What does it mean to discover your purpose? Some people have a crystal clear vision of their purpose early in life, as if the way was laid out for them and all they have to do is take the first step. For others, however, the path is elusive and the vision unclear. Yet, even those who seem to know their purpose, at some point have asked themselves the same question you might be asking yourself now: Is this really the life that I was meant to live?
Having a purpose in life has many positive implications. We are all here for a unique and special purpose which is up to us to identify. People who feel that their lives have a purpose tend to experience drastic improvements in their psychological well-being. According to the AHD (American Heritage Dictionary) purpose is described as:
- the objective towards which somebody strives for or for which one exists, a goal or an aim;
- an effect or result that is desired or intended or an intention;
- resolution, determination;
- the issue at hand.
Having a purpose is the desired result of our determination, intention, and focus. This is the main reason why we exist.
Most spiritual disciplines provide specific frameworks to help followers define their purpose in life. These followers take comfort in the traditions and teachings of their spiritual leaders and the model of a higher being’s purpose for them on earth. Regardless of your philosophical base or tradition, there is immense psychological value in defining and identifying your purpose. So why is purpose so important? Purpose sets the whole context of our lives. Without it, we are not much more than a blend of goals and non-goals plus actions and non-actions meandering through life. Your purpose is a master plan for your life. Knowing your purpose helps you define your objectives. It helps you avoid getting lost by keeping your eyes on the main prize. This makes life easier and more enjoyable.
Having said that…purpose is not something that your family or spouse can choose for you: rather it is something that we choose for ourselves. It usually emerges from something that you value the most. Feeling content or excited is how you know your mind and body are in harmony with what you are doing. Some people refer to it as being in a psychological state of immersion or being in a state of flow. It is when you focus all your energy on the task at hand. Artists feel it as they paint, developers feel it as they code, and visionaries feel it as they brainstorm.
To better understand if you are living a life of purpose, ask yourself how you feel about a particular thing that you do, or a particular cause you support. What makes you happy and energized? If you are having difficulty figuring this out, these 5 steps might be useful for you:
- What keeps showing up in my life? Sometimes life has a way of showing us important things if we will only look. These signs show up in number of ways: what do you always volunteer for? What do your friends or colleagues often seek you out for? Examine and find a common connection between these questions. We all have specific activities that we love doing.
- Your legacy. Think about what you hope your friends and family would say when they talk about you posthumously, or what you would want them to write in your obituary.
- Be mindful. Start your day by making your purpose be the framework for your activities and reminding yourself to concentrate on what is important.
- Good cause. Is the work you are doing elevating anyone else in some way?
You cannot claim to be living a life of purpose while simultaneously pulling others down, or exploiting them for your personal gain. That is not consistent with the nature of human development and creativity. Even though human beings are wired to survive, we are also wired to connect with others. We continue to evolve as a species because of our ability to love, compromise, play and collaborate.
Once you identify your purpose, allow yourself to expresses your purpose every day in your relationships, actions and work. Notice when you are living in alignment with your purpose on a daily basis. Observe when you are out of alignment. What changes can you make?
As you live and embody your purpose, you will open yourself to even greater possibilities and your purpose will continue to evolve.