LIVING ON PURPOSE
It’s important to have a purpose. I have seen lives filled with loneliness and despair when no specific purpose has been embraced. On the other hand, I have seen drastic improvements in psychological well-being when people have identified a meaningful purpose.
Without purpose, what’s the point of getting up every day? Life can’t be just about growing-up, getting a job, taking a few vacations, retiring, and dying, can it? Is that why we are here on earth? I believe that we are each on earth for a special purpose, which is up to us to name. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “purpose” is defined as: 1) the object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal 2) a result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention 3) determination; resolution, and 4) the matter at hand; the point at issue. Purpose in life is the intended result of our focus, determination, and intention. It is the entire point of our existence.
Many spiritual disciplines offer a framework to help followers define their life’s purpose. Followers take comfort in the teachings and traditions of spiritual leaders and their insights into a higher power’s purpose for them. Some believe that life is about striving to stay pure in mind and deed. Others emphasize that life should be enjoyed and experienced. Others say that life is suffering, and our purpose is to detach from our egos and melt into the cosmos. Still others say that life should be about service to others. Regardless of the particular spiritual tradition or philosophical base, there is profound psychological value in clearly defining a customized purpose.
Why is purpose so important? A purpose sets the entire context for our lives. Without a clearly defined purpose, we are just a haphazard combination of goals and non-goals and actions and non-actions meandering through space and time. A purpose is a master plan for our life. Knowing our purpose helps us define our goals. It helps us avoid getting lost in the minutia of daily life by keeping our eyes on the target. It can make life much more enjoyable and effortless. Purpose is not something that others choose for us; rather, it is something we must choose for ourselves. It emerges from an exploration of what we value most. When we are defining our purpose in life, it is important to not worry about how we will go about achieving it. When we identify and commit to our intentions, the opportunities and methods for achieving our purpose will begin to show up. In fact, they are often already in our lives, but we may not have noticed them because we were not paying attention. Defining our purpose helps us focus.