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What’s the “Why” Behind Everything You Do?

Excerpted from the book The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield, with Janet Switzer.

Without purpose as the compass to guide you, your goals and action plans may not ultimately fulfill you.

You don’t want to get to the top of the ladder only to find out you had it leaning up against the wrong wall.

When Julie Laipply was a child, she was a very big fan of animals.

As a result, all she ever heard growing up was “Julie, you should be a vet. You’re going to be a great vet. That’s what you should do.”

So when she got to Ohio State University, she took biology, anatomy, and chemistry, and started studying to be a vet.

A Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship allowed her to spend her senior year studying abroad in Manchester, England.

Away from the family and faculty pressures back home, she found herself one dreary day sitting at her desk, surrounded by biology books and staring out the window, when it suddenly hit her: You know what? I’m totally miserable.

Why am I so miserable? What am I doing? I don’t want to be a vet!

Julie then asked herself, What is a job I would love so much that I’d do it for free but that I could actually get paid for?

It’s not being a vet. That’s not the right job.

Then she thought back over all the things she’d done in her life and what had made her the most happy.

And then it hit her—it was all of the youth leadership conferences that she had volunteered at, and the communications and leadership courses she had taken as elective courses back at Ohio State.

How could I have been so ignorant? Here I am at my fourth year at school and just finally realizing I’m on the wrong path and not doing the right thing. But it’s been here in front of me the whole time. I just never took the time to acknowledge it until now.

Buoyed by her new insight, Julie spent the rest of her year in England taking courses in communications and media performance. When she returned to Ohio State, she was eventually able to convince the administration to let her create her own program in “leadership studies,” and while it took her 2 years longer to finally graduate, she went on to become a senior management consultant in leadership training and development for the Pentagon.

She also won the Miss Virginia USA contest, which allowed her to spend much of 2002 speaking to kids all across Virginia, and more recently she has created the Role Models and Mentors for Youth Foundation, which teaches kids how to be better role models for one another.

By the way, Julie is only 26 years old—a testament to the power that clarity of purpose can create in your life.

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to England for a year abroad to get away from the daily pressures of your life long enough to create the space to discover what you are really here to do.

You can simply take the time to complete two simple exercises that will help you clarify your purpose.

To begin to home in on your purpose, make a list of the times you have felt most joyful and alive. What are the common elements of these experiences?

Can you figure out a way to make a living doing these things?

This second exercise is a simple but powerful way to create a compelling statement of your life purpose to guide and direct your behavior.


1. List two of your unique personal qualities, such as enthusiasm and creativity.

2. List one or two ways you enjoy expressing those qualities when interacting with others, such as to support and to inspire.

3. Assume the world is perfect right now. What does this world look like? How is everyone interacting with everyone else? What does it feel like?

Write your answer as a statement, in the present tense, describing the ultimate condition, the perfect world as you see it and feel it. Remember, a perfect world is a fun place to be.

EXAMPLE: Everyone is freely expressing their own unique talents. Everyone is working in harmony. Everyone is expressing love.

4. Combine the three prior subdivisions of this paragraph into a single statement.

EXAMPLE: My purpose is to use my creativity and enthusiasm to support and inspire others to freely express their talents in a harmonious and loving way.

[There are many ways to approach defining your purpose. I learned this version of the life purpose exercise from Arnold M. Patent, spiritual coach and author of You Can Have It All. His most recent book is The Journey. You can visit his Web site at www.arnoldpatent.com.]

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“Julie Laipply also known as Julie Marie Carrier or Julie Carrier is an award winning speaker, author and role model who is especially recognized for her work promoting youth leadership and self-esteem in young women.” Photo: as Miss Virginia USA 2002, she “hammers a nail during work at a Habitat for Humanity house in Gary, Indiana.” [Wikipedia] Her site: http://www.juliespeaks.com/

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Article excerpted from book The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, by Jack Canfield, with Janet Switzer.

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