Have you ever wondered how to get more out of life? What’s the purpose to life? And how can you live with a greater sense of purpose in your life?
I find myself asking these questions and most of the answers are intentionally vague like “just do yoga”, or “try to meditate man”, or “there is no purpose”.
While these might work and might be true, it doesn’t help me find a feeling of a deeper purpose or give me any insight on how to take action to find purpose.
So I set out to find some answers.
In this article we’ll take a look on what “purpose” means to you, the benefits of feeling a sense purpose, and what questions you need to ask yourself to help you find your purpose.
Let’s dive in.
Understanding What Is Life’s Real Purpose?
This is as deep of a philosophical question as there ever has been. Many of the world’s greatest minds have devoted their entire careers on finding this answer. And no one can say for sure if there’s a real answer.
But here are some of the most brilliant minds leading answers.
Their answers all vary, but generally they all come to a similar consensus that our biological purpose is to reproduce and evolve as a species. And our individual purpose is to find happiness by being a good person and contributing with-in our community and society.
According to Socrates, the purpose of life should be both “personal and spiritual”.
Socrates believed that it’s up to the individual to find their own purpose by developing both personal and professional skills over time. In the words of Socrates. – “The unexamined life is not worth living”
Basically if you don’t work to find your own purpose then you will not live a fulfilled life.
Socrates taught that a moral life is to be preferred to an immoral one, primarily because it leads to a happier life.
This was one of the first examples of a philosopher linking happiness to the ultimate meaning of human existence.
Plato is famous for his writings about the lost city of Atlantis, but he was also a student of Socrates and a master of Ancient Greek philosophy.
Plato believed in multiple reasons behind the purpose of human life on Earth.
The primary reason he believed was biological reproduction. “Reproduction,” he reasoned, “goes on forever, and it is what we have in place of immortality.” Plato understood that peproducing offspring is the main purpose and ultimate end goal of ALL life on Planet Earth.
But Plato also believed that there was another meaning to life other than reproducing. According to Plato we get the greatest reward in our individual lives when we live with purpose and meaning.
Confucius was a politician and philosopher in China over 2,500 years ago and his teachings still drive much of Chinese culture today.
Confucius placed the meaning of life in the hands of the individual. He believed that the ultimate goal of life was individual happiness through inner-peace and in the context of human relationships.
He believed that people’s character is formed by their relationships to their family, friends and within social roles. He taught the need for discipline and education to learn the ways of harmony and success within these social contexts.
The purpose of life, then, is to fulfill one’s role in society, by showing honesty, morals values, politeness, respect towards your family, loyalty, humaneness, kindness, etc
Buddha was a royal prince in India, but he found that ultimately, he wasn’t happy so he left his riches behind and left his home on a journey to stop suffering and find happiness.
The Buddha taught that humans suffer because we continually go after and want material things that ultimately do not give lasting happiness.
The buddha found that, as humans, we desperately try to hold on to things that do not last and this causes us to be unhappy.
This gives us key insight on the Buddha’s perspective on the value of hard work, and enjoying life and happinerss by not holding onto material things.
Carl Sagan –
While many philosophers look inward to find the purpose of life, Dr. Carl Sagan was not a philosopher. He was an AstroPhysicist and the first person to ever send a physical message into space.
Dr. Sagan looked at the purpose of life from a new perspective. From the perspective of the Universe. And from this perspective life on Earth is infinitely small compared to the size of the universe.
‘Each of us is a tiny being, permitted to ride on the outermost skin of one of the smaller planets for a few dozen trips around the local star,’ – Carl Sagan.
Albert Camus –
Albert Camus was a French philosopher who won the Nobel Prize in 1957. With a similar “bigger picture” outlook as Carl Sagan, Camus believed that life, for all practical purposes, is altogether meaningless.
He goes on to say that we’re simply biological matter living on a rocky planet orbiting a star swirling around a galaxy that is part of a huge universe.
Understanding the vastness of the universe can be overwhelming for some, but Camus kept a positive outlook saying that since there is no preordained meaning to life, then your purpose and meaning is what each of us prescribe to it.
There is no point in wallowing in depression; “We are to live and love and laugh and dance,”
Nicola Tesla –
According to Tesla, the ultimate Purpose of life is to discover the complete mastery of the mind over the material world.
Why Do You Need A Sense Of Purpose?
In the context of the universe, the purpose of human life cannot be fully understood. If anything, Haman life seems infinitely small and meaningless within the scope and size of the known universe. lacking purpose can leave you feeling just plain ‘burnt-out’.
However, in the context of the 50-100 years of life that we have on this planet, being happy and having an individual sense of purpose makes living worthwhile.
Cornell University professor of Human Development Anthony L. Burrow, believes that “Purpose is a forward-looking directionality, an intention to do something in the world,”
5 Clear Benefits Of Knowing Your Purpose
- Staying Even-Keel in Negative Situations – This is one of the things we believe a sense of purpose affords us; it gives a sense of psychological homeostasis. We are confronted with the ups and downs of life, but purpose is an active ingredient that helps us stay stable.”
- Lower Risk Of Death – In 2019 The University of Michigan produced a study showing that people who a higher sense of purpose in life had lower mortality rates.
- Greater levels Of Happiness In Life – Leading psychologists working for Psychology Today in the growing, evidence-based field of positive psychology explain purpose and meaning as cornerstones of happiness.
- Purpose Opens Opportunities – Having purpose can awaken something inside of us which helps to define goals and ideals that are personally meaningful. Purpose give us reason to reach beyond ourselves in some way and when we reach beyond we find new opportunities.
- A Motivating Force – People with a ‘sense of purpose’ work harder because they’re driving towards their true interest behind their goal. As opposed to someone who lacks purpose who will be much less motivated to move forward.
How To Find Your Life’s Purpose And Passion
With the context above, we’ve covered that on the scale of the universe, life is too big for us to fully comprehend it’s meaning. But on the scale of our lifetime, it’s up to us to find a purpose that drives us.
Understanding the perspective of finding purpose, and the benefits of finding purpose are great, but how do you actually find purpose? If you’re lost in life, how can you find your purpose?
I personally struggle with this and have struggled with this for years. But I’ve found that simply by asking yourself the right questions, and then struggling to answer them honestly, you’ll be able to pry some answers out of yourself.
17 Excellent Life Discovery Questions
- What Were You Passionate About As A Child?
- If You Didn’t Have A Job, How Would You Choose To Spend Your Time?
- What Makes You Forget About The World Around You, Lose Track Of Time And Forget To Eat?
- What Values Do You Hold Close To Your Heart?
- What Kind Of Conversations Do You Have With Your Closest Friends? What Do You Talk About ?
- Are You Making Decisions Out of Love or Fear ?
- If You Were To Die Today, Would You Be Proud Of Who You Are And What You’ve Chosen To Pursue In Life?
- How Do You Feel When You Follow Your Heart? How Does It Feel When You Follow Your Logical Mind?
- Is Your Current Career What You Want Or What Family Members In Your Life Want?
- Do You Seek External Validation (Social Media, Approval Of Parents / Friends,)
- Do You Use Another Person Or Addiction (Alcohol, Drugs, Shopping, Social Media Etc) To Fill The Void You Feel Within Yourself?
- If You Lost All Your Material Possessions, Would You Lose Your Sense of Identity?
- What Is Keeping You From Pursuing Your Dream? Are Those Things Real Or Are You Just Making Excuses?
- Does Silence Make You Uncomfortable? Why?
- How Are You Going To Save The World?
- If You Knew You Were Going To Die 10 Years From Today, What Would You Do?
- How Do You Want To Be Remembered?
9 Tips To Live With More Purpose
After asking yourself some self-probing questions it might start to jostle free some ideas, goals, or directions to head in order to live life with more purpose.
These tips are not meant to be vague or underwhelming, but based on expert opinion and personal experience.
- Tap Into Your Calling Within – This is obviously easier said (written) than done. Just TaP INtO YoUr CaLLiNg. Yeah right !
Tapping into your calling is not just something that happens overnight. Asking yourself the deep questions outlined above can certainly help you start thinking in the right direction but it takes time.
However if you ask yourself the questions above and continue to contemplate them you will eventually find what it is you’re looking for.
As long as you’re aware that you will need to find your calling and tap into it, then you’re ahead of most people who aren’t even consciously aware of what to tap into or how.
- Feel The Fear And Take The First Step Anyway – Living with-out a purpose can feel safe and secure but often leaves you feeling unfulfilled and empty inside. That’s how I felt.
To live with more of a purpose you may have to step out of your comfort zone at first. This might seem scary, but deep down inside you know you have to make a change.
So look your fear dead in the eyes and take that first step anyways.
- Set Goals And Priorities – Goals and priorities are different than your “purpose”, But by setting goals and creating priorities it gives you the ability to measure progress and self-growth.
I’ve found that goals act as a way to give you momentary purpose as you continually work towards your purpose.
- Make A Difference – Making a difference gives us a feeling of purpose. When we make a difference by contributing to a hard days work or by helping someone our brains release endorphins.
Seeing the “fruits of your labor” is a great way to live feeling a sense of purpose.
- Learn To Keep Moving Forward – Part of living with purpose is moving forward towards your goals despite setbacks.
Some people change their life’s purpose every-time they run into difficulties. When you pursue a purpose in life the road will inevitably get rocky, but ultimately it’s up to you to keep enduring and moving forward.
According to Dr. Mike Morejon, MD, Depression and anxiety can make moving forward seem impossible at times. Overcoming these challenges starts as simply putting one foot in front of the other. The only way we can find our way is to continue moving forward.
- Only Surround Yourself With Positive People – Negative people rob you of your energy and positive people build you up. It’s not always easy but it’s not rocket science to understand that some people are not good to be around.
By setting boundaries with negative people and prioritizing time with positive people you’re setting yourself up for a higher level vibe with like-minded people who will help propel you forward in life.
- Work On Self-Improvement – Self-improvement is a great way to increase your self-awareness and increase your overall perspective on life.
With increased self-awareness discovering purpose and living with purpose both become more clear. I’ve personally struggled living with purpose, but by practicing self-awareness techniques it’s definitely helped me clarify my vision of the future.
- Develop Your Passion – When it comes down to it, if you could have any job in the world how would you want to spend your time?
Addiction counselor Dr. Steve Rose has an interesting perspective about ““following your passion””.
Dr. Rose believes that passion is not always something that is found deep with-in yourself. But, that our passion is something that can be developed as a byproduct of doing great work.
New York Times bestselling author Daniel H. Pink believes that career happiness comes from having a position that allows for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
This means in order for a job to feel purposeful, we need to have a level of control over our work, feel that we are advancing our skills, and have a sense that we are contributing to a larger purpose outside ourselves.
Both make the case that our passion and our purpose can develop with practice, not uncovered beforehand. Defining your passion beforehand can limit your potential opportunities.
- Trust Yourself And Forget What Others Think – At the end of the day, your purpose might not be what other people want for you. That’s OK, it’s your life not theirs.
Trust your gut feeling, follow what you’re passion, and don’t let negative outside forces distract you from your chosen path.
Top 7 Reasons That Are Keeping You From Finding Your Purpose
Avoid these 9 pitfalls and you’ll be in good shape.
- You Don’t Know Where To Begin – Google can’t find your passion for you or teach you how to live. Start with writing down answers to the 17 self-discovery questions to see if that gives you clarity on where you want to focus your time.
- Fear And Insecurities Are Crushing Your Confidence – Fear keeps us paralyzed from change. Because let’s face it, change can be scary. Change can mean the possibility of failure and failure can be scary as well. That’s OK. Face the fear, take the risk, keep moving forward.
- Lack Of Intentionality – Weak commitments are usually doomed from the start. How bad do you want what you want? Is your intention pure or just a quick half-hearted effort? The result will usually show.
- Lack Of Clarity / Not Understanding Your “Why?” – Understanding your deep motivations and your “why” is critical to your ability to find and pursue your purpose.
- Lack Of Support And Community – Having a support system is critical to finding your passion, your purpose, and your success. Prioritize positive people in your life for support in times you need advice.
- You Rely On Other People To Dictate What Your Life Purpose Is – Don’t rely on validation from outside sources. Just because you got a lot of “”likes”” on social media or because your parents want you to head in a certain direction that doesn’t mean it’s what’s right for you in your own heart.
- You Are Occupied In Comparing Your Life To That Of Others – Comparing your life to others is the fastest way to fall short. There’s ALWAYS someone faster, stronger, with more money, more drive, or more ambition.
Live your life and don’t focus on comparing yourself, because as they say “the grass is always greener”
Conclusion: How To Live With More Purpose
Finding purpose in life and living life with more of a purpose can ultimately lead you towards a higher level of happiness in life.
When you zoom all the way out to the bigger picture context of the known universe, our lives are so incredibly small that why not focus on living a more happy and fulfilling life?
We often find ourselves a bit ‘trapped’ in unrewarding jobs that pay for our lifestyles but ultimately provide little in return in terms of feeling a sense of purpose. It’s up to us to either find passion in our work, or work on ourselves to find passion elsewhere.
I personally am taking both approaches working on my own self-improvement as well as perfecting my work with a passion to contribute to something bigger.
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