Some time ago, I was asked this question, "How do you discover your life purpose?" The person who asked this question was in his late forties, and can be considered to be reasonably successful financially. Yet, to him, there was something else that seemed to be missing in his life. He thought that perhaps what he has been doing in his life so far was not his life purpose, and that is why he was still not quite satisfied with his life.

The fact that he asked the question "How do you discover your life purpose?" indicated to me that he was assuming that we are born into this world with a pre-written or pre-destined purpose. So all we have to do to be completely happy with our lives is to discover that purpose and pursue it.

In actual fact, when I was younger, I had the same belief. Later, I found out that this is quite a common belief among those searching for their life purpose. A few years after I graduated as a doctor, I was in a relationship that eventually failed. That failure led to a period of depression, low self-esteem, questions about the purpose of existence and eventually about my purpose in life. I took a month of leave from work to try to cope with that sense of loss and hopelessness. I traveled to Tibet and even consulted one of their monks who was reputed to have some divinity skills. Despite all that, I still ended up without knowing my definite purpose in life when I returned home. I went back to work resigned to the fact that I have failed to discover my true purpose in life.

Years later, through my own spiritual practice, lots of reading and meditation, it dawned on me one fine day that there is no pre-destined life purpose. Our life purpose is what we choose it to be. Some people find it easy to "discover" their life purpose because they recognize that they have certain skills and interests in a specific area and they choose to pursue it to the fullest. That choice becomes their life purpose. The majority of us do not have a clear skill or areas of interest, so it would seem as though we cannot recognize our life purpose. The truth is that your life purpose is what you choose it to be. You can choose to become the best in what you are presently doing, and that can become your life purpose. Or you can choose to devote your time and effort to alleviating sufferings in an under-developed country, and that becomes your life purpose. Your life purpose can be altruistic or it can be totally self-centered.

What I do notice is that a life purpose that includes happiness and achievements not just for yourself but also others tend to be more satisfying in the end. Recent scientific studies have also shown that altruism is essential for a happy, contented and healthy life. Too much self-centered goals to the exclusion of others is unhealthy physically as well as emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Recently, someone introduced Gay Hendricks' Five Wishes book to me, in an audio format. As I listened to it, I was struck by his simple, yet elegant, method of discovering one's life purpose. The book is his excellent sharing of how he discovered his life purpose, simply by asking and answering a simple question. If you are still searching for your life purpose, I strongly recommend that you read or listen to this book. It will open your eyes to new possibilities.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Tim Ong is a medical doctor with keen interests in self improvement, mind science and spirituality. He is the author of "The Book of Personal Transformation" and "From Fear to Love: A Spiritual Journey". To learn more about his writings and his work, go to The Self Improvement Site and Mind Science 101.