• Living a life in line with our values and passions can be more purposeful and ultimately fulfilling

  • But how do we identify what these are? Kevan Hall has some tips to help

We all go through life in different stages. Leaving home, starting work, having a family, retirement and other significant life transitions. 

The decisions we make at these important times determine the quality of the rest of our lives. They are the most important decisions we make. 

But life does not come with an owner’s manual on how to make these choices and many people just muddle through. How can we, instead, design a life and career of meaning, engagement and happiness?

To do this we start by understanding what gives us meaning. You can get insights into this by reflecting on four important aspects of your life.

1. Your values

These are already present in your life and shape your choices. They are what you believe in, but often we've not thought about them in detail. Think about a time that you felt satisfied with how things were going in life. Most people find that their peak experiences were when they were able to live their values, and their troughs were when they were prevented from living them.

2. Your strengths

Strengths in this context are the things that you are good at and enjoy doing. You may have learned to be good at some things throughout your career but if you don't enjoy them, it's not going to help to spend more time doing them. Strengths are different from skills. You may have learned to do something such as budget management, the strength behind doing it well may be detail orientation or a love of numbers. 

We tend to be best at things that we enjoy doing. If we can build a life around our strengths, we can fulfil our fullest potential. 

We all have inclinations, talents and things that come easy to us (but not necessarily to others). Your family and friends are probably good sources of identifying these strengths. 

3. Your passions

A passion is something that you cannot imagine yourself not doing, and that you will sacrifice other things to maintain. If you have a real passion, you already know what it is. It could be a hobby or interest. It is likely to be something you're already spending significant amounts of time on or want to. If you are at a busy stage of your life, you may have things that are not quite a passion yet but could be if you had more time to spend on them.

4. Your purpose 

Once you've understood your values, strengths and passions you can bring these together into a statement of purpose. 

Your purpose describes your main motivating aims and goals – why you get up in the morning. 

For some people, the thought of deciding on a life purpose can be too big a question. A simpler way of thinking about it is “how should I spend my time in ways that are important to me?” 

While some people may have a singular purpose that engages them for the whole of their lives, it is often easier to think about the purpose for your next 5-10 years. The purpose you set yourself in your 30s will be quite different than the one you set yourself in your 60s. 

A useful format for writing a purpose statement answers the questions what and why. What will I do, and why will I do it? 

My purpose is to…………………...........… in order to……………………………… 

Once we understand the factors that bring real meaning to our lives, we have created an internal compass, a set of criteria or guidelines for designing the other aspects of our life to be more engaging and fulfilling. 

The quality of our lives lies in how we spend our time. Most of us spend about 40% of our waking lives at work and another 25 to 40% at leisure. If we aren't engaged and fulfilled in these two areas, we have little chance of a happy life. 

However, to take just two examples, only 20% of people say they are highly engaged at work, and people spend an average of over 20 hours per week sitting passively in front of TV screens. It doesn't sound as though we are always getting the best out of our time. 

Living a good life is about following your purpose, living according to your values, exercising your strengths, and pursuing your passions.

Unless you are extremely lucky you won't be able to do all of this in just one domain of your life. The trick is to find a balanced portfolio of activities that enables you to do all these things somewhere in your life and career. 

Living a “portfolio life” is about finding the right blend of career, leisure, interests, and other activities that enable you to feel happy and fulfilled. It is also about how you do these things to build in enjoyment of the moment and improve the quality of the journey.

Nobody else can make the choices, and sometimes the sacrifices, necessary to make this a reality. Hall’s book is based firmly on the principle of you owning and driving the changes you want. 

Find your purpose, redesign your life and career helps you systematically identify and introduce the life choices, interests, relationships and learning that will bring real meaning and enjoyment to your life.

Kevan Hall is the author of the new book Find Your Purpose

Further reading

Why rest isn't a waste of time and how to do more of it

How unconscious forces drive our behaviour at work

How to turn your interests into a career

Finding a work-life balance that works for you