How to Find Your Life’s Purpose Today“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.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
Countless self-help gurus urge people to find their purpose, to lead a purpose-driven life, to be purposeful about their choices.
The thinking goes like this: If you’re feeling a pervasive sense of un-fulfillment and lack — perhaps sprinkled with varying degrees of anxiety or sadness or anger — then you’re probably lacking your purpose. Find your purpose, the enlightened people say, and all else in life clicks into place.
Roger that. It’s a logical thread to follow.
There’s just one problem: Trying to find your life purpose causes a lot of people more stress and anxiety. It throws life wildly out of balance. It creates striving. Until that holy grail of Here’s my life purpose is found, life can feel perpetually lacking.
This life purpose quest does something else that’s noteworthy — it creates the illusion that purpose is out there to be found. This is another form of externalizing happiness. Notice how the language of this is so similar to another search that can drive some people into misery — trying to find The One.
In fact, I’d argue that if you’d drop the search for a purpose, you’d up your happiness quotient immediately.
The Buddhists say that one of the fundamental causes of human suffering is this: We’re always trying to get ground underneath our feet, despite the fact that life is endlessly shifting.
In essence, whenever we find something that we think we can control, we cling to it, exploit it, try to control it harder — because for those brief moments, there’s the illusion of having an answer, and having answers feels safe.
You might have even noticed that it feels good to have an answer. And since I’d like to avoid setting up the duality of a “good” versus “bad” relationship, I’ll just add that having answers isn’t a bad thing. It just is what it is — sometimes we feel we have ‘em, and sometimes we don’t.
But insisting that we need answers? Clinging to answers that arise? Getting self-righteous or dogmatic about answers? Trying to make life or circumstances or other people fit into those answers?
Not wanting the answers to change because it’s too scary? — and especially, thinking that your life’s happiness depends upon having answers?
That’s where things get problematic.
Finding your life purpose has become the new thing to strive for, and somewhere along the way, a lot of people are feeling profoundly unhappy as they wait for the rush, the inner knowing, the sense of things clicking into place that other people describe. Waiting for that click, people miss a lot of truly beautiful things along the way.
For those who say they’ve found their purpose, I don’t doubt the happiness that they describe.
What I notice is that this endless efforting, efforting, efforting seems very close in dynamic to the perfectionist struggles to lose weight, to keep your life in balance, to be well-rounded and any other form of externalizing happiness.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Your Purpose is a Choice
I can tell you how to have a life purpose in one simple step. It’s straightforward with its simplicity. It will save you countless hours of therapy. It will even help others and make the world a better place.
Here you go — your life purpose — free of charge and here for you to choose to adopt, right here and right now: Choose to live.
You can choose, right here and right now, that you will live. That is your purpose.
Some people decide that their life’s purpose is to be of service to starving orphans, and others decide that it’s to build a tech firm, and others decide it’s to be a mother.
It seems to me that in each of these very specific examples, what they’re really doing is choosing to live. You don’t need to find these very specific examples.
You can choose to have a life purpose, right here and right now, by deciding that your purpose is to live — to TRULY live. Then you, just as the people in these examples would do, start looking at your life and asking where anything in your life doesn’t support you as you work on choosing to live.
Purpose as the Holy Grail
If you hesitate to embrace this idea that your life purpose could be this simple, consider whether you were carrying any expectations you had. Did you expect in finding your purpose that it would bring with it anything other than your usual, ordinary, everyday circumstances?
Because that right there exposes the fantasy. We go for the “I need to find my life purpose” thinking when we want to escape the ordinary circumstances of our everyday lives.
We want finding our purpose to make us so happy that we’ll levitate. We want finding our purpose to be the thing that stops us forevermore from sweating the small stuff and that infuses our lives with an ever-present joy.
Just consider: The person who is of service to starving orphans isn’t waking up every single day with a heart full o’ cheer. That’s tough work. Do they feel gratification? Of course, but there are still times when it’s more tough than it is gratifying. What do they do? They choose to live.
The person who runs a tech firm faces plenty of challenges — they choose to live, again and again, among all of them. It’s not the absence of problems that they’re after. It’s the aliveness — the sense of meeting challenges as they arise with an attitude of being willing to solve a problem.
The woman who decides that being a mother is her life’s purpose is showing up, day after day, whether those days involve spit up and tantrums or snuggles and kisses. That right there is choosing to live.
Your life right now might include a shitty boss, an overbearing mother-in-law, more debt than you ever thought was possible for one human being to rack up or a scary illness.
How do you live your life’s purpose in the midst of that?
You choose to live — to TRULY live. You make your purpose the art of being fully with everyday living.
Convinced that you need a tiny bit more? Fine. Add on a value. Your purpose could then be:
- Choose to live … with integrity.
- Choose to live … with courage.
- Choose to live … with compassion.
- Choose to live … trusting that everyone is doing the best they can.
- Choose to live … passionately.
As your life changes and as you naturally grow and evolve, it may well hit you one day that your life purpose can be more specific. Maybe it’ll be those orphans or that tech startup or giving birth to new life.
When that happens, if that happens, lovely. In the meantime? Consider deeply the actions and choices that support you living a life purpose of choosing to (truly) live. What would you do differently? What might you bring more of into your life? What might you have a deeper appreciation for that’s already right here, right now?
Congratulations — you have officially found your life’s purpose. I’m sure you’ll find that it’s as wonderful as everyone says it is.