Finding purpose in life
Losing your sense of purpose can be devastating – and it can happen to any of us, at any time. But what does it really mean to lose it? What does it mean to have it? And why is this sense of purpose so important to making your life a meaningful and a happy one?
First of all it is probably worth looking at what this idea of purpose actually is. What do people mean by the term in this sense?
Living in a meaningful way
Well, for me, it all comes down to living life in a way that is meaningful. To live with a purpose in our lives is to live in way in which all of our actions have some meaning – when everything we do contributes a higher goal of some sort.
And we probably all have a innate sense of what these kind of meaningful actions are, and which ones aren’t. The times when we feel we have a sense of purpose in our lives are those times when our actions really have positive consequences both for ourselves, and hopefully for other people too. For some people, this sense of purpose might take the form of what they see as a religious calling – for others it might just be a sense that they want to give something back to society in some way.
So, in this context, a sense of purpose can be seen as a driver to meaningful behaviour. Having a sense of purpose in this way causes us to act in ways that go beyond our daily concerns, and it pushes us to think about something bigger than ourselves.
Which all sounds great, but what does this actually mean in practical terms? Well, I think it’s possible to break down the benefits of living in a way that is driven by a sense of purpose, and that is filled with meaningful actions.
The benefits of a purposeful life
The first benefit we see when we feel we have a purpose in life is that we tend to push ourselves to try and be better human beings. Of course, ‘better’ is a relative term – but we might, for example, have a have a sense that we need to help or care for others. Or, we might see ourselves as teachers, or someone who has a duty to serve wider society in some way. However it manifests itself through our actions, this sense of purpose is a powerful driver to do things that – if we lived in a purely selfish way alone – we would never get around to doing.
Building on this, the second benefit we see from living a life with an underlying purpose is that it forces us to have more meaningful interactions with other people. In this way, a sense of purpose pushes us on to try and have a more compassionate and responsible relationship with others.
Because we have a purpose in our lives beyond just existing day to day, and we are no longer thinking just about ourselves, we are more inclined to engage fully with the people we meet and interact with. In this way having a sense of purpose can push us to try and understand other people better, and to think about how we can work to improve their lives too.
Which brings us to the third happy benefit of having a purpose to your life: that it actually helps you to have a healthier, more engaged relationship with yourself too. So, instead of being completely self absorbed, when we have a purpose in our lives it helps us to put our own lives in perspective. When we look outwards, with a sense of purpose, we no longer see ourselves as the centre of everything that goes on in the world, or judge the world in terms of its relative positive or negative impact on our own lives.
So, having a sense of purpose is something we should all strive for in our lives. And I believe we can actually all achieve this very simply, just by trying to make sure that everything we do – whether it is our thoughts, our actions or the things we say to others and to ourselves – is done a little more meaningfully.
Once we grasp what that meaning really represents for us as individuals, we might then begin to have a clearer idea of what our purpose in life should be.