Understanding Your Purpose

Treat Thompson



This is a republishing of The Steady Fella Newsletter. Every week readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.

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No one knows the purpose of life or what we're supposed to do with it. We just know we all have a natural drive inside us that makes us do the things we do.

Maslows Hierarchy

A popular theory that explains this drive is Maslows Hierarchy.

It's a hierarchy of the 5 universal needs that humans are driven to satisfy:

  1. Physiological needs - If these are not satisfied, the human body won't function properly.
  2. Safety needs - People desire order, predictability and control in their lives.
  3. Love and belongingness needs - People want relationships and to be a part of a group.
  4. Esteem needs - People desire high self-esteem and respect from others.
  5. Self-actualization - The highest need. People want to accomplish everything they can and become the most they can be. It's about being yourself and doing what fulfills you.

Maslows Hierarchy looks like this:

Everyone starts at the bottom and moves up a single-tier after their current need is satisfied. When one need is satisfied, humans naturally become directed towards satisfying the next.

Example: An individual can't progress to safety needs until their physiological needs are met. When their physiological needs are met, the individual will naturally become motivated to satisfy safety needs.

It makes sense. Your priority wouldn't be expressing yourself creatively when you haven't eaten in 15 days.

Top of the pyramid (End goal)

If you're reading this, you most likely have the bottom two needs satisfied just by living in our modern world. If you're lucky, you also belong to an intimate family and friend group.

This means many inherently start at the "esteem needs" level. Although we may bounce up and down throughout life, we virtually have our entire lives to pursue esteem and self-actualization needs.

Maslows Hierarchy is an answer to what drives humans, but I also look at it as a happiness equation.

Having the means to survive, being safe, having relationships, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and achieving your potential is a recipe for a happy human.

Satisfying our top need

So far, we've established that satisfying our need for self-actualization is the ultimate human goal.

Now I'll share two approaches to achieving this goal, the Venn Diagram of Purpose and Ikigai.

Note: The Venn Diagram of Purpose often gets mislabelled as Ikigai, but they are two separate entities.

Venn Diagram of Purpose

The Venn Diagram of Purpose displays your life purpose as a combination of what you love, what you're good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

Each one of those components is made up of two sub-components that create the main one. These are passion, profession, mission, and vocation.

The Venn diagram looks like this:

When you understand your subcomponents and answer your four questions, you arrive at your purpose.


Ikigai is an extremely simple approach to self-actualization. It's a Japanese word that simply means "a reason to live".

There's no framework or questions to ask yourself. When you find your reason to live, you find your Ikigai.

Pursuing that could be all it takes to achieve self-actualization.

This weeks quote

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. - Carl Jung

I write about being yourself often, and no quote on the idea has hit me harder than this one.

It describes being yourself as an advantage that only a select few ever achieve. I find that to be a sad truth.

It sounds so simple to be yourself, but It's just as simple to be put down a path in life that's not your own. I'm sure it happens to millions, if not billions of people in the world.

Because of this reality, breaking free from external influence and becoming who you truly are is a privilege of a lifetime.

This weeks question

Are you able to completely fill out the Venn Diagram of Purpose?

My Answer:

I can fill out around 75% of it.

I know what I love doing, and I know that it matches with what the world needs. I can't fill out "what you can be paid for" and "what you are good at" because I haven't attempted to monetize the passion, and I'm still developing the skill that the passion requires.