“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.” E. Roosevelt
We have a friend who is now a bit over 30 years old and has been struggling to find her life purpose. It is a question that has been perturbing her because she feels that by now she should know what she wants, yet she has no clue. She went to the university, never convinced of the course she had chosen. She graduated but never felt passionate about any job. She attended a few personal development workshops and finished them without having an actual feeling of achievement. She travelled around the world for a year hoping she could be as lucky as Elizabeth Gilbert and find herself during her trip, but it didn’t happen. She came back with the hope of having been affected in a positive way by that year off; not only didn’t it happen, but she found herself going back to pretty much square one – living with her parents, going back to her old boyfriend, frightened to start anything on her own. She once told us “maybe my purpose in life is to be in constant search, regardless of the result”.
Our conversation went on with more questions: do we actually need to have a purpose in life or is it just a myth? And if we do need to find it, does it have to be only one and big? Can’t we have many and small ones?
As in the case of our friend, many people may be trying to find the reason for their existence because they feel there is something missing in their life. But if this is the reason why they are trying to find their personal mission, is this actually the kind of question they should be asking themselves? Probably we should also question whether happiness and life purpose are necessarily connected.
In a TEDx Talk in 2013, Adam Leipzig said that on the last evening of his 25th college reunion, he was talking to classmates that had not seen each other in more than two decades, and was surprised to find that 80% of them were not happy with their lives, mainly because they didn’t know what their life was all about.
The definition of “life purpose” may vary according to the perspective used. For the religious, it may be seen as the path that may lead to God and what God has instructed them to do on Earth. For the spiritualists, it may be a calling. In some cultures, life purpose may be limited to what women are supposed to do (have children and take care of the household) or to what to men are supposed to achieve (work and support the family).
Furthermore, purpose should not be confused with passion or with professional goals. A purpose is supposed to be your ultimate life goal – which is quite a difficult thing to achieve since your mind is not the same when your are 20 than when you are 60. Finding our one and main goal in life could be very frustrating as it is quite hard to create a mission statement broad (but meaningful) enough to apply throughout our life. If you’ve found it, great for you. If you haven’t, you shouldn’t worry too much, just focus on being good, true to yourself, on helping others whenever possible, on doing what you love, and you will surely lead a fulfilling life.
There are people who have known what they wanted since the age of 10. There are others, like our friend and like that 80% of Adam Leipzig’s class who may never find it. The truth is, most people die without knowing what their purpose in life was and, despite that, they led very happy lives. Pursuing and actually achieving your purpose doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness.
Many people say that there is a reason for our existence, that we all have a mission to accomplish, and that we need to find it in order to have a meaningful life, but again, you may agree or disagree with this according to your believes and perspective.
Now, if you want to find it, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of articles on the Internet that claim that “if you follow these ten tips you will find your life purpose”. We don’t think this is such a trivial issue that can be solved with “ten simple steps”. On the contrary, it is a truly spiritual and philosophical question. Finding the reason why you are in this world is a very deep, inner and personal journey that you yourself need to embark on – only if you wish to.
Now we want to hear your thoughts. What do you think about this topic? Do you think you have a personal mission? And do you think it is indeed important to have one?