Adapted from “Life on Purpose: How Living For What Matters Most Changes Everything,” in agreement with HarperOne.
Your purpose is your fingerprint. Your DNA. It’s the statement that separates you from your boss, the street urchin in Mumbai, and your jerk of a brother-in-law. Your “best purpose” becomes your inner motivator, turning on the ignition switch in your brain to transcend the noise in your life and focus on what matters most.
Step 1: Consider what matters most to you from the following grid of core values.
Select three that you care about the most in your life, or if you have one that is not listed here, go ahead and use that one.
Step 2: Think about a person or people you’d like to emulate (not imitate).
This can be a family member, historical figure, public figure, or even cartoon character. This is your purpose, and you can choose whatever mix of people you like.
Step 3: Take the Headstone Test.
Draw a headstone, write your name on it, and write in your date of birth. For the date of death, write “TODAY.” What would your epitaph be if today was the last day of your life? What would you want people to say at your memorial service?
Step 4: Determine what goals in your life matter the most.
To make this easier, you can break these into personal, family, work (or school), and community goals that you deeply value.
Step 5: Assemble your goals into an overall life purpose.
Stop and ask yourself, “Is this purpose bigger than myself?” Also ask, “In living toward this purpose, will I treat others the way I would like to be treated?”
Step 6: Post your purpose in a place where you’ll see it every day.
Make sure you can recite your purpose to yourself or others. Consider sharing your purpose with the people who are close to you. If the purpose doesn’t seem to fit you, change it until it does.
Victor J. Strecher
Vic Strecher (pronounced “streker”) is a behavioral scientist, professor, and Director of Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. He is also founder and President of JOOL Health (www.joolhealth.com), a digital health solution company that integrates the science of purpose in life, advanced smartphone and biometric technology, and big data analytics to improve well-being, helping users become better researchers of themselves as they develop, and align daily with, their purpose in life.
In 1995, Vic founded the UM Center for Health Communications Research (www.chcr.umich.edu), a pioneering organization in the research of digitally-tailored health communications. Through this Center, he has been a leading investigator on over $45 million in grant-funded studies of computer-based interactive communications for health-related behavior change and decision-making.
In 1998, Vic founded HealthMedia Inc., an Ann Arbor-based company that grew to over 185 employees, developing and disseminating award-winning tailored health interventions for health promotion, disease prevention, behavioral health, and disease management to millions of users before being purchased in 2008 by Johnson & Johnson.
Vic and the organizations he founded – the University of Michigan Center for Health Communications Research and HealthMedia, Inc – have won numerous national and international awards, including the Secretary of Health and Human Services Award for Innovations in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, two Smithsonian Awards, four International Health and Medical Media Awards (the “Freddie”), the International Film Festival Silver Screen Award, Health Evolution Partners Innovations in Healthcare Award, two eHealthcare Leadership Awards, and the National Business Coalition on Health’s Mercury Award. In 2010, Vic won the University of Michigan’s Distinguished Innovator Award and his School of Public Health’s Award for Translating Research into Practice. In 2014, he won the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.