Five Easy Ways to Discover What You Are Meant to Do With Your Life

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418215_face__questions  There are a few people I run into who know EXACTLY what they want to do with their lives but just can’t quite figure out how to make it happen.  For the vast majority of the others, their struggle is to figure out what work are they meant to do while here on the planet.

If you are in a corporate job, this problem can be exacerbated, since one of the main things you learn to stay viably employed is to REPRESS your true, honest voice inside that says "I can’t stand this meeting and if I have to stay here one more minute I will destroy the PowerPoint projector with my bare hands!" or "If my knucklehead boss stops by my cube one more time with another thing to do, I will jump on my chair, scream like an ape and throw my stapler at him!"

In order to find your "life’s work," the stuff that Jim Collins says you are "genetically encoded to do," you must listen to your true, authentic voice.  It usually speaks through our creative selves more than our rational, so get yourself a three-ring notebook and look here for clues:

  • 412384_bowl_of_popcorn What is your favorite movie?  Is it an action-adventure, romance, science fiction thriller or smart and intellectual foreign flick?  Rent and watch it again, and pay particular attention to the parts that really get you engaged and excited.  Write down what the characters are doing or saying that you find fascinating.  (My favorite:  Belle Epoch, a funny and highly entertaining Spanish film with a very young Penelope Cruz.  I love it because it is romantic and funny with beautiful scenery, a zany plot and sexy characters)
  • 396998_controle_remoto What are your favorite channels on television?  Are you a PBS-only purist, or an E-Entertainment Network gossip junkie?  Do you watch to escape or to learn?  What kinds of programs really excite you?  Watch a few of your favorite shows and write down why you love them (I was a former Law and Order-aholic, but now am fascinated by TLC’s Clean Sweep, a decorating and organizing show.  I love it because it shows stressed out people and rooms transformed into clean, organized and beautiful spaces)
  • 477366_jade_mask What kind of art museums are you attracted to?  Photography exhibits?  Bleeding-edge modern art?  Classic painters?  Take a hooky day at work and visit your favorite museum.  Play the cold-warm-hot game as you drink in the art and make note of the pieces that really get your creative juices flowing and your heart beating.  Write down the artist, piece of art and why you love it so much. (I love many kinds of art, but remember being completely mesmerized by an Impressionist exhibit in Switzerland.  I love the dreamy and idealized natural scenes that communicate peace and tranquility)
  • 213568_ipod_1 What kind of music do you love?  Are you a techno junkie, old school Motown fan or classical music aficionado?  Pull out your favorite CD and listen to the songs.  What do you love about the beat?  The lyrics?  The musicians and singers?  Write down the title and lyrics of your favorite song. (This is another tough one for me since I love so many different types of music.  But one of my favorite CDs is Mary J. Blige’s "No More Drama."  I love her soulful, impassioned declaration of personal power and loving transformation)
  • 443667_clouds_1 What kind of outdoor environment makes you the most happy?  If given a choice, would you rather be sitting at an outdoor table on the Champs-Elysees in Paris or on a remote mountaintop in Nepal?  Do you feel alive scuba diving with sharks or strolling lazily along a country lane?  Where do you feel the most at one with yourself, happy and peaceful? If you can go to this place, do it and write about why you feel so good.  If it is too far, close your eyes and imagine you are there and write about what you remember (I wrote about my favorite outdoor place Phoenix Lake in another post Call in Well Today.  I feel connected to the trees and water, love the rich green colors and totally peaceful and meditative setting)

Your essential self is intimately connected with your creative self.  Review all your notes about your favorite creative endeavors and places.  You may be surprised what they reveal about your true life’s path.

What are your favorites?

Update:  you may appreciate a follow up post to this one which attempts to answer the "so what?" that many feel after doing this exercise.

18 Responses to “Five Easy Ways to Discover What You Are Meant to Do With Your Life”

  1. […] is Martha’s long lost blog editor Pamela Slim stepping in for a moment to let you know about a cool project that Martha just participated in with […]

  2. […] a great little article over at Escape from Cubicle Nation on this very subject. It’s called “Five Easy Ways to Discover What You Are Meant to Do with Your Life”. (And, as an aside, I think the blog name – “Escape from Cubicle Nation” – […]

  3. […] I am much more convinced of the fact that if you practice doing what you love, you are much more likely to discover what to do that you love, or at least like, which also pays the bills.  For years, I have had this gut feeling, which is why I encourage people who feel unsure of what to do in their career to wander around museums or spend time watching movies they like. […]

  4. […] is Martha’s long lost blog editor Pamela Slim stepping in for a moment to let you know about a cool project that Martha just participated in with […]

  5. Brian Bartes says:

    Hi Pam,

    While I agree with the comments posted about this exercise not being a magic elixir, I still applaud your post. Most people go through life not even asking the question, yet they wonder why they end up where they did. I say go for it! As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”


  6. Sarah says:

    The problem for me is that I have too many things that I would love to do. It’s hard to pick just one. I believe all these type of exercises are great because they reinforce the idea of keeping your eyes and ears open because you never know when epiphany may strike. This is one of my favorite blogs when I think it will never happen for me.

    Thanks Pam.

  7. Now this is very interesting, impressive and never thought of. In simple words well done for providing creative information.

  8. Rosie Clarke says:

    Dear Pam,

    These are interesting exercises, and figuring out where my “happy places” are is certainly inspiring.

    However, I can’t help partly agreeing with Morgan above: while this may give me hints as to what I should do to be happy in my free time, who I’d benefit from connecting with, and where I should think about travelling to in future, I’m not sure whether it’s of much help in determining a career path.

    Just my two cents – but thanks for another thought-provoking read.

    Best wishes, Rosie

    You are right Rosie — this is just the beginning of a process of discovering what you are meant to do. The blog post title may be a bit sensationalist (if you can discover your life purpose by reading 500 words or less, you are amazing!), but it does start the process of discovery for many people.

    What is important is reconnecting with the part of yourself that is open, creative and joyful. Once you get this part open, you can observe yourself, and the world, with new eyes. I explain a bit more in this follow up post and in my podcast interview with Martha Beck:

    For a more complete process, I always recommend Martha’s book, Finding Your Own North Star.

    Good luck!

    All the best,


  9. Latarsha says:

    This posts really made me stop and think.

    As I was reading your post, I began to think about my favorite movies, exhibits, music and then…I began to see a pattern emerging.

    Thanks for sharing your insight, this exercised really helped me a lot.

  10. Tom Volkar says:

    I also loved this post. There’s a reason why the movie Braveheart speaks to me that goes far beyond my attraction to good historical action flicks. My gut says it has something to do with the high value William Wallace placed on freedom.

    To commenter Helen I say, liking alot of things is not a problem. I’m kind of a variety freak myself and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fresh energy is worth the cost. Embrace your tendency to love a lot of different things.

  11. Helen South says:

    A thought-provoking post!

    The problem I have is that I love everything. I can’t choose. I want the mountaintop -and- the Parisian Café, I love Room with a View -and- Blade Runner. I make art, write, play music, parent. (not to mention 50 crafty and geeky hobbies). Barbara Sher’s ‘Refuse to Choose’ has helped a little, but there are only so many hours a day: does this mean I’m condemned to mediocrity? Or that I just haven’t found the right way to fit all my passions into a single vision?

  12. Justin says:

    I’m also a huge fan of personality tests. I’ve had a great deal of success with the Myers-Briggs test. Once you have a clearer understanding of your aptitudes, propensities, strengths and weakness, it is much easier to start identifying the sort of the things that really make you tick. I have some more detailed info on this on my site, for anyone who may be interested in self exploration. Cheers.

  13. Im still a Cubicle Man

    Sing it to the tune of Grand Funk Railroads iconclastic song Were an American Band. Go on, sing it loud, Im still a Cubicle Man. Yeah, yeah! Unlike Grand Funk, this morning I dont have anything to…

  14. For me, it is enlightening to go through my bookmarks once in a while and re-discover the multitude of things that genuinely interest me.

    I think that a bookmark file is not only a good way to track and organize websites, but also a useful tool to help you discover that elusive activity around which to build a business that you enjoy.

  15. Ron says:

    I love the title and idea behind your blog!

    What I think that all of your ideas point to is getting real data about subjective you. The modern world was created when we moved from tradition to experimentation. I believe that the modern you can be had the same way.
    Ron at

  16. Morgan says:

    I wouldn’t encourage folks to spend much time in trying to Discover What You Are Meant to Do With Your Life . as that idea infers that there is some sort of divine/predestination/preconceived plan for what it is that you are supposed to be doing.

    We can be genetically inclined to have specific skills; math, language, etc.. but we can’t be encoded for specific jobs, nor dealing with other people in those jobs.

    If that were the case, then our pondering about our futures wouldn’t matter at all.

    People tend to create their own jobs when everything else is unappealing.

  17. Four other exercises I’ve done:
    How did you spend your free time as a child?
    What is your favorite scar?
    What is your first memory?
    If you had to choose a single memory to represent what your life means, what would it be?

  18. What Am I Meant to Do with My Life?

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