How to find purpose and make your life meaningful
Do you ever think – there must be more to life than this?
Perhaps it occurs during your mundane commute, or your 4th zoom call of the day? Or maybe when you are stacking the dishwasher, stuck in traffic, or queueing at the checkout. Do you ever stop and think – this can’t be all there is to life?
If I were to ask what your life’s purpose is, how would you answer? Most people would respond with something like… “I’ve no idea!”, or “I don’t have one”. This tells me that it is either not considered important, or perhaps you are waiting for fate or time to decide it for you? The latter is a possibility but, be warned, you might be waiting a long time.
You will not discover your purpose waiting for that one fortuitous inspirational day! Instead, it is up to you to craft it and define it over time. This requires deliberate thought and effort on your part and although it is tough, it is eminently doable.
Searching for meaning in life can feel like searching for the golden chalice! It is frustrating, worrying, and doubtful that it is even possible to find. But having no purpose at all is worse. It can leave you feeling that your life is empty, unfulfilled, and just passing you by.
This year is coming to an end and a new one is about to begin. At this time many of us become introspective. This is a good thing! Embrace it, even though the questions we ask ourselves are reflective, searching and sometimes self-critical. Questions such as “what did I do this year?”, “did it matter?”, “why am I here?”, and “what goals will I set for next year?” (download your free goal setting guide here).
These are challenging questions, but we can tackle them if we approach it in bite-sized chunks and consider our answers as ‘work in progress’, rather than the definitive answer.
The problem with having no purpose
You may be pursuing a particular path in life because you drifted into it. Or perhaps you are afraid of failing if you dare to chase your dream? Maybe you are afraid you are not good enough, confident enough, clever enough, or similar.
Worse still, you may be pursuing a life that has been determined by someone else, or you could be aimlessly wandering through life with no direction at all.
If this rings true for you and it feels like your life is lacking, something needs to change. Clarifying your purpose is a great starting point to improving things. Change for change’s sake does not work. But if you work out which aspects of your life need to change, and why, it can be incredibly impactful. Having a purposeful goal, to either add or change something, is a great way forward.
Why does having a purpose matter?
In his book, ‘Start with Why’, Simon Sinek describes the importance of establishing ‘Why’ to inspire the people you lead. It is equally powerful for us as individuals to know ‘why’ we should do something. So here are some reasons why purpose matters.
– It is a basic human need to feel that you are adding value to something/someone.
– Having a purpose has been found to be closely linked to happiness and fulfilment.
– It affects your confidence, health, and well-being.
– it moves you from feeling like a spectator of your life to a driver and shaper.
– having a clear purpose will inspire you to appreciate and live your life to the full each day.
How can you begin to create your purpose?
Let’s face it, it is hard! We have struggled with questions about why we are here and what our purpose is since time began. This is partly because when we try to think about it, we step out of our comfort zone and open a Pandora’s Box of fears and insecurities.
(In Greek mythology, Pandora’s Box suggested that unchecked curiosity could lead to a dangerous source of great and unexpected troubles!).
Questions to help you create your personal narrative
Purpose is personal. No one can or should define it for you. It should stem from your values. So then, how do you begin to create your own personal narrative and feel that your life is purposeful, meaningful, and worthwhile?
Your values and beliefs may lead you to a noble philosophical, religious, or spiritual purpose. The problem with this is, while it may serve as a moral compass, it may not easily convert into practical ideas and meaningful goals.
The following questions will start you on a practical journey of self-discovery and sense making about your purpose. You will not reach an end point or final narrative. This is because you, and the world around you, will change over time. And so, your purpose must evolve with you.
There are no right answers to the questions posed, only your answers. You must be shamelessly and ruthlessly honest with yourself when you answer the questions – no-one else needs to see or hear your responses. These may seem little questions, but they will have a big impact if you follow through on your answers.
1. What or who matters most to you in your life? – Why does it matter to you? Why do you get out of bed each day? Do you rise with zest and energy, or dread and weariness?
2. What brings you pleasure and adds value to someone or something? – These are the sort of things that make you feel good after you have done them. Even small things can have a big impact such as picking up groceries for a neighbour or phoning a friend who is lonely.
3. What else? (could you do more of this or carry out other acts of kindness?). You can always think of at least one more thing!
4. Based on your answers, what improvement goal will you now commit to?
This time last year, I asked myself these questions. I discovered that I get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from helping others live happy more fulfilled lives. As a result, I set myself a goal to write one blog a month for one year. Each blog would be specifically crafted to offer insights into how people can improve their lives and work to be the best they can be. This is my 12th blog!
When you have worked through the questions posed above, you will start to understand what brings you joy and fulfilment in life. You can then choose some actions that you will commit to, just as I did with my blog.
Deferring your life is not a good idea. If you do nothing to articulate and clarify some purpose for yourself, it won’t happen. Whatever you write, keep it fluid and flexible. Stay open to changing it each time you review it and as you learn more about yourself and your desires. This will be the early start of formulating your draft purpose.
We only have one life and one chance to make it the best it can be. Commit to something. Change something in your life. You will be surprised at how even small changes can lead to big improvements.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a purposeful New Year!