What is the purpose of life? of your life? of what you are working on? These eternal questions have occupied some of the wisest minds. Here are some inspiring and challenging quotations on purpose.

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Determine the thing that can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.

— Abraham Lincoln

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.

— Abraham Maslow

In my mid-term vision, movements prioritize building the capacity, skill and wide hearts to receive new comrades, while practicing daily and deeply what it means to sustain our relationships and collective visions, uphold our values, and adapt towards purpose. We find ways to bond that aren’t limited to pettiness, gossip, cliquishness, which can be so fun and then so destructive. We get skilled at critique that deepens us, conflict that generates new futures, and healing that changes material conditions.

— adrienne mariee brown, We Will Not Cancel Us

All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.

— Albert Einstein

When we self-regulate well, we are better able to control the trajectory of our emotional lives and resulting actions based on our values and sense of purpose.

— Amy Leigh Mercree

Our own experiences of grace give an inchoate meaning to the stories of our lives. They hint at purposes which exist beyond ourselves.

— Andrew M. Greeley

I’m really glad that our young people missed the Depression, and missed the great big war. But I do regret that they missed the leaders that I knew. Leaders who told us when things were tough, and that we would have to sacrifice, and these difficulties might last awhile. They didn’t tell us things were hard for us because we were different, or isolated, or special interests. They brought us together and they gave us a sense of national purpose.

— Ann Richards, 1988 keynote address, Democratic National Convention

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose — not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.

— Anne Sullivan

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence

— Aristotle

If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.

— Barack Obama

Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled.

— Barack Obama

Happy people have two things in common. They know exactly what they want and they feel they’re moving toward getting it. That’s what makes life feel good: when it has direction, when you are heading straight for what you love.

— Barbara Sher

Art for art’s sake, with no purpose, for any purpose perverts art. But art achieves a purpose which is not its own.

— Benjamin Constant

For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.

— Bible, Ecclesiastes

The purpose of every great business is usually something deeper and more transcendent, aligned with having a positive impact on the world and on the lives of people.

— Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

— Brené Brown

My story is a freedom song of struggle. It is about finding one’s purpose, how to overcome fear and to stand up for causes bigger than one’s self.

— c

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.

— Carl Jung

The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.

— Carl Sagan

My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?

— Charles Schulz

In a universe where I believe meaning and purpose are not gifted from a divine source but are instead collectively assembled by humans, learning to live alongside and love others—all others—is perhaps our greatest task.

— Chris Stedman

Everybody’s business is nobody’s business, and nobody’s business is my business.

— Clara Barton

Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.

— Dag Hammarskjöld

Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.

— Dag Hammarskjöld

It is not we who seek the Way, but the Way which seeks us. That is why you are faithful to it, even while you stand waiting, so long as you are prepared, and act the moment you are confronted by its demands.

— Dag Hammarskjöld

I don’t know Who — or what — put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone — or Something — and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

— Dag Hammarskjöld

Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.

— Dag Hammarskjöld

The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

— David Viscott

To explore what it would mean to live fully, sensually alive and passionately on purpose, I have to drop my preconceived ideas of who and what I am.

— Dawna Markova

When we find ourselves devoid of passion and purpose, the first thing we need to do is stop. But that’s not easy. The rest of the world is zooming by at full speed. Left alone with ourselves, without a project to occupy us, we can become nervous and self-critical about what we should be doing and feeling. This can be so uncomfortable that we look for any distraction rather than allowing ourselves the space to be as we are.

— Dawna Markova

In a world where there is so much to be done, I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do.

— Dorothea Dix

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

— Dr. Seuss

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

— E. B. White

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

— Edward Everett Hale

I consider those are rich who are doing something they feel worthwhile and which they enjoy doing.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Possessing a creative mind . . . is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.).

— Elizabeth Gilbert

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

— Ella Wheeler Wilcox

If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.

— Emile Zola

They are the four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence.

— Emily Esfahani Smith

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.

— Epictetus

Without philosophy man cannot know what he makes; without religion he cannot know why.

— Eric Gill

Passionate hatreds can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. These people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for battle.

— Eric Hoffer

Solidarity is not a matter of sentiment but a fact, cold and impassive as the granite foundations of a skyscraper. If the basic elements, identity of interest, clarity of vision, honesty of intent, and oneness of purpose, or any of these is lacking, all sentimental pleas for solidarity, and all other efforts to achieve it will be barren of results.

— Eugene V. Debs

The purpose of life is not happiness but worthiness. Happiness may come as an accessory; we dare never make it the end.

— Felix Adler

There is a universal element in man which he can assert by so acting as if the purpose of the Universe were also his purpose.

— Felix Adler

The human race may be compared to a writer. At the outset a writer has often only a vague general notion of the plan of his work, and of the thought he intends to elaborate. As he proceeds, penetrating his material, laboring to express himself fitly, he lays a firmer grasp on his thought; he finds himself. So the human race is writing its story, finding itself, discovering its own underlying purpose, revising, recasting a tale pathetic often, yet none the less sublime.

— Felix Adler

There is a great and crying evil in modern society. It is want of purpose. It is that narrowness of vision which shuts out the wider vistas of the soul. It is the absence of those sublime emotions which, wherever they arise, do not fail to exalt and consecrate existence.

— Felix Adler

Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s needs.

— Frederick Buechner

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.

— Friedrich Nietzsche
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