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Unlock Your purpose (intentional small p)

I searched “find my purpose” recently and found about 1.5 billion results. It appears that many of us, post-pandemic, are seeking a purposeful life.

Many of us struggle to answer the question, “What should I be doing with my life?” “What’s my life about, really?”

Some of us uncover our life’s direction early in life. But, most of us grapple with trial and error as we go through life. This is probably why googling “find my purpose” generates so many results.

Do you ever feel that Purpose (big P) is just not for you? If yes, fear not. You’re not alone. When I speak to groups about the reality that there are two types of purpose, they take a deep breath and smile. Why?

Because there is purpose with a small “p” (intentional small “p”) and Purpose with a capital “P.” Purpose (capital P) connects us with a cause, and it’s often daunting. Purpose (small p) is just as worthy and valuable, but on a smaller scale. Small p purpose makes a contribution daily to others. Not every act has to save the world to be noble and meaningful. That’s the sigh of relief that I experience in audiences.

Purpose is a Path and a Practice

My capital P purpose is “Unlocking Purpose.” This capital P has changed very little throughout my career. My small p purpose is to “make purpose practical.” And that has changed and continues to as I age.

Purpose (capital or small) is a path and a practice. It answers: “How can I make a contribution here, now, in this moment. And, there are 1440 small p “purpose moments” in a day to make your contribution.

Unlock your small p purpose

Each of us is called to contribute in many significant ways in this life. For example, we’re likely to discover many things we’re passionate about and are rewarding. Sometimes we will be paid and most often we will do what we love for free because it is fulfilling.

There’s so much talk about finding purpose and yet purpose has a way of finding us rather than the other way around. We may only see it dimly, or just catch glimpses from time to time, but it’s there. This is where we need to do some reflection to unlock those things that will bring the most meaning to our lives.

What is your small p purpose? Purpose is unlocked rather than found and discovered. It might be as simple as the universal default purpose: “To grow and give.” Or, to make a difference in one person’s life, today.

To unlock your small p purpose, here are some simple essentials for you to consider.

Over the years, I’ve talked to hundreds of people about how their purpose (small p) finds them rather than the other way around. The small p questions I love to explore are these:

  1. purpose is a verb
    ~ What did I do today that was boring, tedious, and draining my energy?
    ~ What did I do today that I enjoyed and found rewarding and energizing?
  2. purpose is a path
    ~ Are you staying true to yourself? Know what’s really important to you and those values and beliefs you will not compromise, no matter what.
    ~ Stay curious and engaged in life. Priorities change, but don’t withdraw and retreat from life.
  3. purpose is a practice
    ~ What’s your reason to get up in the morning? Does my purpose enlarge me or diminish me?
    ~ Are you giving back to your friends, family, colleagues generously and compassionately? Compassion is the soul of purpose.

The Choice is Ours

It’s been more than 40 years since I began studying purpose (both capital P and small p) and longer than that since I began collecting stories from wise elders for insight into aging purposefully. Our life begins twice: the day we are born and the day we accept the challenge that our life is essentially ours to choose. The choice is ours, and if we are not exercising that choice, someone else is choosing for us. We can say yes or no, but we cannot say we have no choice in the matter.


Richard Leider, founder of Inventure – The Purpose Company, is the author of eleven books, including three best sellers, which have sold over one million copies. Repacking Your Bags and The Power of Purpose are considered classics in the personal growth field.  Richard’s PBS Special – The Power of Purpose – was viewed by millions of people across the U.S.  His newest book, Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging is now available.

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