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Finding Your Unique Purpose

Finding Your Unique Purpose

A 5-step exercise to discover your unique contribution to the world.


Each of us is here to make a unique contribution to better the world. In addition to our unique personal mission, we also have a universal mission of being “a light unto the nations” as being part of the Jewish people. Understanding our universal and unique personal mission engenders a sense of purpose and drive; it is one of the keys to living a meaningful, energized life.

A person charged with a purpose is free from boredom and looking for distractions to kill time. Living with purpose also has a curative power. A person with a mission is liberated from the psychological malady of self-absorption and frees him from envy, competition, and hatred of others, enabling him to love and help others.

Here are five steps to help you discover what your unique contribution and purpose is and how to live it.

STEP 1: Recognize that your unique contribution to the world will be a very specific activity which you love and excel at. Take a moment to think about people you know who are making their unique contribution. It is not hard to recognize these people: the composer and musician, the stand-up comedian, the woman who specializes in educating mothers about Judaism, the fundraiser of an organization, the man who teaches Talmud in a yeshiva, the woman who is a teacher of young children, the philanthropist, the mom who loves being the mother of 12 children, the man who sits on the boards of many community organizations. All of these examples have one thing in common; they are all involved in a specific activity that defines what their unique purpose is.

CAUTION! Many people overlook their unique contribution because it is not big and spectacular enough. We live in a culture that defines meaningful contributions in terms of status, fame, glamour, awards, name recognition, titles, and wealth. Your contribution does not have to earn you a Nobel Prize or an Olympic gold medal. Many people actually know what their contribution should be but fail to take ownership of it because they compare themselves with those who get all the publicity and devalue their own unique offering.

Don’t overlook what is right under your nose because you’re spending too much time looking under other people’s noses! .

Here are some questions to help you track down your unique contribution:

  1. If you had a billion dollars what would you do all day?
  2. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you love to do?
  3. What activity makes you feel most alive?
  4. What activity do you lose a sense of time when you do it?
  5. What do you enjoy learning about most?
  6. What do you enjoy talking about most with others?
  7. What do you spend most of your money on?
  8. What issue has been a constant theme in your life?
  9. What kind of giving is most rewarding for you?
  10. What have you struggled most with in your life? (Note: What we struggle with is often what we want to help others overcome)
  11. What is your fantasy about how you will save the world?
  12. What is a unique talent you have that you excel in?
  13. What excites you?

STEP 2: Start writing possibilities of what your unique contribution might be and don’t stop until you run out of ideas.

STEP 3: The right one will give you a huge rush when you write it out.

Now write the sentence: “My unique contribution in the world is to___________.

STEP 4: Take ownership of your contribution. Remember your unique contribution will be a very specific action that you love doing. Confucius said, “Do something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” What we are here to do actually calls to us and pulls us towards it. Are you listening?

STEP 5: Make a plan how you will either start making your contribution or if you’re already doing it, how you can do more of it and do it better in order to make more of an impact.

There is only one you. When you’re gone, your mold will never be used again. Judaism maintains not only is it necessary for our well-being to know our unique purpose, but it is an obligation to find it and actualize it. As Hillel said, “If not now, when?”

January 2, 2016

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Visitor Comments: 8

(6) Jaya, January 10, 2016 12:57 PM

Mission !

An excellent and thought provoking article !

(5) Marl, January 7, 2016 7:22 PM

Fire in the belly

No matter what, the only way I understand is whether there is a fire in my belly.

I love theater; I auditioned and was in 4 plays in 5 years. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time - but something was missing. Finally, my husband said the words: You don't have the fire in the belly - the total commitment to the craft - the burning desire to do nothing else, no matter what.

Alas, I understood. He was right. As much as I loved being onstage, it wasn't fulfilling something that I hadn't yet found.

I know that when studying for my Bat Mitzvah, I did so with as much belly as possible. When stitching anything Judaic, there is a commitment in my belly.

When someone shows their anti-Semitic side, my belly fires up! I no longer allow anyone, including clergy, to undermine my Jewishness or my people. No one!

(4) Anonymous, January 6, 2016 4:51 AM

Silence is golden!

I took a test later in life that showed a graph of ones likes and abilities - it showed me why all my life my hardest question has been what do I want to do in life? My abilities were find as were my likes - the entire chart had me liking everything - so wonder if you like everything deciding becomes even harder? I think so - I completed in college a 2 semester course and the school conselor wanted me to tell him why of all the courses I had chose the one I had. I'm NOT crazy about math - so I told him the truth - it was the only program that I found in their catalog that didn't have a math class - three guesses how many classes @ that college lack a Math class now - NONE!!! So sorry - to all other college students who from then on had to take the math class too, to earn the certificate. Live and learn and pass it on.

(3) Nancy, January 5, 2016 9:02 PM

To commenter Reuven Frank

I don't think the rabbi is saying you should quit your job to follow your dreams. It sounds like you need to break your desires down into bite sized pieces. I once read that the author Scott Turow wrote his first novel in long hand on a legal pad while commuting to his job each day. Unless one is independently wealthy, we ALL have to work within our economic constraints. I wish you the best of luck in achieving your goals!

Anonymous, September 21, 2017 9:28 AM

About your comment - also to commentor Reuven Frank

Your mention of author Scott Turow reminds me of a speaker who once told about a guy who wrote a book (also long hand and in many little bits), while waiting at the breakfast table for his wife. Which just goes to show that we are capable of doing amazing things, if we utilize the short moments.

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