The first step on this journey towards living with a purpose is deciding that it is a worthwhile endeavor. I hope the first two blog posts in this series have convinced you of that. The next step is to figure out what exactly your purpose in life is. It’s a pretty big question, isn’t it? I wish I had just the right answer for you, but the truth is that our life’s purpose is different for all of us. There is no quiz you can take that spits out the answer. It’s something you have to discover for yourself. I do however have a few thoughts to share with you that will guide you along the way. In the end, your purpose is very much like true love. You will know it when you’ve found it.
What Are You Passionate About?
Start by thinking about all the different things you are passionate about. It doesn’t matter if it’s part of your current work or career, a cause, a hobby, or anything else you can think of. Make a list and keep adding to it as you come across more ideas. Maybe it’s restoring old cars, redecorating your home, or sewing historical costumes.
What Do You Value?
Another good approach for coming up with potential “purpose” ideas is to think about what you really value. What’s important to you? What do you feel would make a difference? Maybe you value the right of every child to grow up in a happy home and make it your life’s purpose to raise foster kids or adopt. Maybe you value animal rights and make it your mission to raise awareness about the low number of wild giraffes in Africa.
What Elicits A Strong Emotional Response?
Similarly, think about what makes you really happy, really angry, or really sad. Having something with a strong emotion attached is a good sign that you’re very passionate about it and that this particular cause or purpose is important to you. Maybe it’s passion on your love of playing piano, your passion for heirloom tomato gardening, or your burning desire to put a stop to human trafficking.
Last but not least, think about what you enjoy doing. There’s nothing wrong with finding a purpose that is also enjoyable. In fact, it’s important that you like what you do and are having fun doing it. If it isn’t fun, it’s much harder to put in the work and effort required to reach your goals.
Of course not every task and every aspect of what you do will be fun. Overall though, you want to find a purpose and a project that has you excited to jump out of bed in the morning.
The link between a happy and purpose-driven life
When we start to make a difference and live a purpose-driven life, something amazing happens. We become happier and more fulfilled. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. It doesn’t have to be anything big like going on a year-long mission trip or setting out to cure the world of cancer. Even small gestures that make a difference can have a big impact on how you feel.
When you help a fellow student pick up a stack of dropped books, run an errand for an elderly neighbor, loan a great book that’s had an impact on your own life to a friend, or remind a fellow grocery shopper of a left bag, it feels good doesn’t it? We like to help out and make a difference. It doesn’t matter how small the act is.
We have been social creatures who rely on each other for millennia. Over the course of that time, our bodies and brains have evolved to give us positive rewards for helping out and making a difference. In other words, it feels good to live with purpose and make a difference. It makes us happy.
It’s one of the biggest reasons why living with purpose is such an important goal. At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy, or at the very least happier than we are right now. Looking at popular media and advertising in particular, it seems that the key to happiness is more material goods. We’re made to believe that bigger and more expensive houses and cars, more clothes, shoes, furniture, electronics, workout gear, and the likes are what will make us happy. If only we can buy and accumulate enough “stuff”, we’ll feel better. Sadly, quite the opposite is true. The more you own, the more you have to worry about and take care of, taking away valuable time that you could be spending on something else.
The key to happiness isn’t to own more. It’s to live a purpose-driven life and making a difference in the world. It’s one of the reasons why minimalism is becoming so popular. When your life and mind isn’t cluttered with all the extra stuff, you feel calmer, more in control, and have the time and mental energy to figure out your own purpose.
A purpose-driven life is one lived within our core values. It caters to our need to cooperate and work together. It strengthens our confidence and makes us feel needed and valuable. All of this leads to an increased feeling of happiness. The moral of the story is stop buying stuff you don’t need, stop chasing that high-paying job that makes you miserable for 60 hours a week and start living your life with purpose.