This is a dangerous question to ask and if you haven’t established a reputation as a careful listener, a credible confidant, and a thoughtful leader, don’t ask it. If you do ask it without these credentials, you will be perceived as nosey, intrusive, and even phony.
Walk into your favorite bookstore or log on to Amazon.com and look for books about meaning and purpose in your life and work. You’ll find lots of them. Even if you can’t bring yourself to leave the business books, you’ll find chapters on purpose and meaning in almost all those books too. Finding meaning in life is important.
Before you run around dropping this question on others, you need to answer it for yourself. It’s okay if you can’t answer this question when you ask it for the first time of others, so long as you are willing to share your ongoing quest for your own answer. This question is actually more about the process then an answer. Some people find their purpose early in life, some grow into an understanding, and others need many years and experiences to reach an Aha! It is the people who never ask themselves the question who miss out.
Find Viktor Frankel’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, read it, and give copies away. Ponder Socrates’ words, "The unexamined life is not worth living," and have it printed on cards that you can give to others. Listen to what others say (and don’t say) when you ask this question, and be willing to ask it of yourself.