Seven years ago I came across Mark Manson‘s Life Purpose Guide, an 11-page article with step-by-step instructions on how to write out one’s goals and find direction in life. How I stumbled upon it I cannot remember, but in the summer of 2013 I found myself writing out the biggest bucket list I had ever attempted: ideas and thoughts of all the things I would love to do before I die. Anything from getting married to singing on Broadway went on the list, no matter how unrealistic, trivial, big or small.
I don’t remember if I actually followed Manson’s guide exactly to determine my purpose in life, but what the exercise did do was help me begin a journey of figuring out what I wanted to do, how I wanted to live.
Many successful speakers, researchers, and coaches advise people to write lists to help with productivity and accomplishing tasks. Since I love to journal, it wasn’t a far stretch for me to begin my own system of list-making. Now, besides regular to-do lists I write for cleaning the house or grocery shopping, I have a running bucket list of certifications I want to obtain, places I’d like to visit, or other goals I’d like to accomplish. And over the years, that exercise of list-keeping has helped me grow as I find my sense of direction, purpose, personhood.
At first the idea seemed almost selfish – focusing on what I want. But in a way, writing out everything I want helped to get myself out of the way. If I got myself out on paper, I wasn’t stuck in my head and I was able to focus on living my best life. I could see clearly what was realistic or not, and I didn’t have to feel ashamed of my thoughts. I was able to create a roadmap of what to pursue and how to get there. And in so doing, I could create the clarity I needed to free myself up so I could be of service to others as well.
Awhile back I created a post that listed what I would do on an ideal day. It was a very basic list, but it gave me a starting point to help define what I enjoy and what I value. And if I know what I value, I know how to live.