The seasoned psychologist peered at me over her glasses and exclaimed, it’s a miracle that you didn’t turn out to be an alcoholic bag lady living on the streets. Indeed it is a wonder that I have achieved a life of success, love and happiness against long odds.

At 11 years old, feeling lost, abandoned and with little motivation to study, I was a likely candidate for joining the delinquent group at school. I had just been bounced back to live with my birth family after my aunt and uncle had their first birth child. Being rejected again was devastating. With no one to share my confused and unarticulated feelings with, I spun down even further.

Then I discovered that no matter how miserable I felt, there were others having a worse experience, dreadful. That knowledge drove me to do what I can to help others. Righting injustice. Helping to make others happier and healthier. Everything changed. Having a life purpose gave me the strength and courage to keep trying when times were rough and the future looked bleak. I aced my classes, skipped ahead in grades and received early acceptance to attend University in the USA. I left home. I was motivated to learn so that I have the skills and knowledge to help others.

Life purpose, we all have one. Many of us have adopted what others told us to be our reason for living instead of our own. How can we tell? When you achieve a milestone in your life purpose, do the feelings of happiness and fulfillment last longer than the celebratory fuzzy drink? When it’s not your true passion, the feeling of joy dissipates quickly. It is like eating junk food; it fills the stomach/mind but it does not provide deeper and lasting nourishment.

Ask yourself, what gives me true joy? What would I like to be remembered for? What would I regret doing/not doing when I look back at the end of my life? If your answers are aligned with what you are doing now, congratulations! You can use them as encouragements when you encounter obstacles in your life and work. Your purpose will provide the fuel that will sustain you through the inevitable tough patches in life.

What if your answers didn’t give you that comforting response? Or you are not sure what you want? Relax, you can find the answers. They are inside of you. We all have an inner knowing. It is easy for this precious innermost intelligence to be drowned out by the outer world. Take time to awaken the knowledge that you were born with. Journal. Meditate. Wonder. Let it surface from where it has been hidden inside you for so long.

When you are aligned with your life purpose, your life is more productive, creative and fun. Step back from your daily life to review your to-do list and the urgent things that “need” to be done. Pause and reflect on your various tasks. Are they leading you closer or further away from your purpose? How does your job, your attitude, your thoughts and actions draw you closer or pull you away from your reason for being?

Here are four tools to keep you on purpose:

1. Give thanks each morning on having a life purpose. A short reminder of what is most important for you will guide your decisions throughout the day to serve you in the long run.

2. When you encounter obstacles, pause. Reflect on the bigger picture before you decide how to respond.

3. Celebrate your progress. It is easy to get deeply engrossed in the end goal and lose sight of the incremental successes that you are making. Taking regular assessments of how you are advancing on your life purpose will encourage you to keep moving forward.

4. Share your life purpose with others. This will inspire others as well as strengthen your commitment to what is dearest to you.

Life purpose, it’s what keeps you vitally alive. Live it each day with passion and you’ll leave this planet with peace in your heart. Happiness is a choice. Choose to live your life with purpose, and inner peace and joy will be yours.

The two most important days in your life are:

The day you were born. The day you realized why you were born. Anonymous