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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In your dedication to your life’s work,
whatever it may be,
live as though you had forever,
for no amount of careful and devoted doing
is too great
in carrying out that work
to which you have set your hands.
Cultivate in your work and your life
the art of patience,
and come to terms
with our inevitable human limitations,
while striving also
to extend the boundaries of
your understanding,
your knowledge,
and your compassion….
Know that your commitment
is above all to life itself….

— Margaret Laurence

[I]f you have a purpose in which you can believe, there’s no end to the amount of things you can accomplish.

— Marian Anderson

Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.

— Marian Wright Edelman

I’m doing what I think I was put on this earth to do. And I’m really grateful to have something that I’m passionate about and that I think is profoundly important.

— Marian Wright Edelman

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

— Marian Wright Edelman

Never work just for money or for power. They won’t save your soul or help you sleep at night.

— Marian Wright Edelman

I’m doing what I think I was put on this earth to do. And I’m really grateful to have something that I’m passionate about and that I think is profoundly important.

— Marian Wright Edelman

I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.

— Marie Curie

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.

— Marshall Ferdinand Foch

If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life, it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth.

— Mitsugi Saotome

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

— Mohandas Gandhi

We did not come to this world to destroy, divide or break. We came to fix the broken, bring together the separated and serve as a bridge between the enemies.

— Mohandas Gandhi

Action expresses priorities.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi

The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started.

— Norman Cousins

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

— Norman Vincent Peale

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.

— Oprah Winfrey

Believe with all your heart that you will do what you were made to do.

— Orison Swett Marden

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

— Pablo Picasso

My mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general; if you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.

— Pablo Picasso

Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt.

— Paul Tillich

But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.

— Paulo Coelho

What is the manager’s job? It is to direct the resources and the efforts of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results. This sounds trite — and it is. But every analysis of actual allocation of resources and efforts in business that I have ever seen or made showed clearly that the bulk of time, work, attention, and money first goes to problems rather than to opportunities, and, secondly, to areas where even extraordinarily successful performance will have minimal impact on results.

What is the major problem? It is fundamentally the confusion between effectiveness and efficiency that stands between doing the right things and doing things right. There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all. Yet our tools especially our accounting concepts and detail focus on efficiency. What we need is (1) a way to identify the areas of effectiveness (of possible significant results), and (2) a method for concentrating on them.

— Peter F. Drucker

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

— Peter F. Drucker

In the world to come, I shall not be asked, “Why were you not Moses?” I shall be asked, “Why were you not Zusya?”

— Rabbi Zusya

If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself and whatever science or art or course of action he engages in reacts upon and illuminates the recesses of his own mind. Thus friends seem to be only mirrors to draw out and explain to us ourselves; and that which draws us nearer our fellow man, is, that the deep Heart in one, answers the deep Heart in another, — that we find we have (a common Nature) — one life which runs through all individuals, and which is indeed Divine.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, attributed, perhaps incorrectly

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not the length of life, but depth of life.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.

— Ray Bradbury

Despite the Great Chain of Being’s traditional ranking of humans between animals and angels, there is no evolutionary justification for the common assumption that evolution is somehow ‘aimed’ at humans, or that humans are ‘evolution’s last word’.

— Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

— Robert Byrne

I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

— Rosa Parks

Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.

— Rosa Parks

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.

— Rumi

All animals except man know that the principle business of life is to enjoy it.

— Samuel Butler

When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.

— Seneca

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.

— Seneca

What we most need in our lives, though, is something worth doing, worth it because we care.

— Seth Godin

When you’re following your energy and doing what you want all the time, the distinction between work and play dissolves.

— Shakti Gawain

One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go.

— Sheila M. Bethel

There are two ways of living: a man may be casual and simply exist, or constructively and deliberately try to do so. The constructive idea implies a constructiveness not only about one’s own life, but about that of society, and the future possibilities of mankind.

— Sir Julian Huxley

Life becomes religious whenever we make it so: when some new light is seen, when some deeper appreciation is felt, when some larger outlook is gained, when some nobler purpose is formed, when some task is well done.

— Sophia Lyon Fahs

Where am I? Who am I?
How did I come to be here?
What is this thing called the world?
How did I come into the world?
Why was I not consulted?
And If I am compelled to take part in it,
Where is the director?
I want to see him.

— Soren Kierkegaard

No wind serves a ship that has no port.

— Spanish proverb

Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.

— Stephen Covey

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically – to say “no” to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.

— Stephen Covey
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