“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” –
I know, I know! I can almost feel the fear coming through cyberspace as I write this; imagining people reading this post and saying “OMG, I have no idea what my purpose is?!?!”, “I have nothing to offer the greater good in this world!” or simply “I am not doing this hippy dippy crap again in my life!”
Well, give me a chance to explain. You definitely don’t have to have a perfectly clear idea, it doesn’t need to meet your definition of extraordinary, nor does this need to be a pressure filled stressful experience. Life meaning and purpose is, simply, just a little incentive in this life to get you out of bed and engage with this incredible world as the incredible human that you are. Also, science supports this butt kicking approach to life 🙂
Because Science Says So!
The Psychological Benefits of a Meaningful Life
- People with a stronger sense of life purpose are happier, better at managing stress and tend to be healthier. PsychNERD Link
- People with a sense of purpose in their life showed better cognitive function (brain power!) measured by higher scores for memory, executive functioning, and overall cognition. PsychNerd Link
- As a sense of life purpose increases, symptoms of depression decrease. PsychNERD Link
- Having identified a purpose in life was associated with greater life satisfaction and overall well-being at three stages of life (adolescence, emerging adult and adult). PsychNERD Link
- Having a purpose in life in early youth predicted positive well-being, self-image, and low delinquency during emerging adulthood. PsychNERD Link
Just a reminder that this is #5 in my 10 part series this academic year on
“Being Nice to Your Brain”
Series: 10 Things You Can Do to Be Nice to Your Brain
- Learn to Tolerate Ambiguity
- Be Open to New Information
- Learn to Reframe Adversity
- You Don’t Have to Act the Way You Feel
- TODAY! Zone in on Your Purpose in Life
- Master Motivation aka “fire under your butt strategies”
- Seek Out Peak Experiences
- Stay True to Your Values – Who do YOU want to be in this world?
- Learn the Art of Balance
- Apply the “Power of Yet” in Your Life
Let’s start this journey with a positive and inspiring TEDTalk from an award winning, and pretty cool author, Emily Esfahani Smith. This is a good read 🙂
Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there’s a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life, serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you, gives you something to hold onto. Learn more about the difference between being happy and having meaning as Smith offers four pillars of a meaningful life.
The PSYCHNerdy Next Steps
Many years ago, I stumbled on a career counselling theory called, Planned Happenstance that was introduced in 1999 by Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz. I had the chance to meet Dr. John Krumboltz back then and listen to him speak, wow! Incredible speaker and career theory psychologist. (Sorry a little nerdiness slipped out!). They defined this career search approach as “constructing unexpected career opportunities” and that people can actually “plan,” be prepared for, and even “construct” or generate “chance” career events in their lives. You don’t have to know what your life purpose is, or what career you want to have, you just need to develop 5 skills and then go out and take some risks, get out of your comfort zone, try things that you can’t imagine even liking…nothing illegal 😉
Top 5 Happenstance Skills to Develop
These life skills help you to recognize, create, and use chance opportunities as career and life opportunities:
- Curiosity: your ability to get out there an explore new opportunities
- Persistence: your ability to continue to exert effort despite setbacks
- Flexibility: your ability to change your attitude and the circumstances if needed
- Optimism: your ability to view new opportunities as possible and attainable
- Risk Taking: your ability to take action in the face of uncertain outcome
This is so much more than a career theory, it is a life perspective that can help you zone in on your overall life purpose. Go out and participate in something you don’t even seem interested in, volunteer to help organize an event, take part in something at work or on your campus that scares you a little bit…just go out and try some legal things that freak you out a bit or things that don’t seem to interest you… YET.
Many years ago, I was really fortunate to be “forced” to take karate by a paranoid father of 2 girls. I hated it for the first year and then slowly began to love it, mostly. For the next 15 years, being a part of the Shōrinjiryū Kenkōkan Karate world, widened my narrow world view, allowed me to learn so much about myself, including the ability to push beyond my perceived limits, all while being immersed in the completely mysterious and wonderful world of Japanese culture.
The one Japanese concept, amongst so many, that has stuck with me all through my life is is ikigai. The beauty of this concept is that it does not have a direct English translation, but it is thought to combine the Japanese words ikiru, meaning “to live,” and kai, meaning “the realization of what one hopes for.” According to the World Economic Forum, ikigai is becoming popular outside of Japan as a way to live longer and better.
Try This Out!
To get started, ask yourself the following 4 questions:
- What do you love?
- What are you good at?
- What does the world need from you?
- What can you get paid for?
Still Freaked Out?!?!
If you are really stuck and your motivation seems to have alluded you, or fear of the unknown is completely freaking you out, take some time to watch a hilarious film called “Yes Man” with Canada’s own Jim Carrey. It is a really extreme version of what you can do to get out there, plan your happenstance, try something that you fear, and stand on the outside of what is familiar and comfortable. You never know what will be unveiled for you. Check it out!
I so often tell my students that “we are just here to entertain ourselves until we die”, so, don’t take yourself so seriously that you become frozen in place with fear. Start cultivating meaning in your life by asking yourself “what do I want to do to make this life worth living?
Just for Fun Resources:
- 7 STRANGE QUESTIONS THAT HELP YOU FIND YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
- How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person – LifeHack
Tell me about your journey!
#YouGotThis #LiveFully #MentalWellness
Dr. Heather Drummond, C.Psych.
Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Flourishing * A Human Muddling Through