You know the question. It’s the big question. The question that all of us at some point in time have struggled to answer and find the reason for, its the big unknown.
The question that brings equal amounts of wonder and fear to our inner thoughts. Why are we here? What is the point of it all? What is the purpose of life?
Henry Wadsworh Longfellow wrote this wonderful piece – A Psalm of Life. If you have never read it:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers. And things are not what they seem.Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.
Apart from the surviving of the species via procreation, life has no real purpose, so looking for it won’t get you anywhere. Instead, the best strategy is to create it yourself.
When you really understand the purpose in your life it does not exist. You have to make it.
When you are born, nobody gives you a guide on how to succeed, a blueprint for happiness or success, if they did- what’s the point of being born.
It Was Purpose
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian existential psychologist, created a school of thought called logotherapy based on his experiences in the death camps in the Second World War that enabled him to survive
Frankl lived that reality. And what did Frankl find? – It was the purpose!
He found meaning in his struggle, and that’s what gave him the power to push forward through unimaginable pain.
A quote by Nietzsche nicely sums up his philosophy on how people were able to survive the camps, without losing the will to live:
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
That is the power of purpose
First off, before we can even appropriately ask “What is the purpose in life?” we must first find out what is meaning? How would you define meaning?
What Is Meaning?
What does it mean for something to mean something to you?
As people, we have a constant need to attach meaning to everything that we do in our lives.
Your wife gives you a kiss when you come home from work that must mean that she loves you.
My line manager gave me a complimented, which must mean I am good at my job.
The weather forecast for tomorrow it’s going to be sunny, that must mean I can wear a short sleeve shirt to work.
Meaning is the association that we draw between two experiences or events in our minds. X happens, and then Y happens, so we assume that means X causes Y. Z happens, we then feel let down and unhappy, we then blame Z for everything that didn’t happen.
Our brains invent meaning as a way to explain all the things that go on in the world. This is important, as it helps us predict and control our lives.
But wait a moment: Meaning is an arbitrary mental construct.
How many times have you watch a TV program with your wife and come to different views after watching it?
We can share different meaning with family and friends, but our meaning meant something completely different to them.
Our brains put together two different types of meaning:
You hit your hand, it hurts. You drop a glass on the floor, it breaks. Do X, and with reliable certainty, Y will result. We all need Cause/Effect meaning to survive.
It helps us predict the future and learn from the past.
Cause/Effect meaning primarily involves the logical parts of our brain. Science, for instance, is the constant search for more and more Cause/Effect Meaning.
Drinking is better than dying of thirst. Being rich is better than being poor.
Better/Worse meaning has to do with the nature of our values — what we perceive to be most important and useful in our lives.
Better/Worse meaning relies mostly on the emotional parts of our brains.
Generally what makes us feel good is what we immediately assume to be “good” or “better.”
Both forms of meaning evolved in our brains to help us survive
So in that sense, the “meaning” is nature’s tool for motivation.
Meaning drives all of our actions. When there is great meaning attached to something, we will do almost anything to achieve it or to get it done.
The reverse side is when we feel we lack meaning in our lives, we tend to give up, we turn inwards we have the view that I can’t be bothered, and if we are not careful, this can lead to depression and a long-term effect on our health
But the reality is that: meaning is a resource that we must cultivate in our lives.
Meaning is not something that exists outside of us. It is not something that just falls out of the sky, it’s not a great shift in life that will change our lives forever. IIt’snot a gift from God.
Meaning requires action. Meaning is something that we must continually find and nurture.
How Do You Live a Life of Purpose?
When you are born there is no blueprint written for you, the life you make is dependent on you and no one else.
Yes, the journey that you start from day one will have ups and downs, its how you manage the downs that will determine your success in life.
It’s the old saying “what you put into life is what can expect to receive”.
Life owes you nothing, not one single thing, and if you are waiting for the eureka moment, I am sorry to say you are going to have a long wait.
There isn’t a purpose, at least not in any grand cosmic sense of the word. Nature has no plan. There’s no end goal. You exist because you exist, not because life has a purpose for you.
So what? There may not be a purpose, but there’s still a lot of awesome stuff. You’re not bound by the shackles of fate. You’re free! Make your own purpose.
A purpose that may or may not exist does not trump a life that you most certainly already have.
There is a great post by James Clear on “The Down Side of Worke-Life Balance” in it he says;
“One way to think about work-life balance issues is with a concept known as The Four Burners Theory. Here’s how it was first explained to me”:
Imagine that your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it. Each burner symbolizes one major quadrant of your life.
The first burner represents your family.
The second burner is your friends.
The third burner is your health.
The fourth burner is your work.
The Four Burners Theory says that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful, you have to cut off two.”
If you really think about this you can really see why having a real purpose in life helps in deciding what is important to you. What are the choices you are going to make?
How do you see your 4 burners in 2018? You may have to give up one if not two burners to find that passion in your life that will give some purpose.
Simple formula to remember: Passion+ Daily Action= Purposeful Life.
So how do I do that?
Take more action.
Writer Annie Dillard famously said,
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” For many of us, a large portion of our days is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime.
It’s a frightening figure 90,000 hours at work and adding in the time spent asleep 26 years, and let’s assume you live to 75 then adding the time at work to the time you are sleep comes to 36 years!
That leaves you 39 years! It may seem a lot but you have already given halfback.
So it’s about taking action.
Nobody on their death bed said “I wish spent more time at work”
Come out of your comfort zone, experience life from outside work, find your inner strengths your talents. If always wanted to write a book, do it now, if you wanted to learn a new language, do it now if you wanted to spend more time with family, do it now.
Focus on intrinsic incentives like relationships, contribution, and personal growth. Create a life around them.
Focus on your strengths, not your weakness, live each day if it was your last. Get excited about something, find a passion, but do something. Remember you only have 39 years to do everything you want to achieve.
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs
Find Multiple Passions
So many of us struggle because we are trying to find that one thing that we are meant to do.
But life or finding one’s true purpose is not just about one thing. Trying to find only one thing is the reason why we feel like something is missing.
The notion that we are born to only achieve one thing in life limits your vision and motivation.
You may find that you have a number of passions within yourself, why just focus on one.
You may have a passion for self-development, from that you may have always wanted to be able to talk to an audience or write a book or to work with a charity to help people with a disability. Why limit your vision.
So start getting in touch with your passions! When you lead a passionate life you are living your life on purpose.
Let go of thinking there is only one purpose for you and embrace the idea that our purpose in life is to love life fully by putting ourselves into our life!
Jump in and try new things. To lead a purposeful life, follow your passions. When we live a passion-filled life we are living on purpose, and that is the purpose of life.
Remember; the more we put into life the more we get back.
Even before we can find our true purpose in life we have to make some real life-changing choices.
We live in a world that never stops it true we live in a 24-hour society where we are “too busy for passion, we suffer from cognitive overload and social support is vacant”.
Before we even decide you we are and more importantly our purpose, you have to get off the wheel, you have to make time to take action.
We can either say that my life is going to revolve around work and nothing else or we can find our inner passion for something new outside work.
The older we get the more we become frustrated with life, we only can see the long road to now were
We need new challenges outside of work, we need to feel the blood rushing through our veins, we need a new drive, to take a risk, to experiment with new challenges. The passion has to come from within.
Our brains are on continuous over-load, we are asked at work at home to absorb more information, social media, the internet, mobile phones.
It’s overload with information, we need to stop, We need to give our brains a rest, a chance to rest.
And social support is vacant, the family support, we are all so busy with our own lives that we almost become “ships passing in the night”.
We should never be afraid to find our true purpose in life. Life is too short to live on regrets. We need to make that first step, it’s within everyone to find a true purpose in life and to be happy, but it has to come from within and YOU must make that first step.
If you haven’t yet watched this film I suggest you do. The storyline is a bit far-fetched, but the meaning is all about letting go, to focus on the present to learn from your past but to use it as the road to a better future, by having focus, by having a passion to never give up in what you truly believe. Making that first step to finding your true passion in life.