I’m having a rough time trying to figure out why I’m here. I’m not suicidal or anything like that, but I’m struggling to find my life purpose. It’s the beginning of another new year, and I want to make some changes. What do you suggest I do to start figuring out what can give my life more meaning than I have now?
You’re discussing a topic that has been the fodder for many professional and novice philosophers, as well as millions of other common folks. This search has challenged humans for thousands of years. You are essentially asking why we personally exist and how best to utilize our time while we are on this planet. This search for meaning in our lives can cause us to stay awake at night pondering the universe and our role within it.
It can bring up an incredible amount of strong emotions, ranging from feeling excitement about the evaluation process to experiencing terror that you will not be able to identify or accomplish things that make you feel positive about your life. Without purpose, we risk feeling aimless and question if we are doing anything other than simply existing.
I would suggest starting this new journey by taking a strong, honest look at yourself. Think about your strengths and challenges, desires and fears, and those things that interest or intrigue you. This will push you to be truthful and authentic about those things that make you feel positive about yourself and the life you are living while working to create an awesome future.
This search can be difficult even for the most introspective of people. Be careful to not feel overwhelmed with the vast amount of possibilities. You may only need to focus on a few top priorities that you think will be the most impactful ones to include in your life. Sometimes you many want to select a few of the easier ones to accomplish first to give yourself confidence that they can be successfully added. The more challenging goals or the ones that might take a longer amount of time to attain can be saved for later. Not everything has to be done at once, and you can spread out these life changes over time.
As far as looking for your purpose regarding professional, relational, or personal interests, you may have to think more deeply about what you want. Consider what elements make you truly feel successful in these areas. Some people are motivated by money, while others may not want something overly difficult or energy-intensive.
Many enjoy a good challenge and want to develop ways to push themselves to a limit. Take opportunities to develop theories about what things could change in your life without the concern that maybe they won’t make you feel differently. All you can do is try and then determine if there is a change in the way you feel about what you have accomplished. Feel free to re-prioritize your list, toss out decisions that don’t seem to fit, and try new things to hopefully find ones that work for you.
Individuals like Gandhi and Mother Theresa took many opportunities in their lives to make personal choices for the betterment of the world around them. For most of us, this level of altruism and charity is not realistic, nor is it a true desire to incorporate into our lives. We may choose to become involved with charitable causes or offer support to those in our lives that we love. Some may focus on pairing their love of something with a passion to impact individuals or communities. Maybe spending time with an animal rescue or volunteering with an after-school program for under-privileged students may provide some life purpose.
Doing certain activities may also bring up some internal feelings that can cause you to feel good about yourself, the choices you make, and how you are spending time and energy. Emotions such as happiness and pride are relatively common when doing things that make you feel that you are doing something fulfilling in your life. It is important to try things and determine if you are getting the response that you anticipated and if the feelings you are experiencing are what you desire. If not, try something else.
You may also want to consider what you already do in your personal life for the betterment of others or current actions that brings up personal feelings of fulfillment. These activities don’t need to be huge endeavors to cause a significant global impact. It may be something as simple as being generally pleasant to those people serving you a drink at a restaurant or being more aware that someone could use assistance at the grocery store. You can focus your energy on maintaining a positive attitude with daily activities or work to address negative ways of thinking about yourself or others. You don’t have to be a saint or do things to impact the world to be a good person. The right small changes can cause larger impacts in your life.