I see it constantly, in the comments of nearly every single article and video that mentions the idea of "following your purpose." Inevitably, usually within the first 3 or 4 comments, someone will ask that one burning question:
But how do I find my purpose if I haven’t found it yet?
And while nobody can answer that definitively without knowing your full story, here are a few guideposts from some of the world’s most revered writers and philosophers.
Be For Others:
The American writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
Similarly, Roman emperor and Stoic Philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote:
Since you are an integral part of a social system, let every act of yours contribute to the harmonization of social life. Any action that is not related directly or remotely to this social aim disturbs your life, and destroys your unity.
Meanwhile although he was a bit more cryptic with his advice, Friedrich Nietzsche claimed he knew of “no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible." In my understanding, what Nietzsche is saying here is that whatever it is we select as our purpose, we ought to dream big and dedicate our utmost effort to executing our vision of it.
The Persian poet Rumi took purpose in a different direction, writing:
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.
For Rumi, the answer to finding purpose is simply in asking what are the things we love most. Perhaps, to join the two philosophies together, the next piece of advice ought to be: of all our passions, we should select the one that that creates the greatest positive impact on our loved ones and our communities.
And if those words still bring nothing come to mind, perhaps these words from Marcus Aurelius can:
You can pass your life in a flow of happiness if you can follow the right way and think and act in the right way.
Aurelius instructs himself to remain focused on kindness, and what he can control, while accepting everything the world has to offer. To let being good, thinking good, and acting good, be enough for the moment - until our true purpose can track us down.