Your Sense of Purpose

Your Sense of Purpose – Life Purpose – Or Purpose as a Teenager

This commitment is closely linked to your sense of significance and is one more piece in your identity puzzle.  Thinking about what your purpose might be is another way to add to your sense of identity.  It’s a natural part of the journey – and it’s important.    

A Big Life Question

This is the big life question and the answer to “What is my life purpose?” may not be clear as a teenager.  The question will, however, come alive during the teenage years.   And yes, the key is to ask the question, not come up with an immediate and crystal clear answer that will last forever.  It is very likely that your sense of life purpose will evolve with experience and it can even change dramatically at some point in your adult years.

You may also look at your purpose either as (1) your purpose as a teenager or (2) your purpose in life – or both.

The stunning thing about this question of purpose is that people’s answers have such variety.  If you asked 100 adults, you would probably get at least 90 different answers.  Some might be similar, but very few would be the same.  Unfortunately, you would also find a lot of adults who could not tell you what their life purpose was.

Purpose as a Teenager

Although it’s important to begin exploring your purpose in life, you can also take a much shorter view and ask, “What’s my purpose as a teenager?”  You have a built-in purpose as a teenager, which is to leave your childhood and prepare yourself to be a successful young adult.  That is the heroic journey of a teenager.  As you get more and more experience, you might add to that built-in purpose to go beyond that core purpose.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”


Examples of Purpose Statements

These are examples only.  Do not be restricted by these examples.  They obviously come in a wide variety of focus, length and styles.

Life Purpose:

  • “To be a powerful generative force for life” (my purpose)
    • To have the courage to discover and accept my gifts and contribute them, adding to the universal harmonies
    • To walk with god (to act from love and not from fear)
    • To lead by the example of my life (intentional role model)
    • To respond to the questions asked by life (what is life asking of me?)
    • To be the author of a life – to be authentic
  • So life basically is a search for your soul, or whatever you could be. That’s what drives me, and makes me say every so often:  “Done enough of that.  Must move on.  Because I don’t know what I could be.”
  • “I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child to be educated.  Malala Yousafzai, young Nobel Laureate
  • “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ” … holy shit, what a ride!!!
  • I think we are put here on this earth in order to experience great joy and great sorrow and all the emotions in between.  We are meant to take risks, to make the most out of our capabilities, and especially to leave the world a richer place than it was when we entered it.  Life is a gift…..and if we don’t make the most of what we are given, then we are wasting an opportunity to experience the fullness of life’s bounty.  And don’t forget to have fun along the way!!!
  • My mission is to act as an instrument of positive change in my family, my work and my community. I will utilize all of the talents that God has given me and will participate in all aspects of my life with energy, purpose and gratitude.
  • Martin Luther King said, “If I knew that tomorrow the world would fall to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” For me this means live positively and with hope, knowing that what is important is acting according to your principles, rather than caring too much about the outcome.
  • It seems to me that the purpose of my life is to grow into a more textured, loving and dimensional person.
  • “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”  Oprah, Winfrey
  • My purpose is to work to reduce teen suicides caused by bullying and a lack of self-worth. I want to help teenagers discover that being different is OK and create hope when they feel their life is crashing down around them and nobody will understand what they are going through.
  • My life purpose is to energize, connect, and inspire purpose in others.
  • Each of us is born with a different hand of cards, if you will, and our purpose is to play that hand of cards as fully, intelligently and compassionately as we are able. For some people, that well-lived life will result in a Nobel Prize or exceptional professional success. For others, that well-lived life will result in beating an addiction, raising a good family or meeting some other challenge that no one else may even know. That’s why we can’t judge other people. We don’t know what hand of cards they began with, so we can’t know how far they came in their life. A waitress might be doing more with the set of tools she was given than a famous surgeon is with hers.

About the world
About life
About people
About myself

My family
My world

For my beliefs
For my passions
To accomplish
To do good
To be true to myself
Against apathy 

The boat, don’t
let the boat rock me
Be a rock 

Your purpose as a teenager might simply be to:

“Prepare myself to be a successful young adult and support my peers in that challenge also.”
“Prepare myself to be a successful young adult and make a positive difference in my school/neighborhood/community.”
“Prepare myself to be a successful young adult and promote social justice/racial equality or protect the environment/endangered species.”
“To survive being a teenager”
“To find my way on the journey and make a difference for others as well.”
Remember – these are only examples.  Don’t be restricted by them.

There is no single “right answer.”

There are lots of possibilities, but you are the author, so it’s your choice.  It’s very possible that you will go through a bunch of purpose statements before you find one that really fits for you.  That’s fine.  Remember, the identity challenge is to explore and commit and the exploration may take time as well as some interesting twists.

MY MISSION IN LIFE IS TO SERVE GOD BY BEING: A beacon of light, A bridge of understanding, A tower of integrity, and A castle of realized dreams

Louise Morganti Kaelin Life Success

Where Can I Get Ideas for a Purpose Statement?

  • Other people’s statements (check them out online)
  • Quotes that are meaningful to you (there is a big quote section here)
  • Your values (later in this section)
  • Your characteristics (later in this section)
  • The little and big ways you are significant
  • Things that make you happy or fulfilled
  • Ways that other people you respect model their sense of purpose (you can ask people or just imagine what their purpose is by the behaviors you witness)

Purpose When Going Through a Really Tough Time

It’s not unusual as a teenager to hit a time where life gets tough.  You can be having trouble at home, with friends, going through a breakup of a romantic relationship, struggling at school or on a team, dealing with an illness or injury, etc.

At those times your purpose might be to simply get through the tough time and use the experience as a way to become more resilient, wiser, more self-aware and tougher.  For some teenagers, their purpose at certain times can be as simple as, “Survive and escape my current surroundings.”

But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it's better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you're fighting for.


What Does Your Life Purpose Look Like in Action?

When a life purpose really starts to have meaning and gets practical is when you ask the question, “So if I’m following my life purpose or my purpose as a teenager, how do my actions look in the different parts of my life?”  There are a surprising number of parts or domains of a life, for example:

  • With family (including extended family)
  • In school
  • With friends
  • With girlfriend/boyfriend
  • At school
  • At your job
  • On your team
  • In your club/organization
  • In your neighborhood or larger community
  • In volunteer settings

“Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation…

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”  

Robert Francis Kennedy, speech at Day of Affirmation, University of Capetown, South Africa