Even if you have a large, overarching purpose, you can only take action in this very moment. It is an excellent practice to try to keep in mind one clear purpose for what you're doing now. And the question, "What is my purpose here?" can really straighten up and clarify your mind and your actions.
For example, if you are criticizing someone, ask yourself, "What am I after?" You may find what you're really after is to make the other person feel bad or punish them for something they did. That is an automatic, genetically-driven (and usually counterproductive) purpose.
In other words, you didn't really consciously choose to pursue that goal. It happened without you.
But now that you've asked the question, "What is my purpose here?" you can choose. You can think about what you really want in this situation. You may decide what you really want is that the person doesn't do it again. Then you'd have a clear purpose and a clear path for action — without games, without negative feelings. All you'd have is a simple request: "Please don't do that again."
Make it a regular practice to ask yourself what you want right now. What is your goal here in this situation? What are you after? What are you aiming for? Be clear, always and consciously, about what your purpose is in this very moment. It is effective. It is therapeutic. It is healthy. And it will make you more productive.
One key to a strong sense of purpose is the practice of focusing only on what you want. When your mind wanders to other things, bring your focus back. Again and again. Your mind is very easily taken off track, so you have to keep noticing your attention has wandered and keep bringing your focus back to your purpose.
When your mind starts worrying about problems that might happen, bring your mind back to your concrete assignment. When your attention becomes fixed on what you don't want (and it will), turn your attention to what you do want.
There isn't one "right" purpose which you must find and follow. Any (constructive) purpose is better than no purpose and some are better than others. Some are good for now, but not good if pursued too long. The important thing is that you like your purpose, feel it is important, and make progress in that direction.
A question that can help you make progress is: "What is my purpose here?" Ask it often. Throughout your day today, try to ask it of yourself ten times to see how useful this question can be.
Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot.