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If we look at religions and philosophies over the span of human history, there has been one question that has been either asked directly or alluded to in all cultures. This question is: What Is the Purpose of Life?
Since we developed the ability to think rationally and analyze our surroundings, we have been curious about why things are the way they are. This holds true on both a relative level, such as when we want to know how organisms have evolved, and an absolute level, such as when we ask more broad questions about meaning, God, and the nature of the universe.
Sometimes when we ask a question, we need an immediate answer. At other times the most appropriate response is to consider why we are asking the question in the first place. This is particularly relevant for these broad, often subjective questions that have no clear-cut answer.
People come to wonder about the purpose of life for a number of different reasons. Maybe they’re just inherently curious, or they’ve recently experienced a family tragedy, maybe they’re questioning their faith, or they’re going through a depression and are looking for a renewed sense of meaning.
How to Find the Purpose of Your Life
To find the purpose of life, you need to do some digging. Because there are so many answers to this question, it’s important that you find the one that resonates with you. It must give you enough of a feeling that it satisfies your need to ask that question. As I touched on, this starts with knowing why you want to know the purpose of life in the first place.
Here’s how you can answer the big question: What’s the purpose of life…
The Purpose of Life is To Be Happy
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.Denis Waitley
One of the most obvious conclusions we may come to is the need to be happy. Popular psychology will often promote happiness as the highest virtue, which is reflected in mainstream Buddhist teachings, such as those of the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, we often don’t know exactly what happiness is, which can be hard to find.
Related Reading: 175 Happiness Quotes to Make You Happy
To know how to find happiness and whether or not it is an adequate purpose for your life, you must first discover what happiness means to you. Once you have a crystal-clear image of whatever that is, you can start to go after it and see if it gives you a strong sense of purpose that answers the big question.
The Purpose of Life is To Leave a Legacy
All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.Jim Rohn
In the hyper-competitive world in which we live, leaving a legacy is often implicitly put forth as the highest virtue. Leaving a legacy is one way that we will feel valued in society and remembered after we have gone. However, this doesn’t need to be achieving something on a grand scale, such as building a business empire or becoming a successful athlete – it could simply mean starting a family and leaving the world a slightly better place than when you came here.
The Purpose of Life is to Love Others
Not only do self-love and love of others go hand in hand but ultimately they are indistinguishable.M. Scott Peck
All major philosophies and religions have espoused the importance of love. Love seems to be a healing agent to human suffering and something that connects us across time and culture.
When we can love others unconditionally, we see our environment naturally become a more stable and fruitful place, and the lens through which we see the world is more positive and productive.
Related Reading: Love Quotes to Warm Your Heart
The Purpose of Life is to Create your Own Meaning
Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.Joseph Campbell
Since Nietzsche proposed the death of God over one hundred years ago, we’ve seen a dramatic decline in the widespread mainstream adoption of world religions. What has followed has varied greatly; however, existentialism and humanism are two philosophies that have become relatively popular in secular societies.
These ideologies propose that meaning is something that we create, not given to us by a higher power. According to existentialist philosophy, the purpose of life is to create your own meaning and bring it to fruition.
The Purpose of Life is to Make a Positive Difference
Aim to make a difference in someone’s life every single day, including your own.Doe Zantamata
Making a positive difference may seem like a cliche and underwhelming purpose, but when we make an effort to do so on a practical level, meaning ensues because we see the fruits of our labor in real time. Again, it’s necessary to stress that making a positive difference need not be anything huge.
Social media and popular culture condition us to think only a grand-scale influence is worthy of pursuing, but the reality is that small, visible changes are often more personally rewarding.
There is Purpose in Having a Variety of Experiences
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.Mark Twain
Another way we can find purpose in life is to have a rich and fulfilling array of experiences. As far as we can determine, there is only one life, at least in this particular form. Meaning is created by celebrating the gift of our human experience through our five senses.
Travel, entertainment, love, relationships, good food and novel experiences are ways we may do that. Though not everyone has equal resources to do so, they can still seize opportunities within their own lives if they want to truly live life with no regrets.
One Purpose is to Find Meaning in Suffering
If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.Viktor Frankl
Suffering is an inevitable part of life; understandably, it makes many people question purpose and meaning. There are a number of different approaches to suffering. Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Hinduism believe that the meaning of life is to escape the cycle of suffering. This is done through either the Eightfold Path or the philosophy of Yoga.
On the other hand, a western interpretation, such as that of Viktor Frankl and Friedrich Nietzsche, is to find something in life that justifies suffering. Nietzsche encapsulated this in his famous phrase, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
Ultimately there are a number of answers to the question: what is the purpose of life? Fortunately, we have access to unlimited books written by people who have committed much more time and energy to the question than we ever could.
By reading these books, discussing their ideas and reflecting on the experience, through time, we may be able to find an answer that resonates with us.
Related Reading: 90 Karma Quotes and Sayings
Definition of Life Purpose
Your life’s purpose will be the central motivating factor in your life. Why do you get up in the morning? When we have a purpose for life, it often guides every other decision we make. It can also influence our behavior, shape our overall goals, and give us more of a sense of direction as we find meaning.
Once you find your purpose, you will stop looking for ways to waste time. You may spend less time on social media and other frivolous activities because you have found something better to do.
Your purpose in life is psychological and emotional improvements that add satisfaction to your life. You are looking for something that will best complete you as you work on becoming a better person. You want to be excited to wake up in the morning and have a zest for life.
Benefits of Finding Purpose
Your life needs to have meaning because it can improve your quality of life. When you have no purpose, your life can seem boring. It also provides peace of mind. Everything starts with you, and how you live your life is an outer reflection of your innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires.
What Is the Purpose of My Life?
Most successful people say the best way to find your purpose in life is to look deep inside yourself, pulling out piece after piece of who you are. For example, if you feel lost, your purpose may be finding more meaningful connections.
What is life in one word? Some may say survival, while others respond with energy. There is no clear-cut answer to the purpose of life. It is more about what you make of it.
Beginning now, how will you bring about purposeful life possibilities?
- Identify the things you care about. Apply your skills and natural talents toward the greater good and do what matters to you. Identify what you care most about in human existence. Start by considering what you are good at and reflect on ideas and ways to repurpose your skills to help others, make a positive impact, and have a more fulfilling life.
- Reflect on what matters the most to you. Next is reflection. Understand that you have value and find a real purpose that resonates most with your life. Positive Psychology has a few different questionnaires you can take to explore, including the Valued Living Questionaire and the Personal Values Questionaire.
- Recognize your strengths. We all develop skills and strengths throughout our life. Recognizing your strengths is a good way to find clarity on your path toward finding your ultimate purpose in life. What do you enjoy doing? What kind of mark do you want to leave? What are you especially good at?
- Imagine your best self. Imagine yourself at an older age when everything has gone well in your life. Purpose almost always identifies itself after you find reasons to care. Imagine what you want for yourself. This helps bring you closer to achieving the goal and finding a greater sense of purpose and a more meaningful life. It even motivates you to focus your attention on experiences that can help get you there.
- Practice gratitude and positive emotion. Positive emotions can help you find purpose in life. When we practice gratitude, we reflect on the things we have in life, inspiring us to pay them forward. Check out our 5 Journaling Ideas to Boost Gratitude to get started.
Write a Life Purpose Statement
A life purpose statement is designed to answer the question of why. Why do you get up every morning? This gives you the framework you need to prioritize your day and live a purpose driven life. A life purpose statement is simply a life message. It is a message you wish to convey to the world.
Finding purpose comes down to what is most important to you. Write it down as you consider who and what you want to be. Outline your most important goals, and decide how you want to be remembered.
A life purpose statement is your mission and helps you decide how to spend your time and interact with others. This leads you to achieve short-term and long-term goals. When conveying your goals, be sure to include personal and professional goals and your relationships, achievements, and hopes for your career.
Here is a template you can use when writing your own statement: “ I will (take action) for (who) by (skills) to (my result).”
You can use your personal purpose statement in your career, during a job search, and in interviews. Keep it short and concise, be true to yourself, and get feedback from your support system.
If you keep all this in mind, you will be well on your way to discovering your own answer to “what is the purpose of life.” Because as you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all response to this loaded question.