Finding purpose in life isn’t just a trendy thing to do. It’s actually something that’s key to our wellbeing. So, what does it mean to have purpose in life?
American author and life coach Richard Leider has a helpful definition of purpose. Purpose is being in the right place, with the people who matter to you, doing your life’s work. For some, this encompasses a spiritual concept or religious dimension. For others, it’s more of a secular notion. Such that they want to be valued members of a family, group or society at large.
Not everyone feels the need to have a philosophy of life purpose. However, everyone needs to feel like they matter. Therefore, while purpose is fundamental, mattering is ultimately what counts.
Why find Purpose in Life?
Finding your purpose in life is said to be one of the greatest secrets to happiness. Furthermore, according to research, finding purpose in life can also add years to your life!
Patrick Hill, a researcher at Canada’s Carleton University, unpacks this finding. He says that having a direction in life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve, can help you to live longer. In fact, it could be up to seven years longer than those who never find their purpose in life.
How to find Purpose and Meaning in life
While having a sense of purpose promotes physical, mental and spiritual health, how does one arrive at your true calling? There’s no formula and it’s an intricate as well as highly individualised path of discovery. One that’s also been pondered on since the beginning of time.
There may not be a formula. But there are useful pointers to help you on your way as you find your purpose and how you matter. These are some insights from the world’s greatest writers, thinkers and personalities.
1. Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple
Apple founder Steve Jobs understood the importance of questioning. Specifically, where you’ve come from in order to figure out where you’re heading. To do this, examine what the successes and failures over the course of your life have been. These tell you about your life choices and their consequences. Which will also show you when you have or haven’t been in harmony with yourself. Knowing this will help you to let go of a path that isn’t in sync with your true purpose. Then to take the leap of faith required to follow a new, more purposeful path.
2. Michael J. Fox, Actor
According to Fox, in order to take control of your life, you need to take action. However uncomfortable it may be. Essentially, you’ll only find your purpose if you weigh up the options and make actual decisions. As the saying goes, only dead fish swim downstream. Thus, it takes effort and courage to face the current and swim into it. But, the alternative is to simply be carried along by life and have little chosen direction.
3. Eleanor Roosevelt, American First Lady
Eleanor Roosevelt advocates courage in finding one’s purpose. Fear can sometimes be the best guide to your choices and actions. However, you need to also remember that fear is an indicator that something truly matters to you. Thus, identifying what it is that scares you most, can very quickly help you sort life’s priorities from its trivialities.
4. Mother Teresa, Humanitarian
Mother Teresa was a great advocate of living in the moment. And trusting God with the future. She believed that if you find how you can matter today, you will have a purpose tomorrow. Part of mattering, for her, was to smile, be kind and put love into action. Thereby, to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.
5. David Viscott, American Psychiatrist and Author
The above statement, by Viscott, echoes the sentiments of English author and speaker Sir Ken Robinson. He is a leading authority on education and creativity. According to Robinson, our ‘element’ is the point at which natural talent and skill meets personal passion. Therefore, it follows that when people are in their element, they are more productive. And they enjoy more personal and professional fulfillment, as well as ultimately, add more value to the lives of others.
6. George Bernard Shaw, Irish Playwright
This Irish playwright knew that finding your purpose in life is the definitive creative opportunity. As such, the path to the destination is not always a straight one. You could go down the wrong road, get lost and need to turn back to try another. Basically, we should think that things won’t always be easy or straight forward. Sometimes we may fail but that is absolutely okay.
Leider, echoes this sentiment. He says that the endeavour becomes about ‘packing’ and ‘repacking’ one’s life. Thereby, discarding ideas, thoughts, duties and old baggage in favour of packing the things you truly need to live your best life. And, in the end, maybe it doesn’t even matter which road you embark on. Maybe what truly matters, is that you embark to seek purpose and meaning in life.
Guiding Others to find Purpose
Often, it’s invaluable to have someone else guide you as you journey to find purpose and meaning in life. Are you interested in being one of those people who assist others? If so, explore studying in the Management and Leadership faculty at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). Courses are available on four campuses across South Africa as well as with online learning options. Enquire or enrol today.