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Why Trying to Find Your Purpose Might Be a Waste of Time.


There’s a lot of talk about finding your purpose in the self-help world. I’ve never been into it.

I find the idea that any one of us has one particular purpose limiting. I love the fact that I’m lit up by being a writer, a marketer, a friend, a community creator, a leader, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, and a dancer (just to mention a few of the many things I am).

I know I’m at my best when I feel my best. So I orient my daily activities and my choices towards what makes me feel the best. What’s so awesome and efficient about this is that choosing what feels good to me ensures I’m a better mom, a better wife, a better business owner, etc.

Trying to distill your purpose down to one phrase or concept can be a real waste of time and energy.

Not to mention the fact that though everyone says life is short, it’s also long. There are so many seasons in most of our lifetimes, and each season requires a different version of ourselves and, therefore, a different purpose.

Plus, the rhetoric around needing to find your purpose leaves people who are in exploration –  living in the fertile void, not sure what they’re doing yet (which is all of us at any given time in our lives) – feel like there’s something wrong with them because they can’t tell you their purpose.

You’ll get a lot more mileage out of getting busy living than sitting around waiting to begin your life once you’ve found your purpose.

If you ask me, our purpose is to be the fullest expression of ourselves. {Tweet It!} our-purpose-is-to-be-the-fullest-expression-of-ourselves-tweet

(You’re welcome for saving you hours journaling and possibly hundreds of dollars on seminars and coaching.)

Instead of trying to find your purpose, why not get out and explore what feels good to you?

One day you might be totally on purpose searching the woods for beautiful leaves with your 3-year-old. The next day you might be totally on purpose by giving the presentation of your life at this year’s big conference. And the next day you could be purposefully watching re-runs of Fixer Upper.

All you. All potentially purposeful.

It’s not so much knowing what our purpose is that creates a purposeful life. It’s living purposefully. And living purposefully doesn’t require a well-crafted mission statement that you can whip out at your next self-actualization shindig.

If you stumble upon some elegant purpose statement as you’re exploring the wild ride of being a human and it feels like it fits, awesome! Go with that.

Just don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that somehow you can’t live a great life if you don’t know what your purpose is.

And if you already feel like you have a very clear idea of your purpose, hold it gently. When we cling to our ideas of who we are too tightly we don’t leave much room to surprise ourselves. {Tweet It!} when-we-cling-to-our-ideas-of-who-we-are-too-tightly-we-dont-leave-much-room-to-surprise-ourselves-tweet

May we all go forth with the purpose of being us. And may we do it on purpose.



What do you think about the practice of finding your purpose? Are you clear on what your purpose is? How has this clarity helped you in your life? Are you unsure of what your purpose is? How has that affected you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!


  • Oh my goodness! I was just writing this morning about what Glennon said at the Together Tour about knowing what to create and serve in this world.

    Follow your envy – that is what you are meant to create.
    Follow what breaks your heart – this is what you are meant to serve.

    And in the process of reflecting on these, it really is so beautifully and simple clear that they are pathways to myself. To deepen my healing and my love for myself and then for the world in turn. One and the same.

    LOVE! So great to see you at these life-changing events. Big big love to you and your family. xoxo

  • I completely agree. Our purpose here on Earth is certainly not to find our purpose! It is to live, fully, in the present. I learned this the hard way. The very moment you call something your “purpose” is the moment it leaves you. Life is fluid and projects, experiences and even purpose is fleeting. Even the purpose of raising your child ends one day, as well as your purpose for living when that time comes. Play. Smile. Live.

  • Kimberly

    This blog really offers a sense of relief to me, particularly in regards to my “career” or “profession.” While others I know had a sense of purpose early on and now have well-established careers and families, I’ve taken another path. I have considered myself a late bloomer and have changed my paths numerous times and still feel behind in my “purpose.” It is very hard not to compare oneself to others who have a high professional status due to years in the same profession (especially if feeling like something is wrong with me, because I couldn’t identify a purpose early on). Thank you for offering a different perspective!

    • Kate Northrup

      Thanks for bringing this forward. Just because someone’s life may look more together also doesn’t mean they’re living more purposefully. Living in the question and challenging the status quo is a beautiful way to be!

    • Jodi

      Thanks Kate, this was so timely this morning, I’ve been dealing with feeling so lost, living in a place I really don’t want to live, but also feeling like focusing on this feeling is preventing me from finding enjoyment while I am here, I’m so focused on figuring out where I belong and figuring out how to get there, I am left feeling hopless and sad. I have so many purposes, I am an Aunt, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a daughter in law, a cousin, a singer, a songwriter, a writer, a traveller and so much more that I havent discovered yet.

  • Monica

    OMG! Well said, Kate. In this time of self development and purpose, we sometimes forget that just living life with all its twists and turns and, to the best of our ability, is purposeful and individual. Thanks for helping provide clarity.

  • Karen

    Good morning Kate! Thank you so much for your post! I have always struggled with nailing down just one propose I am suppose to live in. For years that has been my mission that has quite frankly haunted me. I’ve always felt like I would be giving up one part of myself to focus on another, and I could not choose which one would be best. I love that I am a mother, a friend, an entrepreneur, a girlfriend, now a student and so many more. I have even told my girls not to pressure themselves to decide what they want to be right now. That life is a journey and today you don’t know what experience next year will open up. Or what direction this education will take you in.
    My own struggle to find my propose has left me with feelings of inadequacy, that I doubt I really know myself and probably the reason why I am where I am today(but not in a good way).
    The good part of my journey to find my purpose is that I have looked deep inside myself to see just who I am and who I want to be. I am so happy to hear that I am not the only one who has many purposes in life.
    Have a wonderful day!

  • Ah Kate, this is so lovely! Such a feminine approach, too. Why whittle ourselves down to fit into boxes we can label to market ourselves as a product? The human experience is so rich, and varied. Thanks for this articulation! I wish more of us were coached to live in the fertile void of Not Knowing, to breathe into being ourselves in all those selves’ many treasures. ?

  • Patricia Moore

    No matter what I am doing, I am always seeking to do something meaningful — to find a meaningful job, have meaningful relationships, read books (or blogs) that resonate. However, when one is in that tenuous, in-between-stage, the seeking itself is meaningful. While I agree that just moving forward with something is more meaningful than simply pondering, I can look backward and imagine the forward and see where where I was so busy doing that I missed out on being — this from a fellow type A++.

  • Sara

    I absolutely love this ….I’m always hearing find ur purpose find what makes you come alive well there are a lot of things that I love so I was always left confused and felt like there was something wrong with me …but reading this makes me fell like aaaahhhhh there is nothing wrong with me and I’m just going to keep enjoying the many things that make me feel good like watching g fixer upper all Saturday long ….there is nothing wrong with me afterall …thank Kate for posting this

  • Brooke

    This post resonates so much with my heart. I’ve been doing a lot of writing on my purpose, finding my purpose, and wondering where in the heck it is! I’ve felt something was wrong with me because I didn’t have one. Your post made me feel okay that I didn’t have ONE thing, that I have (and have had) many purposes in my life. And not to cling to tightly because things shift. Ahhh, thank you for this post. I feel like I’ve been searching for an elusive holy grail…and being a failure at it. Now I can just focus on what I can do today to live on purpose…that feels so much better! Sending love to you and yours!!

  • Kate, you nailed girlfriend!! I SO resonate with this blog topic! I’ve been on both sides of flowing with my passions and what lights me on fire and then working to understand my purpose and it’s WAY more fun, productive, and in my experienced aligned with spirit, when I am just in flow and fully expressing ME.

    Thanks for this wonderful reminder to us all, to just LIVE fully now and trust that if there’s a theme or specific purpose to it at any point in time, we’ll be shown what it is. And if that theme doesn’t surface, we’re still doing just fine.

    Love & Blessings!

  • Laura

    Kate, I am so glad you wrote this! I have worked with a life coach and we’ve tried to nail down a sentence about my purpose and it didn’t feel right. I can think of core traits I have and those things I think are my gifts to bring to the world, but I feel boxed in and limited trying to say my purpose is to do this one thing. I want to enjoy my life, my kids, and help others bring out what is inside of them. That works for me.

    Thanks for sharing your journey and blessings to you!

  • Susan

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I have written in countless journals, read tons of books, been part of meaningful workshops that seemed to completely deflate at the end when we were told we “needed to find our purpose” in order to live a meaningful life. (Granted, I love to read and write in journals so I would have done that anyway. I just would have spent more time on other topics.) It feels like “finding your purpose” has become another way of trying to be perfect and live a controlled life without the mess. Thank you for highlighting there is another way.

  • Raffaela

    I absolutely love what you wrote. I have felt the same for very long time but felt alone in my perspective. The fact that I am alive is my purpose. I also just want to say how much I have enjoyed all of your writings. You have a beautiful insight into life and a marvelous way to express it in language.

  • Dawn

    Oh my gosh! This is so perfect! I have been in transition for a few years now, searching and searching and searching for my new purpose. Your post struck a cord for sure! I feel so much lighter after reading it! Thank you so much!!

  • I love this Kate, and echo what Brooke and several others have posted…. I’ve been struggling with “my purpose”, feeling confused and like a failure, etc, etc. for years now!

    From your blog, I get that I can now look at many passions and paths in my life as blessings, instead of a source of anxiety and confusion.

    But I do have one question… We’re often told in our network marketing business to find our “why”, i.e. why are we doing the business. Do you see that as the same thing as purpose? If it is, should I view my why as it relates to this one passion in my life, leaving room to embrace all the other why’s? Or is it simpler than that? Thanks!

  • Anita

    Just what I needed to see/read. I’ve worked hard to define my purpose (I have a private counseling practice & Reiki practice) & never received clarity. I recently did full moon ceremony & yet again asked for clarity on my purpose. This is what I found. Thank you! I am grateful!

  • This is true, and you bring up good points, Kate. But, I think some people feel innately separated from who they really are, their true inner self. And another word for that sometimes is “purpose.” I agree that we have multiple purposes, but I think that when we talk about our purpose, sometimes it’s our loudest calling that the universe is asking us to do. For me, it’s teaching spiritually. For my husband, it’s sharing his music. Yes, I am also a mother, and a friend, and an intuitive guide for some. But my strongest purpose right now is teacher and for me it was helpful to have this goal to focus on when I was getting out of a career that no longer fulfilled me.. . I think it helps some people, who similarly feel stuck in a job they know clearly is not part of what they’re meant to be doing, find it helpful to search for their purpose(s).

  • Hi Kate! I love your posts and what brings to us to go deep in our feelings and emotions. I do believe finding our purpose is a valuable journey to enjoy but while the purpose can be just one single phrase, the path to achieve it can combine several and complimentary activities that fulfill you. I mean for instance, it took a couple of years to understand that my purpose is to inspire and be inspired to be happy. So once I was certain of that, I decided to dedicate myself to write, to speak, to share. I’m a natural artist who loves to paint, write, sing, dance. The only difference now is that I have a reason to open up to the world by being me more than ever!. Now I have more clarity than never before. But, we all have different journey, isn’t it? :) God bless you!

  • Yes! This really resonates with me. I’ve read so many books and taken personality assessments, etc. as a way of finding my true purpose in life. It can be so easy to get sucked into the whole concept that ones purpose can be tangible and concrete and placed in a nice box with a bow and only then can your life begin to really be lived. But buying into that idea has only brought me suffering and angst. Feeling like I can’t truly live a life with purpose because I’m complex and my roles and purposes cannot be easily defined and stuffed into a box. I’ve often felt that the whole design of “finding ones purpose” was just a way to sell books and seminars and that it’s all about the new “happiness bandwagon” that the self help world has jumped on. It really ends up being a huge distraction and excuse from actually living our life. “I’ll be happy and really live and take risks when I feel 100% confident that I’ve found my destiny”…. that can waste a whole lot of time and energy and years!!

    It’s really freeing to just give up needing to know and define and label and just live!
    Thanks for putting all that into words for us out there who are ready to move beyond living in the box!

  • So you ask about my purpose. Use to feel awkward and different or like I was missing something especially when so many people on line seem to have a purpose or at least that is my interpatation. I use to use the lack of purpose to feel inferior not good enough. When I talk to people that I share stories with and I am able to make a difference I am on purpose. When I share about some of the things my soaps can do and get people to try a sample I am on purpose. I may never make big bucks doing this one soap one client at a time and my name may not be everywhere or be known, I know one on one I make peoples lives better and easier if only for a moment.
    now I share stories about being a griever and what and how I have done this last year and a half to pull up my big girl panties and keep going. So maybe all of this is my purpose. Self care and being there as an inspiration and a voice of reason. Who knows and these days just not important

  • Terry

    Kate,your email caught my eye because I too like many others felt lost in determining my purpose. I too did all the usual readings and exercises. About 4 years ago as I sat musing and puzzling, it came like a bolt out of the blue. The purpose of my life is to grow old …. because I have never done that before.
    This may be simplistic however I have seen my mother and brother die in their fifties. They have never gotten to experience many of the things that come with growing older. I am 67 and looking forward to so many adventures with the knowledge that the more years you have the more opportunities to experience life to its fullest.
    If you must have a purpose to guide your endeavors keep it open ended and another guiding principle I use is …to position oneself for the opportunity. You will be pleasantly surprised at what will come your way.
    Wonderful posting Kate, and I love reading the comments.

  • It’s so true. When you go around looking for your purpose and nothing in particular “stands out”, you do wind up thinking that something is wrong with you. So now, instead of trying to find my purpose, I ask ~ who do I want to be in the world? My answer to that is, someone who’s understanding, someone who gives genuine hugs, someone who’s authentic, radiant, and free, and someone who sees into the soul (not just what’s on the outside). That’s it. Cause like you said, you can fulfill your purpose for being – in any role that you play. It is really just about being your fullest expression. Thanks for the great reminder Kate!

  • Margaret Eacott

    Hi Kate and thank you so much for this blog I feel so much better for not having to find my purpose as I was feeling a failure as I had not found my purpose. Now I realise I am normal and have different stages in my life. I now feel more at peace. Again thank you

  • Jean

    This is awesome! I always say “it is all an evolution”. This certainly takes the pressure off having to figure it all out and feeling like I have arrived. It gives me more permission to go with the flow and fine tune as I feel called to. Now, if I could just step into the shifting with more ease – hey, it’s a process!

  • Kate:
    I’ve blogged about this very topic! I find, when I go to the place that I’m uncomfortable with (seek out people who’s circumstances brought them to a different edge than mine) I find more of me. Living in another culture, moving to a new city, stressing your sustenance, throwing stones at your Self. That’s what makes reflection happen, and the discovery of what you didn’t know that you didn’t know about YOU.
    Thanks for keeping up the conversation!
    It’s SO worth it!

  • Yes, yes, yes! Thank you so much for this! There are so many things I love and so many things I still want to learn and try. I have never been able to settle on just one thing if it meant giving up the others. My life is evolving and what I was passionate about when I was 20 is not what I want to do as I enter my 50’s. I always felt pressured to settle on one career and one mission. I thought that if I didn’t, people would think I was a flake.
    I get several emails a day from coaches and gurus and Oprah and others telling me how to find my purpose. And I feel like some kind of spiritual failure because I never had some sudden revelation telling me my one and only purpose.
    But I’m happy with my sometimes weird, sometimes complicated, sometimes messy life full of many passions and the capacity to find more. Thanks for letting me know that that’s cool.

  • You are SO right! I am soon going to launch my new web site and this is exactly what I have been writing about. Although I am a generation older than you, I find that I agree with so much of what you write about. You are real, and it shows. Continue to be the great role model that you are.

  • I love your perspective on life and how you open up the possibility for others to look at something differently. I really love that about you.

    I’ve spent most of my life feeling guilty for being me. Thinking if I find my purpose then everything will be ok….I will have finally made it. Five years ago started a season in my life where enough was enough. I wanted joy in my life, really find my purpose. I have made changes, tried things, started things, stopped things…feeling guilty about things, not feeling guilty about other things.

    My life over all is sooo much better. I am learning to love me, really love me. But I have hung on to the idea that a “purpose” is the goal, the prize.

    I have studied self enlightenment for 30 years and what I love about life is that at any moment you can have an “ah ha” moment that lightens your spirit.

    Thank you, blessing to you

  • Thanks for posting this Kellee! I’m Suz’s husband and the painter of the abstract work in the boutique. Suz no longer teaches at AI. But I’ll be sure to pass this along to her. She may not have seen this yet since she is super busy. I’m sure shle&8217;#l appreciate the shout out. Hope your still making lovely music.

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