Personal Development

What Is Purpose?

Richard Jacobs, author of 7 Questions To Find Your Purpose, answers some questions on Purpose, career and his book. This is an extract taken from a Facebook Live event with the author. Find the full talk on our Facebook page.

For me, there are three elements, three components of our purpose in life.

The first one is our gifts, talents and abilities. We each have gifts. They’re innate to us. We can cultivate them and we can develop others, but they are innate. Many of them have not been recognized in school or with parents or with peers, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not there.

So, I need to find out what are my gifts, talents and abilities. And the more I do so, the more fruitful and fulfilling my life is going to be. That’s inevitable.

So, number two, what are my values? What are my values on a core level? We have to find out what these are, not in terms of what correct values are, but what are our real values. When push comes to shove, what do I really believe is important?

So gifts, talents and abilities and values.

And thirdly, what is the contribution I am most inspired to make? Now, if I can make a contribution, if I can make a difference in a way that expresses and uses my gifts, talents and abilities and is in total alignment, in total expression, of my core values, that’s got to be 8 or 9 or 10 out of 10 living, isn’t it? It’s never going to be below an 8. You’re never going to say: ‘You know what? I’m using all my gifts, talents and abilities, I’m living my values to the full, I’m making a contribution I’m inspired to make, hmmm… I’m feeling like a three or a four’.

So, these three areas, where these three areas meet—gifts, talents and abilities, values, contribution I’m most inspired to make—what do they all need? Purpose. And how we choose to express that in our work, in our relationship, as a parent, in our physical health, in our spiritual search, all of those areas are then living experiments for it.

And then, the question becomes: If we can find out these things, how can you do it in 90 minutes?

There’s a much simpler method of getting into our deeper self which are called the creative intuitive. And it is to go through the creative mind. You can’t turn the creative mind off. It is always receptive.

So, if you can go through the creative mind into the subconscious, into the deeper part of ourselves and ask really good questions, those questions act like a search engine.

So, when we ask ourselves really good questions—seven actually—which talk about our contribution, which talk about our values, which talk about our gifts, talents and abilities, hidden or apparent, each question acts as a search engine to make what we know somewhere, this massive information in our subconscious and in our greater connection. We know somewhere what the answers are. How could we not? It’s our purpose. It doesn’t come from the outside; it comes from the inside.

And because it’s in there somewhere, what we need are great search engines to be able to find it.

It doesn’t take long using the Internet now to find what we need because we’ve got a good search engine. And so you can find your purpose in 90 minutes.

How do I apply purpose in career choices?

Now, one of the things that often happens is the choice of purpose in pivotal moments. When we’re in big moments of change and what seemed familiar is suddenly not there anymore, we ask ourselves bigger questions.

If our career is a direct application of our purpose, we always feel right about it. What we do is we’re not looking to change careers all the time. We’re looking to deepen our experience of where it is.

I just want to give an example about this, about purposeful career choices and looking at what changes when people are living their purpose.

There’s an amazing story about Gandhi. In The Story of My Experiments with Truth he says he was painfully shy as a young man, as a boy. And when school ended, he would often run home just in case some random stranger would start talking to him, then he would have to face his timidity, his shyness. That sounds like the kind of guy who kicks the British empire out of its richest asset.

So, fast forward to the time that he’s known in South Africa and he’s defending the human rights of Indian people in Africa, he’s got to speak in public. This man of chronic timidity having to speak in public, in front of people, all his fears come on. So he, under normal circumstances, would buckle. But there’s something here which was more important to him than his fear. And that’s his purpose.

And when something is more important to us than our fear, nothing can stop us. Nothing can stop us because the only thing that stop us in life are our fears. It’s not other people. It’s our relationship to those other people. If other people are telling me, “You’re wrong… you’re wrong… you’re wrong… you’re wrong… you’re wrong…” it only makes an impact on me if I believe them. My belief is a manifestation of my fear or my buy-in or my love.

So, if I buy into my own fear or other people’s, of course, I’m going to become a victim of that. I’m going to succumb. I collapse. I contract in life. But if there’s something more important to me than that, phbbttt, it bounces off. I find something else in myself, and I go further. I literally serve the purpose. As the term in French, épanouissement, blossoming. We come out of ourselves, out of the chrysalis.

So, purposeful choices in one’s career mean that we go further than we can ever possibly imagine for ourselves.

So I would say it’s the only way to choose your career.

We spend 41% to 50% of our lives at work. It shouldn’t be a career. This should be a constant expansion of purpose. And we can do it either by choosing jobs that express our purpose or choosing how we do the jobs in a way that is purposeful.


Richard Jacobs is the CEO of YES (www.yesindeed.com), a groundbreaking training and development company training up Change Leaders around the world. Richard has pioneered new forms of learning using interactive theatre and film, storytelling, Socratic questioning and behavioral science. He delivers training on Change, Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, Leadership and Purpose.