How to really find purpose

purpose written on wooden board

From a very young age, we are made to believe that we are placed on this earth for some unknown purpose, and that our biggest, most important life quest is to discover this purpose. Additionally, that this purpose is what we should be doing with our lives, for the rest of our lives! It is even evidenced by the following quote:

“The two most important days in life are the day you born and the day you discover the reason why.” – Mark Twain

No pressure, right?

Too often clients present to me in psychotherapy with symptoms of depression, burnout, anxiety, and/or addictive behaviours, only to uncover that underneath all of those clinical symptoms are feelings of emptiness and “stuckness”, not having a sense of direction, feeling purposeless. This instilled unconscious belief that every person has this one gift which they need to find and then practice in the world is enough to weigh down anyone who feels that they are falling behind, or have failed, in finding this purpose. It’s time that we stop instilling this misconstrued belief onto ourselves and others. 

We need to redefine purpose.

What is purpose, really?

Purpose is not a thing, and it is also not just ONE thing. Purpose is unfixed, ever-changing. Almost transformative, both in transforming you as a person and transforming in its meaning (i.e., what it is). Purpose is NOT WHAT you do, it is the MEANING you attach to what you do! Instead of asking yourself, “What do I want to do with my life?”, ask yourself, “What gives meaning to my life?” and then find something to do that will provide that meaning. 

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Nietzsche

So, now you may be wondering… 

How do I find meaning in life?

To identify those aspects in your life that give you meaning, you have to start by looking at your values! Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, your values are your guiding principles throughout life. Without them, you absorb the values of others, and ultimately, live a life of someone else’s design. Values inherently provide you with meaning. For example, if generosity is a core value of yours, then using your skills and talents to give to others is bound to fill you with meaning and, in turn, a sense of purpose. Similarly, if leadership is one of your top values and you consciously find work that places you in a leadership position, you will be actively realising your values and this, as evidenced by research, will result in you experiencing a more meaningful life. 

In fact, your values is the one thing that will carry you through challenging times, for example, when you are not yet in a position to pursue the career that you love, living according to your values will help you get there. So, if I had to use the example above, if you did not enjoy your work that much, or you found it extremely tedious, but it still generates a good income and allows you to be generous, then that will give meaning to the tedious work you are doing. Always remember, when you do what you love, it does not mean that you’ll always love what you do. After all that, if you are still struggling to find meaning in what you do, then maybe you need to revisit your values. Maybe generosity is not that important to you anymore, maybe it is family, or wisdom, or kindness. Remember, values change over time, they evolve as you evolve, and so will that which gives you meaning in life. 

The key take-away is that purpose does not exist as some single destined gift that has been bestowed onto you and which you need to dedicate your entire existence to discovering. Purpose means meaning, and meaning means values. So, want to find purpose, then start by identifying your values.

Have any questions or comments? Or need guidance in finding your values? Please feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch vie email at info@esmarildadankaert.com. 

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