Why you should have a meaningful purpose in life
Your life purpose is what drives you. It motivates you to keep going even when you encounter adversity. It gives you the strength to strive for bigger and better things. Nevertheless, finding a life purpose that feels meaningful to you can be difficult. And, what IS a life purpose, exactly?
Disclaimer: I’m not reinventing the wheel here. There’s tons of reading material on finding your life purpose out there, so I tried to compile the best advice into one comprehensive framework that you can follow.
Read on to find out what a life purpose is, and how to find yours.
What is a life purpose, exactly?
According to the expert in the field of purpose, Richard Leider, the equation for purpose is Purpose = Gifts + Passions + Values.
- Gifts: the things you are good at, but that you also enjoy doing. Doing these things gives you energy. Your gifts can relate to anything: they could be a hobby of yours like playing the piano, cooking, sports, or even something like networking, teaching, communicating.
- Passions: you should use your gifts on something you feel passionate about, like for example helping people, fighting climate change, etc.
- Values: your environment should match your personal values.
Why should you care about finding your life purpose?
Not having a life purpose that suits you can have negative effects on your health and happiness. A study with dementia sufferers showed that their health fared better when they performed purposeful activities. On the other hand, not having a purpose can lead to so-called “inner kill”, where you feel, you guessed it, dead inside.
How do you find your purpose?
Instead of asking yourself questions like “what should I do with my life?”, or straight-up “what’s my life purpose?”, consider trying to answer the question “what can I do with my time that’s important?”. According to Mark Manson, attempting to answer this question will drive you towards taking action and discovering what actually matters to you. Which will lead to finding your purpose!
Additional questions (paraphrased) that Mark Manson suggests asking yourself to find your purpose are:
- Which struggles are you willing to put up with and what sacrifices are you willing to make?
- What did you enjoy doing when you were a child?
- What activity can you lose yourself in?
- How can you show more vulnerability?
- How will you make the world a better place?
- If you were forced to go somewhere and do something every day, where would you go and what would you do?
- If you knew you were going to die a year from now, what would you do and how would you want it to be remembered?
Apart from introspection, you can do a number of things to narrow down your life purpose.
Very Well Mind suggests the following activities:
- Donate your time, money, or talent
- Gather and internalize feedback
- Surround yourself with people you actually like
- Start talking to new people
- Explore your interests
5 simple steps
If the abovementioned questions and activities still seem too vague to you and you’d like a structured, step-by-step action plan, you might want to try the following five steps to finding your life purpose by Psychology Today:
- Find out what drives you
- Find out what energizes you
- Find out what you are willling to sacrifice for
- Find out who you want to help
- Find out how you want to help
Paradigm shift required
In short, both the introspective and external methods to find your purpose are actually related to one concept: getting to know yourself better. The more you know about what you enjoy doing, what drives you, and what kinds of people you like being around, the closer you will get to finding that life purpose.
According to Leo Babauta, you can only start knowing yourself better and finding your true life purpose if you step out of your personal bubble. This means shifting from seeing yourself as the center of the universe to realizing that you’re only a tiny piece of the giant puzzle that is the universe. Getting out of your little bubble is easier said than done, though. How can you escape?
The zenhabits author suggests the following: recognize when you’re trapped in your bubble, like when you’re not taking responsibility for your emotions and blaming others or your circumstances. Secondly, start empathizing with other people: practice tolerance and understanding whenever you can. Taking this a step further, wish happiness upon everyone. Finally, search for ways to help and lessen others’ suffering.
Do you see how we’ve now come full circle?
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