Something that countless people struggle with is figuring out their life’s purpose – indeed, it’s one of the greatest questions we contend with as human beings.
What is the meaning of life?
The answer is: it depends. Life’s meaning is specific to each person, and in order to create a life that we find meaningful, we need to first figure out what our purpose is.
This is easier said than done – especially since most people take a reactive approach to life: dealing with things as they happen, rather than planning for the future and following a thought out plan to create the life that’s right for them.
This is why many people end up achieving the societal archetype of success – reaching the top of their career ladder, having a family and becoming accomplished in their hobbies – and yet feel unfulfilled, even after achieving the goals they set out for themselves.
As the saying goes: there’s no point in climbing the ladder if you’re on completely the wrong wall.
This is why discovering your purpose – a.k.a. the thing you should be doing with your life in order to become your happiest and most fulfilled – is essential, so you can start building a plan to help you fulfil that purpose.
Here are a few tips to help you discover your purpose and live a life that’s true to you.
Cast aside the rhetoric of others.
Throughout our lives, we’re told by others – friends, colleagues, parents, or teachers – what we can and can’t do, what we’re capable of and what we should be doing.
As human beings, we’re programmed to be influenced by the opinions of others, so many are guided in a direction we wouldn’t have chosen on our own (and that might not be right for us).
More than being told by those closest to us what we should do, often we’re influenced by the wider beliefs held by society – perhaps to go for the highest paying job possible, or a career that demands respect such as being a doctor, or to seek financial stability over following your passion.
We can end up internalising these beliefs and doing what we think we’re meant to – yet, end up feeling unfulfilled despite following the blueprint laid out by society.
Consider your position now – what steps lead to you being here? Did you follow what felt true to you, or did you do what you felt you should do?
Abandon your limiting beliefs.
Other factors sidetracking us from our true purpose are the narratives that we create about ourselves. Maybe you know what you really want to do, but don’t believe in your ability to do so; maybe you think you’re not ‘good enough’, ‘smart enough’, or ‘young (or old) enough’.
These are all ‘limiting beliefs’ and if you continue to believe them, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you don’t believe in your own ability to create the life you want, you won’t put in the work necessary to build that life.
Instead, adopt a ‘growth’ mindset – a mindset that believes in the power of learning and hard work to get you where you need to be – rather than a ‘fixed’ mindset, which perpetuates that innate ability and genetics determine your potential in life.
Those with growth mindsets generally achieve more, as research including one Stanford study demonstrated, showing that changing students’ mindsets let to an improvement in grades.
By abandoning your limiting beliefs about yourself – and instead believing in your ability to grow and improve your abilities to get you where you need to go – you’ll achieve more too.
Think about what you find ‘meaningful’.
In order to figure out your purpose in life, it’s a good idea to reflect on your life so far, and identify the times when you felt what you did was meaningful, and when you felt most rewarded by what you were doing.
This doesn’t have to be a recent memory – in fact, some of your most rewarding or meaningful moments may have taken place in childhood.
For example, perhaps you remember feeling most fulfilled in school when you helped a friend overcome a maths problem – then maybe your purpose is to teach (this can take many forms, not just working in a school, and teaching kids their ABCs).
Or, perhaps making food for your friends and family have resulted in the most rewarding experiences for you. If so, perhaps a culinary business could be on your horizon to give you the sense of purpose you’re missing, as you enhance people’s lives with great tasting food.
Defining the times in your life that have felt the most meaningful or rewarding may help lead you to finally finding and fulfilling your purpose.
And it’s never too late to start.