Philosophers, poets, religious leaders, and even at times politicians have tried to answer the age-old question “What is the purpose of life?” Their answers vary from the loftiness of a mansion in a faraway heaven to a dismal and the overly pragmatic death and taxes. Still, neither of these options may be fulfilling to you. Especially the latter.
If you have ever thought to yourself, “I have no purpose,” you are not alone. Many people spend their lives wondering what their purpose is or feeling like their existence has no significance or meaning. They wake up, get ready for the day, work at a job that may or may not pay all their bills, go home, eat, sleep, rinse, and repeat. With no real goals or direction, you are just surviving and keeping your head above water. Your life rules you as opposed to you ruling your life. This constant dull grind makes it difficult to go about the day to day tasks that need to be done, let alone get out of bed in the morning. However, everybody, from a young high school student to a ninety-year-old woman has and can find their life mission and live a fulfilling and joyful life.
Living a life of purpose does not mean that you have to be an ultra-celebrity or organize a hundred nonprofits. It also does not mean that you have to quit your job (although that may be the right choice for you). You can be perfectly happy and satisfied with your day job but still feel like there is more that you should be doing.
Living a purposeful life means that you have found your life mission, and you are dedicating some of your time to pursue it.
Sure, the idea of having a life mission or living a life of purpose sounds great. But how do you find and subsequently actually LIVE in this way?
Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” YOU are an individual with unique dreams, needs, wants, and life experiences. You may want to work for world peace, or you may want to create the best homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe for your kids. Dedicate some time to sit with yourself and observe what makes you happy. Take a walk alone in nature or sit quietly in your favorite chair and think. It might be helpful to have a pen and paper close by so you can write a list, draw a picture, or do whatever else that comes naturally to you. Faith, family, inner peace, natural living, minimalism, skateboarding, cooking, all these things, and more can be on your list of what matters to you.
Once you’ve figured out what matters to you and what brings you joy, create a broader vision for your life. It could be as overarching and vague as “I want to be the best parent I can be for my kids,” or as specific as “I’m going to rid the world of single-use plastic.” Both of these types of goals are equally wonderful, and as long as they encompass most of what gives you joy in your life, then go for it! You could even have both! Of course, as life progresses, this vision may change and evolve, and that is fine and normal. Just keep doing what helps you find fulfillment, and it will all be okay.
“An unwritten goal is merely a wish.” - Norman Vincent Peale.
Writing down your goals on paper brings them out of your psyche and into the real world. It’s one more step to making your dreams and goals into reality. Organize them the best you can into a timeline so you can see what you need or want to accomplish first. You may even need to break your goals into smaller, bite-sized pieces to reach them. This process will give you a road map to your life and can help guide your future decisions.
Is there a writer, philanthropist, influencer, or teacher that you adore? Do some research on their creative process to see if you can incorporate some of their methods into your everyday life. However, when doing this, be aware that you do not have to do everything the same way they do. Also, if looking into their lives makes you feel jealous or down on yourself in any way, take a step back. Your journey is different from theirs, and your voice is just as important as theirs. Just because they have found success does not mean that there is less of it for you. You have your unique voice to bring to the world, and we cannot wait to hear what you have to say.
Try avoiding falling back into complacency by waking up every day with even a small task or goal in mind that will lead you towards your larger vision. This is not to say to ignore your responsibilities and your health. Even a day of dull errands can become a day full of reaching goals. Going to the dentist and paying your electric bill are still small things that lead to a greater good. Now, you have lights that will help you work and healthy teeth. Living a life of purpose does not have to mean a constant flow of explosive ideas and trips around the world, even though it can include those things. It also includes times of disappointment, times of responsibility, and times of quiet.
Even though life can be great, there are times of disappointment. You didn’t get that promotion, your proposal was rejected, or your family member passes away. Just like the step above, remember to find the good in every situation. Yes, mourn the loss or nurse the wound, but express gratitude for the experience. Be grateful for the time you had with a lost family member, be thankful for the experience of speaking in front of a group of people or just be grateful that you are still healthy and have those who support you. This hard time will pass, and expressing gratitude can help you move forward.
There are joy and peace, even in the most mundane things. Try to find that joy no matter where you are in your goal-achieving process. Take a moment to hug your spouse or your child, spend time in nature, or do some self-care. While reaching your goals can sometimes be hard, try to find the good in each and every day.
At one point or another in our lives, we may think “I have no purpose,” perhaps even when trying to live a life of meaning, but that does not mean that this thought is right. We all have meaning, and we all have a purpose. Even you! Whether you have set goals already, or if you have never set a goal in your life, take some time today to meditate on what you want in your life and know that you can live a life full of happiness, joy, and purpose.
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