Ways to Find Your Purpose
Finding your purpose, your life’s calling and your passion changes everything. It gives you a reason to spring out of bed in the morning, it gives you a mission statement – it even helps you to decide who you are. It helps to inform your personal style, the way you present yourself.
You’re no longer emulating other people, or doing what you think you should do. Instead, you’re now embracing your true self and your passion and you’re living life to its fullest as a result.
The problem? Many people will struggle to find their purpose in this way.
So here are some tips that will help you to discover what your true purpose is and to embrace it fully.
When Were You Last Really Happy?
One easy question is to ask when you were last super happy? Or more than that: when were you last inspired, engaged and rewarded? This is a rare feeling so if there’s some activity or experience that makes you seem to come alive… do more of that!
Look to Your Role Models
Who are your role models? We all look up to someone in our lives and maybe we look up to multiple people. The question is what it is about those people – maybe what they have in common – that we find so inspiring and encouraging.
If you can identify some common trait that your heroes all share, then you can find a core activity or belief that you respond well to. And when you do that, you can embrace that side of yourself.
What Are You Really Great At?
We shouldn’t just ask what it is we want but also what we can do for the world. Sometimes you will find that life takes you in a certain direction as a result of your natural gifts and traits. Maybe you’re a born salesperson, or maybe you’re a fantastic artist.
You shouldn’t do anything that you aren’t going to enjoy but do listen to your talents and use them where you can.
How Do Others See You?
You might not know what your true calling is, but sometimes it will be obvious to other people. Ask your friends and family what they think you should do, how they see you what your skills are. Sometimes they can be surprisingly insightful and give enlightening answers.
There are many more methods but hopefully these will set you off on the right path.
How to Add Years to Your Life by Finding Your Meaning
If there is one universal challenge that faces mankind, it is surely mortality. No one wants to die and many of us wish we had longer on this planet.
The key to having a meaningful life is to make sure that we make the very most of the time that we do have here.
But here’s the strange part: if you do that – if you make your life more meaningful – then it will also seem to become longer!
How it Works
So how does this work?
Well, think back to what you did last week. Try to be specific. How about what you had for lunch?
Can you remember?
There’s a good chance that you have not a clue. Unless it’s the same thing you eat every week (in which case you’re guessing, not remembering), or unless it’s something that was particularly interesting and exciting. Perhaps some food you were trying for the first time, for example.
And that really is the crux of this point: you remember things that are novel and interesting. Everything else just kind of disappears into one long blur.
And there’s actually a biological reason for this. You see, when you are presented with a new experience, situation or stimulus, the body sees this as an opportunity for learning. As such, it responds by releasing a large amount of dopamine and BDNF which triggers learning and brain plasticity – the formation of new neuronal connections and pathways.
These neurons make us feel great and can stimulate even a sense of euphoria. But what’s more is that they help us to create memories.
And when you look back at your life, what do you have? In reality, you have nothing but your memories. Without memories, you would have no time to look back on. As such, your life would seem shorter.
Have you ever had a day where you managed to pack in all kinds of amazing things? Where you saw friends, did a great workout, visited a new part of town, attended a meeting and then watched a great film?
Those are the days that seem like they were longer when you look back. And when you add that up over the course of weeks, months or years it can literally make your life seem as though it has been longer.
So find meaning in every day and you’ll live longer from your own perspective.
Flow States and Finding Meaning in Life
If you’re at all interested in self-development, then you may be familiar with the concept of the flow state.
A flow state is a state of mind that is characterized by a reduction in activity in the prefrontal cortex – known as transient hypofrontality. In this state our sense of self shuts down and we become highly engaged with whatever we’re doing, to the point where it just seems to ‘flow’ out from us without any conscious input.
In sports, this can sometimes happen in response to a highly tense situation. At this point, time might seem to dilate and slow down as everything moves in slow motion around us. We’ll find ourselves able to react with amazing speed and reactions.
When writing this can happen too. You can end up so fixated on what you’re writing that everything else seems to fall aside and disappear.
And it is said that many startup companies spend their entire time in flow states and that this is one of the biggest predictors of their success.
It is also said that flow states are the ‘ultimate state of human performance’, the key to amazing creativity and even the secret to happiness.
And how do you ensure you spend more of your time in flow? Simple: you start doing things that you absolutely love. You find your true life’s purpose and your passion.
Why Meaning and Purpose Create Flow
When you find your purpose in life, you have a single set goal and something that you feel highly intrinsically motivated to accomplish.
This comes from a belief that that thing is important or a feeling that it is exciting and fascinating. That then causes the brain to focus entirely on that thing going on.
Because it seems so important, nothing else seems more important and so all of your resources are directed that way.
We attain flow states when we are snowboarding down the side of a mountain at breakneck speeds because our body knows it needs to promote flow in order to survive. But when we are working on something we love, the same effect is caused by our simple love for that topic.
The incredible motivation, focus and sense of fulfillment that can come from this is unmatched and that is why it is so important that you discover your life’s purpose and your meaning. The challenge starts now!
Things That Prevent You From Finding Your Life’s Purpose
Finding a purpose in life means finding a calling or a passion. Something that you excel at, that you love doing and that fills you with pride and satisfaction. This means knowing precisely who and what you are and you can use it to guide yourself and inform countless decisions going forward.
The only problem is that discovering this calling can be very difficult. How do you go about discovering who you are or developing your calling when you don’t have any obvious passion or talent?
There is plenty of advice out there to help you stumble upon this answer. But sometimes it’s not about what we do, so much as what we don’t do. Here are some of the things that might be holding you back from your true purpose – and what you can do to fix those.
Doing What is Expected of Us
Sometimes we might get a feeling for what we want to be in life or what we want to do, but we are afraid because it is not what is expected of us. Worse, it might seem to completely fail to conform to societal norms, or your parents’ hopes and dreams for you.
Maybe the thing you feel passionately about is just weird or completely obscure!
Maybe you absolutely love a kids TV show and your purpose is to deliver news on that show. Maybe you want to join the circus. Or maybe you have no interest in getting married and you just want to travel the world on a boat.
But if you live life in the way that others want you to, then it ceases to be your life. You can’t be expected to be as happy or successful going through the motions. There is no right or wrong way to live – there are only arbitrary habits.
So brush them aside, be you, and shine.
Doing What We Always Said We Would Do
This one is less obvious but just as restrictive.
You see, sometimes we have a passion or a goal that we believe in strongly. But then after a time, we lose interest in that goal and we decide we want something different from life. But the problem is that we always told everyone we were going to do X. We always told ourselves we were going to do X. Changing our course now feels like flaking or giving up.
But if that’s your attitude – if your heart is no longer in it – then you are no less trapped than before. Be true to yourself as you are now.
Easy Ways to Make Your Life More Meaningful
Finding your life’s goal and your true passion will help you to find great satisfaction in everything you do, it will help you to live every day to its fullest and it will even help to inform who you truly are. Finding this meaning can transform your life in all the best ways.
But it’s not so easy to do that for most of us. Many of us don’t have a single objective or dream and this can leave us feeling a little listless and directionless.
But here’s the thing: meaning doesn’t have to come only from one goal or one life’s mission. Meaning can come from small things too depending on how you approach them.
Here are some tips to make everything more meaningful.
Find the Meaning
Meaning is really something we assign to things and nothing more or less than that. Activities in your life have meaning only if you believe they do.
And unfortunately, many of us go through a vast range of different activities believing them to be boring or unimportant. One trick is to always try to ‘notice the best bit’.
Or at the very least, just focus on what it is that others might find exciting or important about the thing you’re doing.
Share With Others
If you do something and no one knows about it, then it has no lasting impact. You can’t discuss it and it will quickly fade away from your memory.
But when you share a moment or an achievement with someone, it gives it much more meaningful impact. Not only is this a powerful way to build a bond and become closer to someone, but it is also a great way to make sure that your moments impact more than just yourself and have a wider reach.
If you can’t share the moment then the next best thing is to immortalize it by writing about it: try keeping a journal.
Take Your Time
Things can have more meaning when we spend more time reflecting on them, taking them in and enjoying them.
You can make everything more meaningful and a better experience in this way; whether that means just taking the time to eat your food slowly and savor every morsel or whether it means looking around, listening to the sounds and looking at the sights. Take the time to savor every morsel of life and it will all taste that much richer.
Plus, you won’t get indigestion.
Goals for Decision Making
Having a goal or a purpose can make everything easier. When you know what it is you want to achieve and when you know what it is you want to accomplish, life just gets that much more simple.
The problem is that many of us don’t have a passion or a calling. Many of us can’t say in one word what it is that we want to be or become.
And when you don’t have a goal, that means that you don’t have a destination. And when there’s no destination, you can’t possibly take the best and smartest route to reach that point.
Consider a friend of mine. When we were at University, he decided in the second year that he wanted to become a pilot. At that point, everything fell into place for him as he knew precisely what he had to do. He started working harder on his degree because he knew the grades he’d need. He dropped the courses that transpired not to help with his plans. And he started training for the tests that would be involved.
Then he left, took out a loan and began learning to become a pilot. He landed a job (no pun intended) and moved to the area where he needed to be for that airline.
Today he absolutely loves life. He is living his dream and his calling. He glows with happiness, he’s wealthy and he’s constantly showing me YouTube videos of pilots.
Now let’s consider another friend who didn’t know what she wanted to do. She left Uni and landed a job in data entry but only after umming and ahing for a long time.
She didn’t love the job and in fact it became quite a toxic environment due to some unpleasant colleagues. Eventually she quit and ended up moving back home to discover her true calling.
She’s on the right path. Because now she knows that success and happiness don’t come from luck or happenstance. They come from knowing what you want.
Because how else can you get out there and get it?
And once you have your passion and your goal in mind, every decision becomes easier – because now you have a lens through which to view those decisions.
The simple question you now need to ask every time you make a decision like this is: does it help me to achieve live my passion and fulfill my goals?
How Awe Cultivation Can Give Life Meaning
When was the last time you stood truly awestruck? When was the last time your heart seemed to stand still as you gaped in true wonder at the sight that unraveled before you?
This is a rare experience for most of us, especially in this day and age when most of us will spend the majority of our time sitting in a small room typing. Our idea of a fun and exciting afternoon will often mean watching something good on TV. It’s hardly inspiring.
And it’s kind of repetitive.
And that’s why it’s so important that we every now and then do something to really shake up this feeling of inertia.
That’s where ‘awe cultivation’ comes in.
Why It’s So Good For Us
Whenever you feel really great, or really strange, it’s always useful to ask why. What was it that made you feel that way?
Because these feelings are not coincidental: they are always the result of changes in the brain. Very often, these changes will be neurochemical in nature or they will be related to changes in the organization of your brain.
So, what’s actually happening in the brain when you get that feeling of ‘wow’? When you are standing at the top of a mountain and looking down across amazing valleys?
Well essentially, this incredible scene and this huge amount of information is forcing you to change your perspective and to have a real shift in the way you are looking at things.
That change in focus and change in perspective causes you to put your whole life into different perspective. When we’re faced with the true scale and beauty of nature, we have no option but to acknowledge how comparatively small we are in the grand scheme of things.
From a neuroscience standpoint, this basically forces the brain to restructure itself: to rebuild countless neural networks. And that releases a huge amount of chemicals such as dopamine, BDNF and endorphins.
How to Cultivate Awe
So how do you go about cultivating awe?
Well, one way to do it is simply to get outside more, to explore more, to learn more and to keep expanding your mind.
We can’t spend every day gazing across vast desserts or coming face to face with majestic beasts. But we can inject just a little awe into everything else we do. And that can often be enough to make us reassess our place in the world.
The Future of Meaning for Humanity
A lot of people today find themselves feeling a little listless, a little unchallenged and a little unrewarded. So many of us will spend our days working in offices and not quite being challenged, only to then come home and vegetate in front of the television.
There is little change, little challenge and little creativity involved in our lives and as such, we feel indifferent to it.
This is a problem because in many ways, life has become too easy. The challenge that is present takes the wrong form: it’s dull and stressful.
That’s one of the big problems for modern man – one of the universal challenges we face today.
But the future offers some different spins on this age-old challenge.
In particular, we are heading towards a time when much of our work will become automated. So many jobs are being replaced by machines, by computer programs and by assembly lines. As every company becomes more efficient, the role for humans starts to disappear.
One common concern is that typical notions of ‘manhood’ have been eroded by the machinery and tools that have taken over many blue-collar jobs. But what happens when all those jobs are gone?
Some theorists have suggested that the world might actually become more feminine. Traditionally ‘female’ jobs require a different skillset: creativity, emotional intelligence and sensitivity. Things like childcare and nursing. This is a gender stereotype of course, but it statistically holds true.
So, one change we might see is more and more men having to become more feminine in their approach to work.
But more to the point, we’ll all be presented with the challenge – and the opportunity – to create our own meaning in life. In other words, when there is no need for us to work manual labor jobs, we’ll be freer to pursue more intellectual and creative directions of our own choosing.
When you can no longer work in an assembly line, you might be forced to consider philosophy or poetry.
In this future, the government will need to step in in order to provide us with the resources we need to survive and thrive in this way. The money will still be generated by this automation and so a ‘universal salary’ may come into effect (it’s already being trialled in some countries).
The take home message? We better get better at finding our own meaning in life, because pretty soon our happiness and sanity will be entirely reliant on it!
Why Helping Others is Key for Creating More Meaning in Your Life
What do you do when you’ve done everything?
What do you do when you’ve achieved your goals? When you’ve had an impact on the world, earned your millions and bought your right to relax and do whatever you want?
You’d think this would be the perfect situation to find yourself in and yet it can leave us feeling empty and directionless. It’s no surprise that many people suddenly appear to become much older as soon as they retire.
Well, if you look to examples in our culture of people who have seemingly achieved it all, there appears to be one common answer: help others.
Whether you’re Bono or you’re Bill Gates, turning yourself to philanthropic activities appears to be the common option. Even Arnie dedicates his later years to public service.
So what is it about helping others that is so tempting to the rich and famous?
The answer is that it creates meaning. Once you’ve helped yourself, once you’ve achieved everything, helping others creates a new challenge and a new way to get that same sense of satisfaction.
Of course, you can get this same reward before you’ve reached that point yourself but when you’re secure in your own financial and health situation, you are in a better situation to help those around you. As the saying goes, you need to attach your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else around you.
More Ways That Helping Others Can Create Meaning
But that said, even before you reach that point, helping others can bring immense meaning to your life.
Apart from anything else, this is one way that you can affect others around you and leave something behind after you go.
For many of us, it’s sharing experiences and having some lasting impact that makes us feel meaningful. If you do something and it has no impact on anyone, then you might come to the conclusion it was pointless.
But to leave something behind or to touch another life, that makes you almost immortal. Help someone else and they might go on to help two more people. Or three. Or a million.
And as it would happen, we are also biologically hardwired to seek out this helping behavior. Studies show that helping others releases a huge rush of endorphins.
Today, we call this the ‘helper’s high’.
So donate to charity, do someone a favor or just treat your friends to a meal out. It feels amazing.
Why Challenge Creates Meaning
Cast your mind back to the last time you accomplished something that you were truly proud of. Maybe you completed a very difficult challenge in a computer game, maybe you finished an intense and brutal workout. Maybe you wrote the next chapter in your novel.
Whatever the case, chances are that this was followed immediately by a huge dump of endorphins that made you feel pretty epic. Accomplishing any task feels great.
But here’s the thing: most of us lack challenge in our lives and that means we lack the opportunity to accomplish anything. And without accomplishment, we just kind of… drift.
The Computer Game Analogy
To understand this problem, consider computer games.
A computer game drops a player into a world and asks them to survive, to get the best score, to reach a certain destination etc. This provides the challenge.
The player then needs to get familiar with the game via trial and error in order to get better at it. Eventually, they are ready for that final test and they can ‘complete’ the game. They get a sense of closure and reward and then they can move onto the next challenge.
But what happens if they find a way to beat the game that works the system? What happens if they discover an overpowered weapon hidden in a crate?
Well, game developers will tell you that this is the surest way to immediately kill the fun in that game.
Likewise, if a player realizes they can beat every fight by just hammering the same two buttons over and over again… the game immediately loses its appeal. That’s because, even though the game is no fun that way, our natural inclination is still to take the easy path. Even having that easy path available will rob the satisfaction and reward that comes from choosing the more difficult option.
And most players abandon the game board.
This is what has happened in our lives. Life was meant to involve challenge but the industrial revolution, technology, modern conveniences… these have robbed us of the challenge. Now we have the option to sit at home comfortably doing nothing and to just relax.
And as a result, life has lost its challenge and its reward.
This is why it’s so important that you set yourself challenges and set yourself goals – to artificially inject some difficulty and to aim for even bigger heights.