“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction” – John F. Kennedy
We’ve all heard about the importance of living a life of purpose. In theory, it seems simple: devote yourself to something meaningful and you’ll find lasting happiness. A noble aspiration that we hope will quench our sense of longing, and comfort us in a world that seems random, haphazard and impersonal.
Yet most people struggle to discover their purpose. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, they know that the Emerald City exists but they have no clue as to how to get there and what being there will feel like. Without a good roadmap to give them direction for their quest, they get lost in the wilderness of life.
Some don’t even feel compelled or motivated to find their ideal path towards a meaningful existence because they’re too wrapped up in getting their basic needs met, and once those needs are met, they work towards building their wealth and financial security to acquire more material possessions.
This tendency, along with a lack of self-awareness, can influence a person to gradually define themselves based on their possessions, and view their assets as an extension of themselves. In this way, their life becomes centered on the pursuit of pleasure, material consumption and fulfilling ego-driven needs.
The Buddhist term for these individuals, whose appetites exceed their need for consumption, is “hungry ghosts”. In Buddhist imagery, they are depicted as creatures with huge, empty bellies, thin, long necks and tiny mouths. These creatures are always on the prowl for food and drink but their small mouths and skinny necks make it almost impossible for them to receive nourishment to satisfy their appetites.
A person who mirrors the ways of a “hungry ghost” will overindulge in various things such as drugs, drinks, smoking, gambling, lust, shopping, or anything else that they think will resolve the brokenness, incompletion and imperfection they feel inside. This is the classic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that celebrities and the elite desperately cling on to with hope that it will give them the serenity they so desperately seek.
Sooner or later (if they stay alive), they realize that these fleeting sources of pleasure cannot change their feelings of emptiness, no matter how much they partake in them. If they’re open to seeing the truth, they’ll see past the delusional manifestations of their ego and recognize the deeper needs of their spirit.
Yet very few think of finding purpose as a necessity for their spiritual wellbeing. Living your purpose is more often considered to be a vague and grandiose notion that doesn’t apply to the average Joe or Jane. And the truth is that people can survive without having a clear sense of purpose in their life.
But survival is not the objective of life – thriving is! Deep down, we want our life to matter and to make a difference, and we want to get the most out of every day. This longing for something more is a natural instinct we can’t ignore, and is vital to discovering and understanding the themes of our personal journey.
A sense of purpose anchors your spirit, helping you feel grounded and centered in your being. No matter what kind of temptations or distractions you encounter, you’ll be able to stay focused and consistent because you know who you are and what you’re living for. Without purpose, you’ll feel like a solitary leaf, drifting away in currents of the wind, vulnerable to the forces of bullies, corruption and cults.
Whether you’re a corporate crusader, a homemaker or a retiree, you have purpose. Regardless of your income, race, status or background, you have purpose. The bottom line is this: if you’re alive, you have purpose, just as everything else in the Universe does. Be grateful to be living in a time when most of us have the freedom to live a life based on what’s true for us, and to express our gifts and innate potential.
Here are some tips on how you can discover and nurture a sense of meaning and purpose in your life:
- Connect with your passion and interests: Discovering your purpose is not so complicated if you’re aware of your interests and the things that you’re passionate about. You can determine your passions by engaging in the process of self-discovery and asking yourself crucial questions such as: What matters deeply to me? What are some activities that I just lose myself in? What lights up my soul and heart, and puts a smile on my face? What is it that I can never get tired of doing and something I can’t wait to get out of bed for? After reflecting on these questions, take an inventory of everything that inspires you and use your responses as road signs to guide you towards your purpose. Remember to always stay tuned in with your feelings as you go through this process, so that you’ll intuitively know when you have found something that resonates with you on a deep level.
- Find ways to live out and express your purpose: Once you’re aware of the interests that you’re passionate about, the next step is to figure out how you can channel them in a way that can benefit you, your community and hopefully the rest of the world. Ask yourself: How can I use my talents and passion to meet a significant need around me? For example, if you love to teach, you can either express it in a teaching career or you can volunteer to teach underprivileged kids in developing countries. If you love to nurture and care for others, you can work as a nurse in a hospital or in homeless shelters, or you can devote all your maternal energy towards raising children of your own. You’ll be able to generate boundless energy once you discover that there’s something bigger than yourself to serve. Think of global warming advocates Leo DiCaprio and Al Gore, and how they’ve used their platforms in the entertainment and political fields respectively, to incite passion and support for saving our planet from the imminent threats of global warming, within the hearts of millions.
- Build a PLC attitude: PLC stands for progress, learning and curiosity. The reason why these three qualities are essential components when it comes to creating a meaningful existence is because it makes our reality much more interesting. When we’re driven to continually grow, learn and improve ourselves, we build a sense of momentum that takes us to higher planes of thought and existence. Remaining stagnant and closed off from advancement and expansion makes life drab and pointless. Cultivating a PLC attitude creates a sense of buzz and excitement that’ll make your life one big, enjoyable adventure.
- Look at life below the surface: Although I tend to be more practical in my approach, a part of me likes to occasionally take a detour to indulge in an esoteric and metaphysical outlook of life. Because I believe that when we’re willing to look below the surface of what meets the eye, we can access a different realm of existence where magic-like forces govern the order of the cosmos. Now not everyone will agree with this approach and that’s okay. But if you’re open to it, you can carve out a sense of meaning by adopting a spiritual perspective, which involves looking for patterns, symbolism, signs and acts of grace that occur in your circumstances. When we view the happenings in our life from a subjective and intuitive frame of mind, we’ll be able to connect the dots and appreciate the big picture. Practicing spirituality and being open to seeing the infinite wonder that surrounds us will essentially give us that profound sense of connectedness that ignites feelings of wholeness and belonging.
Even though you’re a tiny speck, existing for a brief second in cosmic time within an incomprehensibly vast Universe, you must know that you have the power to create a massive impact that can ripple out into the consciousness of mankind long after you’re gone. The only way to generate this eternal force within you is through fearlessly living your truth and accomplishing what you believe you’re here to do.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Are you living a life that lacks meaning and purpose? What steps are you willing to change to get more clarity on your purpose?
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