What's my purpose in life? Well, what's yours?

We all seek a purpose in life that aligns with our values and interests. We want it to be both personally satisfying and bigger than ourselves. We want impact. We want to do work that matters.

The question of purpose nags us. For some, it's a question that never seems to get answered.

I've seen some good advice and reflective questions aimed at helping you find your purpose. When you're stuck, though, this kind of "blank slate" advice can be too vague and difficult. Searching your heart and head for answers that aren't coming easily can be frustrating and unproductive when you don't have anything to orient you.

So, how can we get some clarity on this big question? Author Kristi Hedges recently shared 5 Questions to Help Your Employees Find Their Inner Purpose in the Harvard Business Review. Her intent was to help managers and leaders support their employees in finding meaning in their work. But these questions -- and the process of guiding others to finding their answers -- can have a dual benefit. While your employees gain clarity on their next steps, it might just help you too.


At it's core, finding your purpose means learning more about yourself and then developing your strengths and interests. And engaging in conversation -- even when the discussion is primarily focused on someone else -- hits on several tenants necessary for adult learning and development. As adults, we learn best by actively exploring topics, pulling from our life experiences, and collaborating with others. When asking questions, we can't help but reflect on someone's responses and try them on for size in our own life. Further, providing insight, guidance, and direction create an ideal environment for personal growth and discovery. Giving advice to somebody else is frequently the best way to convince yourself to take that advice, too.

Asking someone else questions about what they're good at or enjoy doing causes us to reflect on how we'd answer the same questions. Even if you don't say a word about yourself, you leave these conversations with greater clarity about your own purpose. If you go through this process with each of your employees, you'll build your self-awareness and create more certainty about your own direction at work and in life. You'll either feel validated, or you'll have your eyes opened to other possibilities.

This win-win approach will help you find your purpose while helping someone else find theirs.

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Published on: Nov 16, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.