2 Ways to find your Purpose in Life!
I need to start with a caveat...it is not essential that you "have a purpose". What research suggests is that it:
- Give us starting point
- Gives us an aim and a focus
- Allows us to figure out what is important/unimportant
- Gives us meaning/passion/success
...and can be linked to greater longevity, and fewer cardiac events; but we DO know that one's purpose can change, and sometimes it might just be that you simply "want to live life to the full". As long as you are making active choices (that do not harm you or others), you're probably doing ok.
But, if you are looking for ways to channel your energies, then the following two exercises may help:
1. Narrowing down what you care about
A purpose is something that drives us, so if you are unsure of what that is for you, then ask yourself the following questions:
a) Is there a cause that resonates with you? If so, research it, find out how you can contribute (this doesn't need to be direct, it can be by blogging about it if you are a writer, or raising awareness of it through imagery if you are an artist or a photographer, or perhaps organising an event in support of it.)
b) Is there a person who is doing something you care about? As with the cause, you can contribute in similar ways, and look at how they got started and see if you can do something yourself. A word of caution here though, you do not need to "reinvent the wheel", so sometimes, rather than starting your own charity for example, you may instead become a trustee of something already established.
c) Is there a behaviour that you do NOT care for? Finding something you can stand against or try to remove or change is another great way of developing your purpose. Standing against injustice, or perhaps working to change a commonly accepted narrative - for example, the concept of Neurodiversity (which is hugely beneficial for all of is in its understanding of and engagement with autism, dyslexia, dispraxia, discalculia, ADHD...and so on) came as a reaction to the previously held approach of "disability". I personally and working to focus on mental HEALTH as something to commit to (like physical health), while appreciating we still need to bring an end to any stigma surrounding mental ill health.
2. Defining your ideal life
This is something slightly different, and helps you focus your energies on a concept rather than a profession.
I dislike it when we ask children "What do you want to be when you grow up" because whatever answer they give limits their options! For example, they say "A Vet" and we start advising them to take those specific qualifications. (It might be that they actually want to stop all dogs from being hurt...that's very different, and opens a number of different career paths!)
Instead, if we ask (and you can do this of yourself too):
- What problems would you like to solve? or
- What impact on the world would you like to make?
They will give you might more open answers, and more importantly, keep your mind broad for opportunities to develop in those areas.
Further to those questions, I would then ask you to reflect on the following:
- What does your ideal life look like (eg. house, car...lifestyle)
- What does your ideal job look like (eg. hours, place of work, travel, earning potential...)
- What, ideally, are the types of people you surround yourself with (eg. loyal, funny, innovative, creative, initiative taking...)
These questions also give you a focus, and you can then even ask yourself as you go about your day - is this action leading me towards my ideal, or away from it (and choose accordingly.)
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For coaching tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt