Do you have a sense of purpose?
I had been after years for more than a decade and finally, I have made it; I think so at the moment. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of many; including yours.
Indeed, a sense of purpose appears to have evolved in humans so that we can accomplish big things together—which may be why it’s linked to better physical and mental health. The purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense.
It helps both individuals and the species to survive. It becomes quite difficult to find the purpose of life but with little assistance from fellow human and introspection, you can do it. Here are some ideas that will help you:
- Read: Reading connects us to people we’ll never know, across time and space. It’s one of the best ways to explore various possibilities. So, if you’re feeling a crisis of purpose in your life, go to the bookstore or library or university. Find books that matter to you—and they might help you to see what matters in your own life.
- Become a wounded healer: Of course, finding purpose is not just an intellectual pursuit; it’s something we need to feel. That’s why it can grow out of suffering, both our own and others’. We’re all wounded and we all the capacity to heal. Sometimes, another person’s pain can lead us to purpose.
- Cultivate a forgiving attitude, kindness, gratitude, and compassion: Certain emotions and behaviors that promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of purpose. Some basic values like forgiveness, kindness, gratitude, and compassion go a long way in finding your purpose. When your practice these values in daily life, different incidents keep happening that in turn open a lot of doors.
- Listen to what other people appreciate about you: Giving thanks can help you find your purpose. But you can also find purpose in what people thank you for. Although there is no research that directly explores how being thanked might fuel a sense of purpose, we do know that gratitude strengthens relationships—and those are often the source of our purpose, as many of these stories suggest.
- Find and build a community: If you’re having trouble remembering your purpose, take a look at the people around you. What do you have in common with them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on the world? Is that impact a positive one? Can you join with them in making that impact? What do they need? Can you give it to them? If the answers to those questions don’t inspire you, then you might need to find a new community—and with that, a new purpose may come.
- Write: Reading can help you find your purpose—but so can writing. This is a valuable reflective process for all people, and many take it one step further, by publishing my book or blog and turning it into a tool for social change.
In a nutshell, as per the Zen teachings, it’s simply learning to get outside your personal bubble.
In this path, it doesn’t matter what specific actions you take or the skills you learn to make people’s lives better. What career you choose is not important—what matters is the bigger purpose. You can always change your career and learn new skills later, as you learn other ways to fulfill this purpose. You’ll learn over time.
But how to get out of the bubble? Here are some ideas:
- You must see when you’re stuck in the bubble. Whenever you’re angry, frustrated, irritated, fearful, anxious, procrastinating, feeling hurt, wishing people would be different; you’re in the bubble. These are signs.
- When you notice that you’re in the bubble, expand your mind and heart. See the bigger picture. Feel what others must be feeling. Try to understand rather than condemning. See how little and petty your concerns and fears have been.
- Wish others well. Genuinely want their happiness, just as you want your own happiness. See their suffering and wish for it to end or lessen.
- See how you can help. How can you lessen the suffering of others? Sometimes it’s just by paying attention, just listening. Other times you just need to be there, just lend a hand. You don’t need to go around solving everyone’s problems—they probably don’t want that. Just be there for them. And see if you can make people’s lives better—create something to make them smile.
Once we get out of the bubble and see things with a wider view, we can start a journey along a path to our purpose.
What matters is becoming bigger than yourself. Once you do, you learn that you have a purpose in life.