One of the hardest areas I find to work on with athletes is purpose. Why should they care about that when they just want to run fast / score more goals / jump better? But those who do want to figure out there find so many benefits.

A powerful purpose gives you a guiding philosophy that can ensure decisions are easier to make and helps you use your passion to accomplish what matters to you.

In the sports and performance worlds we talk a lot about motivation – but what is the point of being motivated if we don’t have a worthy direction to channel it into? Purpose gives us that direction.

Purpose is made up of three key elements; the direction in which it sends us, a need to  contribute to the wider world and the ability to behave with consistency. It becomes a type of scaffolding so rather than avoiding tricky situations, we approach them with intention.

Purpose then prevents us drifting, offers a way of actualizing our values and goals and helps us align our skills and passions with the need we identify in the world around us.

A meta-analysis found the most purposeful people have above average health, feel some kind of competence or mastery, have higher quality relationships, more resilience and can develop coping mechanisms to combat stress and distress.

Purpose makes us happy because when our achievements match our values, we experience joy and it can make us feel safe because it helps us find our tribe so we feel stronger together. This feeling of togetherness is a powerful motivator.

So how do we find our purpose? It is a lifelong process and often entwined within your personality. It is a mixture of who you are and what you hope to accomplish.  

Ideally, we find our purpose as a teenager and during early adulthood, as part of our general identity formation. If parents get too involved though it can be harmful – if you follow their direction to keep them happy you risk living a life that will never feel like your own.

If we are figuring it out as an adult ask four questions:

  1. What values do you follow when you find yourself up against it?
  2. What sort of injustice raises your hackles?
  3. Has there been a transformative event in your life?
  4. What have you seen in life that inspires you?

Putting these together – what kind of purpose do you find?

Then stress test it:

  1. Does it provide us with a framework to make difficult decisions.
  2. Is it social; does it help others?

If this tricky try the delightfully titled ‘death reflection’, where we put our future life in context and think about what we would like to leave behind when we die. What mark would we like to have left on the world?

If death reflections feel too glib then simply answer the question, ‘What matters to me?’ Once you have written something, rewrite it using half the words. And keep doing the same thing, until you are left with a single sentence.

Or you can imagine you have become famous for working towards your purpose and someone has written a Wikipedia page about you. What would you like them to write? What will they have noticed about you and your purpose?

Now all you have to do is go out and find ways to live your purpose. And if you want some tips to do this they are in The 10 Pillars of Success