Purposeful Living

Acting with purpose improves our wellbeing.

People with higher levels of purpose tend to be happier and feel more satisfied with their lives. They have stronger identities and higher levels of self-esteem, and feel more hopeful, optimistic, and confident in their abilities. What's more, they are more likely to be engaged in their communities in positive, helpful ways. Illinois Extension can help you discover your sense of purpose. 

Purpose gives you a strong, stable sense of commitment to something that is meaningful to you and makes a difference in the world around you. It is can be found in all aspects of life and can change over time. Purpose is not just what we are doing, but why we are doing it. When people act with purpose, it means they are intrinsically motivated to do something because it is personally rewarding.

Get to the heart of purpose

  • What am I meant to do?
  • What gives my life meaning?
  • What do I care about?
  • What really matters to me?
  • How can I use my skills to make a difference in the world? 

Take time to reflect on those answers. Write them down, and allow flexibility in yourself to evolve over time.

Why is purpose important?

Purposeful people are stronger and longer-lived.

Purposeful people are more resilient and better able to cope with life's challenges. Purpose has even been related to better physical health and longevity.

Students with a purpose do better at school.

Students with purposeful goals find schoolwork more meaningful and tend to have higher academic achievement because they can see how their efforts relate to future aspirations. A feeling of purpose in life even seems to protect students from potentially negative influences in their environments.

Purpose is a journey, not just a destination.

Interestingly, for teens and young adults, just the process of searching for purpose - even if they haven't found it yet - is associated with great life satisfaction.

Positive relationships with a caring adult are beneficial.

According to research, only 20% of adolescence have a clear sense of purpose, but those who do tend to be better off in many ways. It also shows that the support of teachers, mentors, and other adults outside the family is crucial to young people's development of purpose, particularly in the early stages.


Put it into practice.

Shape your core beliefs and values into a short, one- to two-sentence personal mission statement that represents who you are and paints a big picture of how you want to live your life.

  • What makes you come alive? Think about things bigger than you that put a "fire in your belly," things you really care about that you are willing to put yourself into.
  • What are your innate strengths? We all have them! Think about things that naturally come easy to you and write them down.
  • Where do you add value? Your strengths are perfectly-positioned to help solve challenges in your school, workplace, or organization. Focus on opportunities, roles, and career paths where you are most likely to succeed!
  • How will you measure your life? What are your core values and how can you align your actions and behaviors to support them?


Greater Good in Education, UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center

Do You Know Your Why: 4 Questions to Find Your Purpose. Margie Warrell

Defining Your Purpose -Social Emotional Learning Lesson Highlight. Wiggs, Cody. 2020 Empowering Education Inc.