FINDING MEANING & PURPOSE
"The purpose of life is a life of purpose" Robin Sharma
Many of us spend a lot of time in the pursuit of happiness, striving towards a goal of a better paid job, greater status, or obtaining the latest possession.
An unfulfilled life might mean an unhealthy and unhappy life, but that's not necessarily the case. However, lack of meaning and purpose can result in anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Lack of Purpose
There have been, and still are, times when terrible events happen to a community or a country, and our lives are shaken to the core. What really matters at those times?
We hear about the community spirit of the London Blitz, of that shared purpose of coming together and working towards a common goal, helping others and contributing to the "war effort".
Modern life can lack that community spirit and togetherness, and we can wander aimlessly through the routine of daily life, looking for something we don't even know we're missing.
The Pursuit of Happiness
The pursuit of happiness can lead us to feel stressed, frustrated, depressed, anxious. Happiness is usually about trying to satisfy our wants and needs - looking towards ourselves, an inward-looking focus.
We can learn from the rich and famous that money, fame and possessions often don't go hand in hand with happiness.
Search for Meaning
Where are you heading? Would you start out on a year-long journey to an unknown destination? Or would you ask questions about the journey, and about the destination?
Finding purpose and fulfilment is more about giving, to others, to the community, to the environment, to the world. We often become more outward focused to find meaning and purpose.
In giving, in finding purpose, we find fulfilment and satisfaction, but not necessarily happiness....although it can be a by-product.
Finding purpose gives us exactly that - a purpose to go on in spite of life circumstances.
Viktor Frankl (in Man's Search for Meaning) found meaning and purpose even as a Nazi concentration camp in-mate. He noticed that those fellow prisoners lacking a sense of purpose gave up and died more quickly than those with purpose. Those with purpose were the people more likely to survive - they looked back on their lives with a sense of satisfaction, and looked forward to future achievements.
Frankl found his purpose in helping his fellow prisoners to find meaning and purpose, even in those extreme conditions of suffering. For example, the scientist who decided he wanted to finish his book, and the father who desperately wanted to be reunited with his child (safely) overseas. Frankl found that even in extreme suffering, we can change the way we think about that situation, to give us a sense of purpose.
He devised his "meaning triangle" to help us identify the ways we can add purpose to our lives
Frankl's Meaning Triangle
DOING: work & creativity
Receiving from the world: through nature, culture, relationships, interactions with others, our environment, spirituality
Even if we can't change a situation or circumstance, we can still choose our attitude towards the situation, condition or suffering. Changing the way we think about life situations, seeing a different perspective, looking at it in a different way.
Use these techniques to help you change your perspective:
Find YOUR purpose
In order to find your purpose, try doing and experiencing different things. Find your passion! You will know when you find it, from how you feel, and that sense of fulfilment and deep satisfaction.
Ask yourself what do you really enjoy doing? What is your passion? What really inspires you? What are you really skilled at?
What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to be your legacy?
Be open minded and flexible in how you think about things. Don't discount anything! We often have several different purposes, or life values. For example: being a good wife and mother, being a writer, being a teacher. Each one can give you that sense of fulfilment.
Meaning and purpose can change over time.
Ask yourself how important certain aspects of your life are. Which of these (or others) are MOST important to you? Score them on a scale of 0 - 5 with 0 being not at all imporant, and 5 being most important.
You may find that you have several life values or purposes. You might find it useful to identify the 1 or 2 MOST important to you. Those you feel most passionate about.
You have found your life's purpose!
Also use Getselfhelp Values Card Pack
DAILY ACTION + PASSION = PURPOSEFUL LIFE
Having identified your life purpose or values, you can start to move towards and plan something every day that is purposeful, that takes you towards that purpose.
Choose purposeful activities that you can engage in locally, or perhaps support from a distance.
You might choose to keep a diary (or Positive Data Log) of what you have done each day, that fits with your purpose or life value.
You might identify a SMART goal to work towards, that fits with each of your life values or purpose.
Unfulfilled at work
If your paid occupation or regular activity seems not to fit with your purposeful life:
Finding Meaning in Difficult Situations
Finding Meaning Worksheet PDF (using Frankl's Meaning Triangle)
Download the Getselfhelp Values Card Pack to help you identify your Life Values and live a more meaningful and purposeful life. Includes 52 word cards, 4 blank cards & instructions.
FIND MEANING - video