What is Life’s Purpose: How to Find the Meaning of Life
What is the meaning of life? I’m being serious. Knowing how to find your life’s purpose is essential if you’re going to make the most of your life, not just in the short term while you’re still around, but for generations to come.
We’re always told that passion is key; that we need to be passionate about what we do to make it work. But what if you don’t know what you’re passionate about? Sure, you know you’re passionate about playing video games and refreshing your phone ad nauseam, but what are you passionate about that can actually be turned into a career, or rather, your life purpose?
Remember, your life purpose is more than just how you like to spend your time. It’s how your time can be best spent. After you’re gone, how do you want your friends, your family, and even your children to remember you? What would people say at your funeral, or write in your obituary? That is how you find the meaning of life, or rather, how you find your life purpose.
Read on to uncover how to find your life’s purpose using five simple strategies that you can apply today, whether you’re still in school, fresh out of college, or you’ve been struggling with this question all of your life.
What is Life’s Purpose?
Life’s purpose is different for all of us, which is why in this article, instead of focusing on how to find the purpose of life, I’m going to focus on how to find meaning in your life; how to find your life purpose.
Your life purpose is exactly that; yours. It doesn’t have to be your full-time occupation, but it does have to be something that you’re passionate about, and that you donate your time (and potentially even your money) towards. While many of us would agree that engaging in our life purpose every single day is the goal, in reality finding your meaning in life may involve working in a different field throughout the working week in order to truly engage in your passion on evenings and weekends.
Five Strategies to Find Your Life Purpose
Here are five strategies to help you find your life purpose and, if possible, help you find the meaning of life for you:
1) Figure Out What You Truly Love to Do
What do you truly love to do? Maybe you love to cook, dance, or fix cars. Maybe you love to move numbers around in spreadsheets, write long essays, or code. Whatever it is that you truly love to do, realize that there are many different career paths that spin off of that passion. Your life purpose may be to work with animals; from this you can have a successful career as a veterinarian, as a dog-walker, or even as a zookeeper!
When you’re looking to find your path in life, remember that “what you truly love to do” leaves you with a vast array of options.
Remember, what you love to do may not be the things you currently procrastinate on, but rather a part of that. Say you procrastinate by scrolling Instagram for hours at a time. What are you looking at? Clothes? Architecture? Hand-crafted canoes? Your passion isn’t scrolling Instagram; that is just the vehicle to get you to your canoes! In fact, maybe the canoes themselves are simply your way of telling yourself that you’d like to get into woodworking, and eventually become a carpenter.
Keep in mind that if you discover that your life purpose is something that most people don’t enjoy doing, you’re golden. Returning to the example of spreadsheets; most people hate them. But some people love them. Are you in this second group? If you are, your skills are in high-demand, and you’ll be compensated accordingly.
2) Question What You’re Told You’re “Supposed” to Do
Did your parents drill into you from a young age that you were going to grow up, go to medical school, and become a doctor? Or did they want you to become a lawyer, teacher, or law enforcement officer?
These were their dreams for you, but are they your dreams? Questioning what you’ve been told you’re “supposed” to do with your life is a great exercise as it helps you to truly get to the core of what you’re passionate about. While finding your life’s purpose is an easy exercise for some, for others it can be a real struggle to separate your own thoughts from those of your parents. After questioning what you’ve been told you’re “supposed” to do with your life there’s a chance that you will decide that the path that was chosen for you is the path you continue down on, and that’s okay. Reframing this decision as yours and yours alone will dramatically increase your happiness as you continue down this path.
If however, after doing this exercise you discover that the path that was laid out for you isn’t your life purpose, read on to the next strategy to uncover what to do next…
3) Listen to Your Gut
I cannot overstate how important it is for you to listen to your gut when you’re trying to find your life purpose.
Over ten years ago, when I worked in the book department of a prominent store in Central London, I was offered the chance to be put on the manger track at my company. While many people would have been thrilled by this chance, and grateful to have it presented to them, I immediately felt a pain in my gut. (Or, to put it another way, my heart dropped.) It was clear at that moment that not only did I not want to become a manager at that company, a great offer that it was, I didn’t want to continue in my job at all.
Have you ever felt this experience before? Listening to your gut is one of the smartest strategies you can employ to help you find your purpose in life. Referring back to strategy two above, when you question what you’ve been told you’re “supposed” to do with your life, how does your gut react? If it drops to the floor, you need to go back to the drawing board.
4) Focus on Helping Others
While strategy one is the key to finding your meaning in life, another way to get there is to focus on helping others.
You can do this in major or minor ways. For example, going online and finding volunteer opportunities across your city is a great way to find out what organiations are most in need, and which of them could most use your help. Similarly, you can do something minor, like helping someone you already know.
Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the most well-named founding father of the United States, noted an effect where rather than somebody being more likely to do us a favor if we’ve done one for them in the past, they’re actually more likely to do us a favor if they’ve previously done us one before. As Franklin put it:
He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.
Franklin wrote in his autobiography of how he dealt with the animosity of a rival legislator when he served in the Pennsylvania legislature in the eighteenth century. This has since become known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect:
Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favor of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favor. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.
5) Prioritize Action
Lastly, when trying to find your life purpose you need to recognize that you are already pointing yourself in this direction every single day with your actions.
You want to be a famous writer or novelist? What have you written in the last month? How do you feel about it? Have you published it online, or have you kept it to yourself? Similarly, if you want to be a football player, what did your gym session look like yesterday? What muscles are you currently working on? Come to think of it, how often are you training?
Your actions uncover your true priorities. These can change, of course, but you have to be in the driver’s seat in order to make this change. The good news is, if you currently feel that you’re too lazy to prioritize action, know that if you cultivate a healthy sense of impatience you will realize that passion comes after action. The more you work at something, the more passionate you become about it, and the closer you move towards uncovering your life purpose.
When you uncover your life purpose your whole life can change in an instant and you will (with time) find the meaning of life.
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