Adam Leipzig is a Hollywood film producer and entrepreneur. In this 10 minute TED talk he walks us through 5 simple questions to help us understand what our life purpose is. From this life purpose we can then go on to do the work we sense we were called and even born to do. This is so much more than having a job or earning a paycheque.

Leipzig tells us that the idea for the talk came at his 25 year reunion from university. While there he noticed that the vast majority of his classmates were unhappy with their lives. From an external perspective there appeared to be so much in their favour. He describes them as “privileged, and highly educated, and financially well off, and in positions of power. And they had the first house, and the second house, and they had the first spouse, and the second spouse. And 80% of them were unhappy with their lives.”

What was different about the other 20%? Leipzig noticed that they had not pinned their expectations on a chosen career path that would be the source of their fulfilment, satisfaction and financial security. This is how he describes this happier minority which included himself:

We had studied literature and Renaissance rhetoric, and we were the theatre people, and the history geeks. We had studied classes for the joy of learning, not because we thought they were going to put direct us to a specific job. We still got jobs, we were living our lives expansively, with life’s ups and downs, and we did not feel that we had wasted a single minute.”

From this positive and enriching perspective he talks us through 5 simple questions to help us articulate our life purpose:…..

  1. Who are you? Simply your name!
  2. What do you love to do or feel supremely qualified to teach others?
  3. Who do you do it for?
  4. What do they want or need?
  5. How do they change or transform as a result of what you give them?

The power of these questions are that three of the five are outwardly focussed. The more clearly you can see what you do makes a beneficial difference in the lives of others the more likely you are to come closer to your life purpose.

What is my take on the talk?
I can certainly identify with the disappointment and frustration of expecting my career to provide the fulfilment and security I was looking for. I have also began to see how identifying too closely with one’s career can be somewhat stifling and constricting. In many ways this blog and podcast are an attempt to expand and develop my own areas of passion and interest.

Here are my answers:

  1. Who am I? Sunil!
  2. What do I love to do? I’ve broken it down into reading, reflecting and relating. What I love about his summary is that it covers my day job as a psychiatrist, and as a coach and spiritual teacher.
  3. Who do I do it for? Those people who find they self-sabotage or get stuck in negative thoughts and habits. This derails them, preventing them living life to their full potential and reaching the life of their dreams.
  4. What do they want or need? A greater clarity or motivation to break free of their self-imposed limitations.
  5. How do they change or transform as a result? They live life with a greater sense of purpose and direction, knowing the best and most exciting part of their lives is ahead of them.

If the concept of life purpose is hard for you to grasp, the following definition of life work from which purpose flows may be helpful. Your life work is:

  1. Work that gives your life meaning.
  2. Work that lets you be your best self and helps you become a better self.
  3. Work that is an unparalled pleasure when it goes well and is worth fighting and sacrificing for when it goes poorly.
  4. Work you are willing to organise your life around.

Dan Sullivan also talks about this in terms of unique ability:

Work you love doing.
Work that you are very good at.
Work that gives you and others energy when you do it.
Work you always want to get better at and endlessly improve.

How does Adam Leipzig’s talk resonate with you? What questions or comments do you have? How clear are you on your life work?

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #032: How to know joy when life feels tough

Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment.