The majority of young people are struggling to give their life a true meaning. But even as we grow older most have absolutely no idea what we really plan on doing with our time and our lives. It all starts in school when teachers ask us questions about what we want to become later in life. Most kids give the typical answers; they want to become policemen, firefighters, astronauts, doctors and nurses. These career aspirations will most likely change 10 times a year until we finally finish school/university and pick up a profession.
But even after we pursue a profession, we’re still wondering what we truly want from life. Most have become employees or entrepreneurs, but they still have absolutely no idea what they want to make out of their life, including myself.
The journey of discovering one’s life purpose seems to be a difficulty almost every single person on this planet has to go through. You might be asking yourself, “What should I make of my existence?” “What gives my life meaning?” “What is my life’s purpose?” “How do I want to spend my time?”
The underlying problem is that we all hope to find our life’s purpose. We think it is our duty to find out what we were born to do. And some people know exactly what role they need to play in their lifetime. Sadly, most of us don’t. So we continue to struggle, thinking that we will never find true happiness until we have discovered the true purpose of our life. It is a heavy burden most of us are carrying on our shoulders.
You can take a lot of weight from your shoulders by becoming aware of the plain facts about existence: we all live on this planet for a given timespan. During our life we can either choose to waste our time by pursuing useless activities, or we can try to do something that is of the greatest importance to us and other people. And as soon as you do something that is really important to you, you will instantly give your life a meaning and a purpose.
It is as simple as that.
Wondering about the purpose of your life won’t bring you any further. In fact, you will most likely ask yourself the same question over and over again 20 years later—that is until you start getting out there to pursue activities that you feel are important.
The only true purpose of life is that you do something of importance. If you’re doing something important you are giving your life a meaning.
We don’t DISCOVER our life purpose, we CREATE it by doing something meaningful.
Whenever we are asking ourselves questions about the meaning of our life, we’re actually asking this: “Is there something I can do that is actually important?” This also implies that whenever we are wondering about the purpose of life, we are simply wondering if we are doing something of importance. Subconsciously, most people know that they don’t, but it is essential to your happiness.
Psychologists have shown how incredibly important for your mental and physical well-being it is to gain a sense of meaning and purpose. Michael F. Steger, psychologist and researcher at the Colorado State University, found that people who have a sense of life’s meaning feel happier, less depressed, anxious and are more satisfied with their life.
If you don’t know what to do with your life, then I have been very special for you. I have prepared a serious of questions intended to assist you in figuring out how you can give your life a meaning. The following presents the best and the most effective questions one can use to discover the purpose of life.
Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose
In the following you will find questions and advice designed for helping you in finding out what it is that gives your life meaning and how you can integrate more importance into your life.
Are you willing to suffer?
Why am I asking such a question? What has suffering to do with your purpose in life? Well, suffering and sacrificing has to do everything with your purpose in life.
Pursuing your dreams means that you will have to be willing to make sacrifices. It means that you have to be willing to confront yourself with the most daunting tasks and responsibilities, if they contribute to the meaning of your life. Pursuing that which you were made to do might be painful at times, but ultimately it will set you free.
Look at all the brilliant people who significantly changed the way we are living. They all had to encounter big defeats and great failures. They all struggled, they all had to make sacrifices. Still, these are the people we look up to when we say, “Their life truly had a purpose and meaning.” These people accepted all the great difficulties that came with pursuing their vision. Even more so, they were able to overcome each challenge, as the pursuit of their life’s true purpose had ignited and inextinguishable fire within them.
However, most people are not willing to make sacrifices. They want an easy life, without any pain and difficulties. But here’s the truth: the easiest life one can dream of has no purpose at all. How would such an easy life look like? All your needs and wishes would be fulfilled instantly. You have unlimited financial resources and you never ever struggle with a single problem. The question is, how are you contributing to anything if you’re living such a life? Your life will have no significant meaning other than fulfilling the boundless desires you have. What a waste of time.
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.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Why else do you think that wealthy people are no more happier than the rest of us? They have everything they could ask for, but not all of them have a true purpose.
The equation is simple:
Easy activities (TV + Internet + party + etc.) = Lots of fun, but no meaning
Following your true purpose in life = Often times difficult, but meaningful and rewarding
Most people believe that as soon as they discover the true meaning of their life everything will start to change for the better. They dream of an easy life, without struggle and no complications. This, however, is an illusion. Break free from it to open yourself to the real purpose of your life.
What would be your plan if you had only one year left to live?
If you want to know a powerful question to ask yourself, ask yourself the following: “If I had only one year left to live, what would I do? What would be really important to me? And how would I want to be remembered?” Asking yourself these questions will help you to start the process of reevaluating your life.
Coming in contact with your own mortality will strip you from all illusions you previously held about life. You will instantly know what is important to you and whatnot. It is as if something turns your life upside down, helping you to declutter and rearrange every single aspect of it. Not only this, but it will also start a process of reevaluating your priorities—something of the greatest importance when you really want to find out what you were meant to do.
I came in contact with my own mortality once in my life. It wasn’t pleasurable as you can guess, as I was confronted with my deepest fears, but it was a rewarding experience. All of a sudden I knew exactly what I wanted from my life. I also realized how randomly and desire-driven I had set my priorities, without focusing on that what was really important to me. I began to understand that I had allowed my urges, desires and wishes to become the driving force of my life, allowing them to distract me from my true purpose.
If you don’t know what you should do with your life, then by all means try to figure out what is really important to you. Know your true values in life and try to discover ways that help you to contribute something meaningful. Something that is important to you.
What is it that sets you free?
We all know of certain activities that truly fulfill us. And no, I don’t mean activities with a strong focus on your own recreation. Watching TV or playing video games for hours might be fun, but cross your heart, it does not fulfill you. I mean those activities that make you truly happy—the activities that give your life a meaning. I’m speaking about the things that help you to see what kind of an important role you’re playing in this life.
For me personally, I discovered how rewarding it is to help other people. It is something that truly makes me happy. Helping others gives me something that most other activities cannot possibly offer.
Others stand up for others, foster injured animals or the elderly, protect the environment, develop new technical applications to make someone’s life easier, help their community, write books to inspire others, create fabulous pieces of art, write uplifting songs and do so many other things with the intent of helping someone other than themselves.
As you can see, most of the things that truly fulfill people revolve around a contribution to make this world a better place.
I have absolutely no idea what it is that fulfills you. And I cannot tell you if it’s right or not. But what I can tell you is that the pursuit of that which sets you free will help you to create a happy life full of meaning and purpose.
How can you save this planet?
Most people that are looking for a purpose in life focus too much on the question what life can do for them. As a consequence, they tremendously struggle to find a true meaning for their life. After all, living your life for the sole purpose of fulfilling your needs does not offer too much of a value.
However, just by rearranging the question you can increase your chances of finding the true meaning of your life. Don’t ask yourself what life has to offer for you, ask yourself what you can do with your time to contribute to this world’s advancement.
Studies have shown that our subjective well-being is influenced to a great extent by values greater than ourselves, e.g. values greater than our own desire for power, lust, pleasure and satisfaction.
The most effective way to give your life a profound sense of meaning is by contributing towards the improvement of this world. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant your attempts may seem at the beginning. If it gives your life a meaning that you will be more likely to pursue your vision until you see it realized on this planet.
What would you do if nobody else cared?
Most of the time, we allow others to heavily influence what we are doing with our life. A comment that I see often on this website is: “My parents/friends/partner want me to become a doctor/scientist/XYZ. I don’t want to, but I do it for them. How can I motivate myself to do something I don’t want to do?”
When it comes to your life purpose, no one else should be allowed to have a say other than you. After all, it is your life and you will have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. Pursuing other people’s aspirations will most likely not give you the sense of living a meaningful life.
Ask yourself the question what you would do if no one else cared. Write down everything you would do if you were not afraid of failure and the judgment of others.
Who are the people you admire the most?
Having a couple of role models can tremendously inspire you. These wise men and women can give you the courage to take a similar path in life. Even more important, by having a look at the kind of people you admire you can learn a lot about possible purposes for your own life. When you look closer at those that inspire you, you will notice that they all share certain qualities and characteristics. Unsurprisingly, these qualities and characteristics can be found within you as well, but not yet as developed as in your idols.
By understanding whom you admire you can learn a lot about the things that could potentially give your own life a true meaning. People who admire
Mother Theresa are more likely to find meaning in taking care of other people or animals than those who admire Steve Jobs. Have the courage to learn from your idols!
Discover how your role models lived their lives, how they managed to overcome great disparity and what their life’s philosophy was. It will greatly inspire you and help you in situations in which you do not know exactly what you should do with your life.
Are you pursuing the dreams you had as a kid?
I find it incredibly exciting to see how many brilliant people developed their true passions about life during early childhood. What differentiates these people from many others is that they continued to pursue these passions even after they had grown up.
This may seem unimportant at first sight, but when we look closer we see why this can be so important. Children do not pick up these hobbies and activities because they want to impress someone. They also have no commercial interests in mind. Kids are simply doing it for the joy of it.
Only when we grow older we are most likely to stop these activities, because rationality indicates us to do so. We start wondering how we can make a living, instead of asking ourselves what it is that gives us true pleasure. We start to place higher emphasis on the judgment and opinion of other people than our own.
Your ability to discover your life’s purpose largely depends upon your skill to find meaningful activities that are of importance to you and others. Ideally, these activities are not centered around yourself. Instead, try to pursue the higher ideals that elevate you to new heights.
In order to discover the meaningful activities that are truly important to you, you will have to take an active role in life. You won’t discover your life purpose on your couch while watching TV.
What it takes to discover one’s purpose in life is to actively create your purpose. Look for problems beyond yourself. Ask yourself how you can help to solve these issues. Imagine how you can help to improve life on this planet, instead of continuously asking what this world can do for you.
Photo credit: Jonathan Emanuel
Parts of this article are inspired by https://markmanson.net/life-purpose