How to Discover Your Life Path: The Simple (and Fun) 4-Step Exercise to Discovering What to Do with Your Life

How to Discover Your Life Path

How to discover your life path, or your "calling", is a popular topic that I get asked about pretty regularly, so I wanted to cover a useful (and super fun) technique which I used years ago that eventually led me to discover my life path.

This is also a technique- and in many ways a meditation- which I've now taught to many of those Buddhaimonia readers who have emailed me in the past about the topic.

At Buddhaimonia, I'm careful if and when I talk about finding your purpose in life. That's because when you really take the time to look deeply you'll see that the idea of needing to find your purpose is really just another way for us to tell ourselves that we're missing something and that until we get that "thing" we can't ever be happy or at peace.

When we believe this, we gain the feeling of being lost, like nothing we do really matters all that much.

But, the thing is, this is simply a lie that's been instilled in us through the collective consciousness- meaning it's no particular person's fault, it's just how we think before we take the time to really look deeply into the issue- and is something we need to learn how to move beyond if we ever hope to find a meaningful and purposeful path for our lives.

The real shift that needs to happen is to go from believing that you have some innate calling, something you were "meant" to do, to understanding that you create your own sense of meaning and purpose in life.

But that still doesn't answer the question- how DO you figure out what you're going to do with your life?

So you decide, you create, your own life path and as a result your own sense of meaning and purpose. But how do you actually figure out what it's going to be?

Several years ago I asked this same question. And to answer that question, I devised an exercise. The exercise centered on discovering two major things:

  1. Find out what you love to do. This means finding out what you have a passion for, what you REALLY enjoy doing, versus those things which you just kind of like.
  2. Finding out what you're good at. Preferably, not just good, but really good at. Those things that come naturally to you. This comes secondary to #1, but is still very important, because we can derive an equivalent sense of meaning, purpose, and joy from anything which allows us to contribute to others with our gifts. In fact, contributing to others or "helping the greater good", along with loving what we do, is what actually instills in us a sense of meaning and purpose, to begin with.

Why did I center on these two things? Because when it comes to what to do with your life, it all comes down to these two things.


Get the "Discover Your Life Path" workbook

I put together a pretty large workbook to accompany the "Discover Your Life Path" exercise. You can pick it up for free by clicking the green button below:


The "Discover Your Life Path" exercise

  1. List your previous (and current) loves and interests. I started by listing every single thing I had ever loved to do in my life starting way back from childhood to the present moment. For me, this included things such as basketball, games, drawing, music, writing/poetry, business/entrepreneurship, martial arts, and philosophy (particularly Eastern).
  2. Questions. From there I asked myself questions such as why I thought I liked those things so much, what I thought of them now, what new things seemed like fun to try and whether I could see myself pursuing any of them.
  3. Get out there and test (have fun!). I then tried out each of those things again, or for the first time if they were new. I did them for a few moments, some a few days, some longer. Whatever span of time I felt was necessary to give that activity an honest shot, I did it.
  4. Record your findings. I then recorded my thoughts and feelings. Make sure you don't hold back here. Write down everything that comes to mind, good and bad.

I then repeated the steps for those things which I discovered I was good at throughout my life.

You might need to dig a bit for this one, don’t just stay at base skills like “I’m good at basketball”. Go deeper to, “People have told me I’m very kind and compassionate, and I often volunteer when I have time.” Think “wider”, not narrow to base activities like the last exercise.

Number 2 then becomes, "Why am I good at those things?", as well as, "What are my specific skills/talents which I can find out from this?"

Number 3 stays the same, but you're essentially asking yourself the question, "Do I truly enjoy doing this?", and, "Could I see myself doing this for a living, each and every day, for the rest of my life?"

Doing this exercise for our skills and talents is important, because simply by doing what we're good at, specifically as a medium to help others, we gain a great sense of meaning and purpose.

Number 3 shifts to centering around those questions because you while you might be good at a certain activity, or have a certain quality, you can't see yourself doing that activity nor do you see yourself using that quality while doing any of the activities you've narrowed down thus far.

And lastly, Number 4 is identical to the first version of the exercise.

I did this same thing with people even:

  1. List the people. I went through a list of all the people I had idolized throughout my life and listed the specific qualities that I admired about them.
  2. Record your findings. I then recorded any themes that popped up and how I felt about those qualities (did I have them, did I not, did I want them and did I feel like that was me?)

This third version of the exercise further helped me discover things about myself such as what I valued and what interested me.

By no means is it required, but it can be helpful.

Once you've finished:

Once you've completed the exercise, take time to study what you've discovered.

One thing you can opt to do, especially if the first round revealed some new activities you didn't expect to enjoy so much, or if you want to try something new you didn't think of before, is to do the exercise over again, with a second round of activities.

This second time there's likely only to be a few things you'll be trying (or trying again), but it can be beneficial depending on what you discovered the first time you did the exercise.

By now you've probably noticed that a huge part of this exercise is really just having fun doing a bunch of different activities you might consider devoting your life to. When it gets down to it, this exercise really is a blast to do.

An important note on what gives us meaning and purpose

I wanted to take a second to make sure to "clear the air" so to speak about something connected with the typical ideas we have about finding "meaning" and "purpose" in our lives.

I mentioned earlier about how it's important to understand that you create a sense of meaning and purpose in your life and not to wait around for it to hit you over the head.

But what's also very important to understand is that we don't realize a sense of meaning or "purpose" through just doing things we enjoy, but through connecting with others in positive and meaningful ways.

It's when we come together and work in harmony that we're compelled with a feeling of purpose and meaning in our lives, and so once you decide what you'd like to do (or begin to narrow it down), start thinking about how you can truly do that while connecting with others in a way that benefits others in some positive way.

The cool thing about this is, you can connect with others in positive ways doing just about anything (not literally, but just about), but the tough part is this part is really up to you to figure out.

Just keep in mind: doing something for the sake of yourself won't ever instill in you a sense of meaning and purpose in your life, no matter how hard you work, how successful you are, or how good you become.

A positive side effect: the personal and spiritual significance of the "How to Discover Your Life Path" exercise

I wanted to make sure to highlight this in its own section as it was pretty profound for me.

This exercise had a positive side effect on me- it gave me a crystal clear perspective on my life as a whole and what had driven me up to that point. This is was an invaluable insight.

It helped me, more than anything else in the exercise, discover that just maybe what I wanted to do was always sitting right in front of me and I was just never willing to accept it out of fear of being judged by others or out of the fear of the consequences of deciding such a path.

Maybe when you were little you just wanted to sing and dance but your parents scoffed at the idea, veering you towards the traditional (and gravely incorrect) mindset of “be a doctor or a lawyer” that so many of us were subjected to.

Or maybe when you were in high school you wanted to be an artist but completely forgot about the notion and buried it deep within yourself after everyone around you said comments like “you’ll never make any money” “it’s so hard to be a successful artist” “you should pick something else easier”.

Whatever it is, by doing this exercise you’ll begin to see at what points in your life you were being authentic and at what points you were letting fear take the wheel.

As Brene Brown learned from her decade’s worth of research, the willingness to be vulnerable is required to discover and express your authentic self, and this is directly connected with discovering your path in life.

Keep in mind, this exercise will likely take weeks to complete. It took me nearly a month and that was just the first exercise I just listed, not the process of discovering my completely authentic self.

You’re digging deep on this one, rummaging around in the darkest parts of your mind for things you potentially haven’t thought about in years. This is your entire life you’re scanning through, so don’t rush the process.

It will be well worth the time spent.


Get the "Discover Your Life Path" workbook

I put together a pretty large workbook to accompany the "Discover Your Life Path" exercise. You can pick it up for free by clicking the green button below: