desire, we learn the following:

PURPOSE is motivated by GIVING. DESIRE is motivated by TAKING.

PURPOSE focuses on the WORK itself. DESIRE focuses on the RESULT of the work.


PURPOSE is driven by the HEART. DESIRE is driven by the MIND.

PURPOSE is the journey of the SOUL. DESIRE is the flight of the EGO.

People who are motivated by Desire generally measure their success through material things, such as money, cars, houses, boats, etc. Is there something wrong with choosing material things in general? Not necessarily. Desires are legitimate and they may hold value but only when they are aligned with Purpose. When you know your Purpose and are acting in accordance with it, you then align your Desires so that they harmonize with that Purpose. But until you have discovered your Purpose, it is difficult to determine which Desires are valuable and which are simply self-indulgent. As long as Desire is the motivating factor in your life, your choices are being made without a deeper consideration of Purpose. Even when these desires or objectives are realized, you find yourself feeling empty and unfulfilled. Something’s missing. That inner feeling amounts to an ignorance of or inattention to your Purpose. What good is a victory that is won at the cost of the betrayal of your own heart?

Desires and achievements that can raise your status in the eyes of a materialistic society may have nothing to do with your Purpose. Subsequently, the pursuit of such Desires is actually diverting you from that Purpose and amounts to a waste of your time because, ultimately, it’s not satisfying your deepest needs. When you evaluate each desire in terms of your Purpose, you will very quickly see which desires are complementary and which are off the mark. For example, for a person whose Purpose is to be a healer, a Desire to become a bodybuilder in his free time may have little to do with the realization of that Purpose. Having counseled thousands of people, I have noted that many are not aware of their Purpose. Most would carry it out if they knew what their Purpose was while others know what it is but find it too difficult to bring about.

What are some examples of Purpose?

Your Purpose may be:

to heal others

to build houses

to teach or educate

to repair cars

to beautify others

to offer humor and comedy

to counsel or to guide

to design or sell quality clothing

to be a financial planner and help people with their investments

to create art

to aid in the rehabilitation of those in need

to be a business manager

These are only a handful of examples but they demonstrate that your Purpose could be anything under the sun.


As you can clearly see, the one element that all of these occupations have in common is service to others. You may have a specific Purpose in this lifetime but there is an Eternal Purpose that we all share as well, lifetime after lifetime, and that is SERVICE. That is called our Sanatana-Dharma or “eternal purpose.” So your Purpose must be defined in terms of service to others.

Everyone is involved in some type of service relationship. This is what makes the world go round. Let us look at some examples of Service Relationships:

Employee serves employer

Parent serves child

Lover serves beloved

Merchant serves customer

Politician serves people

Making the accumulation of money your Purpose suggests no hint of service to others. Though service may be involved in the making of the money, the focal point is the money, not the work or the service itself. You may work a forty-hour week in anticipation of the paycheck you will get at the end of the week. A paycheck is a great reward but did you enjoy the work over the forty hours it took to earn the paycheck? Was the service you rendered a reward in itself?

Too many people are caught up in a Five o’clock/Friday syndrome. All day long they focus on five o’clock when the workday will end and they will be free to do the things they really want to do, the things that they love, or the things that reflect their Purpose. All week long, they can’t wait for Friday to arrive when they will gain their work release for the weekend for the same reasons. If such people are focused on five o’clock and Friday, then where are their minds while doing the jobs they are being paid to do? Certainly not on those jobs! And, what can you say about a society whose mind is not on the job but on everything but the job? What quality of work are they likely to produce? Mediocre at best! Are you one of these people? If so, your job is not a reflection of your Life Purpose.


1) Earth — Physical Abilities Your Life Purpose must meet your physical needs and capacity. It must promote and not harm your health. It must utilize your physical abilities, including natural talents, athletic ability, or limited physical ability. For example, if you are in wheel chair or have only one limb, being a furniture mover may not be the best choice for you. If you go stir crazy sitting at a desk all day, then you need a job where you can move around, call on clients or make deliveries.

2) Water — Emotional Needs Your Life Purpose must meet your emotional needs. It must be challenging not boring, fulfilling not meaningless, and make you happy not miserable. You must not feel like you give to others all day long and get nothing in return. Some people are social in nature and need to work with people in a hands-on manner. Sales may be a good choice for such people, especially when they are providing a product or service that people are really happy to receive. Other people are happiest working quietly and not having to interact with others. Some people like to be directed by their boss and given their next task throughout the day. Others do not like being told what to do. They prefer to be left alone knowing what is required of them.

3) Fire — Values and Ethics Your Life Purpose must meet your ideological needs. It must reflect your personal values and ethics. If you are a vegetarian, it would be best to avoid becoming a butcher. If you believe abortion is wrong, then you may not want to work in an abortion clinic. If you believe in treating people fairly, you may want to avoid working in a boiler room doing telephone sales swindling old people out of their retirement money. If you are compassionate and want to ease the suffering of others, then you may enjoy working with the handicapped.

4) Air — Intellectual Needs Your Life Purpose must meet your intellectual needs. If you are particularly intelligent, then many jobs would not stimulate you or use your expansive brain. Ideally, you would have received a university education or college degree that enables you to achieve the kind of professional position that you require. Perhaps you know how to critically analyze systems and production models and are able to solve such problems in the workplace. Maybe you are good at understanding people and providing counseling to help them solve personal and professional problems. I once took a taxi whose driver held a PhD in Archaeology. I doubt that driving a taxi truly challenged his intellectual capacity.

5) Ether — Spiritual Needs Your Life Purpose should also meet your spiritual needs, that is, promote your personal growth and transformation. Since we are all here to grow and evolve as individual souls, your work should teach you about life and nature in some positive manner. If you feel close to God and have a virtuous nature, then working as a bartender in a nightclub that features exotic dancing may not be for you. If you are a pacifist, then military service would not be a good choice. Depending on your level of compassion, you may be fulfilled by healing the sick, relieving the distressed, or helping the poor or disenfranchised. Or your spirit may be renewed or replenished by teaching and enlightening others.


Your basic nature or dharma is the thing that cannot be separated from you. For example, the basic nature or dharma of sugar is sweetness. The dharma of water is wetness or liquidity. The dharma of fire is heat and light. To follow your dharma or basic nature is to follow your Life Purpose, to act in harmony with who you are, to go with your flow and not against the current. Though we recognize that many people do not know what their Purpose is, it is also worth mentioning that it takes a lot more energy to avoid your Purpose and follow the wrong path than it does to actually live your Life Purpose and follow your true path.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, the song of God, Krishna, an incarnation of God, tells His devotee, Arjuna, “All persons act according to their nature. What would repression accomplish?” If people are inclined to follow their true nature in the normal course of things, then it must be much more difficult to act contrary to that nature.

It is interesting to note that many a so-called “mid-life crisis” is simply a person coming face to face with the fact that he has spent half a life ignoring his true identity and his real Purpose. Instead, he has sold out and become the someone whom family, society or university said he should be. Over time, this results in a disconnection or a breakdown of sorts due to having followed a false and artificial path for so many years. This mid-life crisis is actually a golden opportunity to discover who he really is, begin his life anew and follow a Purpose that is true. Some people come to realize this, but sadly, others do not.

Your nature cannot be repressed or changed. This is a simple fact. In the case of animals, they can only behave according to their instincts and their fundamental nature. They have no choice in this. Did you ever see a dog behave like a cat? No, never. But it is a little more difficult with humans since we have free will and free choice. We can act contrary to our nature but only until it backfires. So we must be careful to identify our true nature early on and begin to act in accordance with that nature. “What good will repression accomplish?” You often hear gay people explain that they cannot help being gay — that is their nature or inclination. We believe this to be true in some cases. How often have you seen people enter college to study a particular subject, only to find, two or three years down the line, that they don’t really like this course of study? They have no real inclination toward it. They then change to a different field of learning. The ones with the real problem are the ones who continue to pursue the inappropriate course of study and then enter the job market and begin to work in their chosen field for the next 25 years.

Your purpose must reflect your nature. Doing work that doesn’t accommodate your basic nature will prove boring or frustrating and may eventually lead to feelings of aimlessness or resentment. For example, many people wait on tables while going to school or preparing for another career. While some food service workers may be very competent and quite content with this line of work, a person studying for a career in jet propulsion engineering would be frustrated if forced to continue waiting tables indefinitely. It will not satisfy his nature.

Here is an interesting spiritual insight. It is stated in yoga philosophy that if you neglect your own Purpose or dharma and follow a Purpose or dharma that is not suited to you, it will actually result in negative karmic reaction for you. This means you can actually generate bad karma or misfortune for yourself by neglecting your true nature and work. Such negative karmic reaction will usually be experienced by you in your next lifetime.


There are four natural divisions of work or labor that indicate four basic groups of people. These natural divisions can be found throughout the world, throughout history and in all civilizations.

1. teacher/advisor/healer provides enlightenment

2. leader/organizer/protector provides protection

3. merchant/businessman/farmer provides food, clothing & shelter (economy)

4. craftsman/tradesman/laborer provides service

Generally speaking, the first category of teacher/advisor/healer refers to people who prefer intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

The second group, leader/organizer/protector represents people who may be attracted to politics, advocacy, police work, etc.

The third division referred to above as merchant/businessman/farmer is primarily concerned with economic production and financial growth and management.

The fourth group, namely craftsman/tradesman/laborer is typically people who are skilled at working with their hands or utilizing their physical ability.

Which one or two of these four categories best describes you and your nature? Once you have determined this with some certainty, you should seek a vocation that falls within that category.

Examples of Purpose or vocation according to the four natural divisions of labor are:

1. Teacher/Advisor/Healer - Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Writer, Counselor, Healer, Therapist, Life Coach

2. Leader/Organizer/Protector - Civil servant, Policeman, Fireman, Rescue Service, Military, Mayor, Councilman, Governor

3. Merchant/Businessman/Farmer - Retail Merchant, Farmer, Banker, Forestry service, Housing developer, Manufacturer

4. Craftsman/Tradesman/Laborer - Artist, Musician, Sculptor, Painter, Plumber, Carpenter, Electrician, Athlete

Turning once again to the eternal dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, “By following one’s own qualities of work, each individual can attain perfection.” He is saying that your life can be fulfilled, both materially and spiritually, in this life and in the after-life simply by acting in accordance with your nature and accomplishing your Life Purpose. Doing your dharma acknowledges and celebrates your connection to God and your God-given nature. Krishna then follows that statement with this enlightening truth, “It is better to engage in one’s own work or purpose even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by karmic reaction.” We ultimately want to avoid karmic reaction to all our actions. Otherwise, we will be forced to take another body or birth in this material world rather than being liberated from the cycle of samsara or repeated birth and death. Once liberated, a soul returns to its true spiritual nature which is eternal, enlightened and blissful.


If you’re passionate about a particular activity in your life, then that endeavor may well be your Purpose. There should always be some anticipation or excitement when it comes to carrying out your Purpose. If you wake up in the morning and you have no desire to get out of bed and you dread the coming day, you can be almost positive you’re not following your Purpose. On the other hand, if you can’t wait to get to work or plan and carry out your project, it is likely that you’re on target with your Purpose and it is inspiring your passion and dedication.

Which one are you?

1. You set the alarm and when it rings you ignore it and go back to sleep.

2. You don’t set the alarm but are awakened by your body clock. You get up feeling refreshed and eager to greet the day.

Can your purpose change? As Mother Nature changes seasons, it is possible that your purpose may alter a little or a lot within your lifetime. It can best be described as an evolution with each successive state of mind or incarnation coming closer to the bull’s eye, and therefore, more effective and personally fulfilling. Your nature cannot change but your Purpose may evolve.


Another consideration may be that you have, at one time or another, caught sight of your Purpose. It came upon you as a vision or you very easily and naturally envisioned it and have from time to time. It is like a vocation or a calling that compels you to respond. Sometimes, there are lessons to be learned and experiences to be gained before you can summon the courage to go forward with your Purpose. The timing may not be quite right. In other words, you may not yet be ready. Why would courage be a factor? For some people to embark upon the path of Purpose may mean confronting a lot of opposition, going against the grain, and overcoming overwhelming odds in order to find and express individuality and true identity. How many of us are prepared to do that?

To undertake your Purpose, you must be prepared to act, to take action, to decide upon a course of action and follow it through. Many of us are bobbing and weaving through life like a twig upon the ocean waves. We aren’t acting at all but merely reacting. We’re behaving in response to what has gone before, to what has been said, to a word of criticism, to guilt-ridden expectation, endeavoring to squeeze into the pigeonhole into which we’ve been stuffed. We become victimized by restrictive limitations and inaccurate evaluations, and our never-ending childlike need to please. In order to become the victor we must abandon the notion of being the victim. Sometimes, it may not be that easy due to our conditioning. It may be like pulling teeth. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and make that dental appointment!


Many people can’t wait to go and tell others or anyone who will listen about their newly chosen plans and life direction. They think that all these people will automatically jump on their bandwagon and tell them that it is a great idea and that it sounds exciting. This is really naïve thinking and such behavior must be avoided. Most people will tell you it is a good idea and give you encouraging feedback but underneath the surface, it is quite the opposite. This is especially true of those closest to you, including family members. People are afraid of change and most will be envious of your planned or realized success no matter what they tell you. What many are thinking is:

“Who does he think he is anyway?”

“How will it make me look if he achieves that? Like a loser, that’s how!”

“Why can’t things just stay the way they are? Why does he have to go and do that?”

“How will I be able to relate to him if he has that title behind his name?”

“I’ve never seen him as anything but beneath me.”

This is what is really going on under the surface with most people. You may have one or maybe two people in your life who genuinely want to see you succeed and go forward in life. But that’s about all. The conclusion — don’t tell people your plans and new direction. As far as possible, keep it to yourself. Telling others your plans before they are realized is like poking tiny pinholes into the inflated balloon of your hopes and dreams. They don’t burst the balloon, but over time all the air will eventually leak out. Don’t tell people what you are doing until you are actually doing it or better yet, until you’ve achieved it and are enjoying the success. Sometimes it is too difficult to sit there and say nothing when questioned by others. But rather than go into hyper-drive about your big plans, say as little as possible and never blow things out of proportion in order to impress others. Accomplishments and actions, not boastful words, is what truly impresses people.

The Vedas tell us, "Planning and action, the basis of success, must be discreetly protected. People should not know of your plans until they bear fruit."

"Do not place your faith in those who do not believe in you. Doubts or fears caused by such persons can uproot your foundation."

And lastly, "Do not seek the advice of too many people for it leads to confusion."


Following and achieving your Life Purpose may require a small or a big change in your life. You must not be afraid to make such a change. It may take great courage depending on the degree of opposition you face. You must be willing to go forward, sometimes at great cost to the way you currently live your life. To achieve your Life Purpose, you must be resolute and fixed on your path.

We hope that you have gained some insight and understanding with regard to discovering your Life Purpose. This is a path that must be walked by you. There really is no choice but the right choice and that is to follow your Purpose. We wish you the fulfillment and the realization of your potential on every possible level and in every aspect of your life.