Many of us continually live with that vague, itchy feeling of discontentment. We might feel happy on occasion and grateful about certain things in our lives; yet not entirely fulfilled or at ease in our own skins.
Most often, the feeling of purposelessness drives our dissatisfaction – and not those external factors we so love to scapegoat: not being married (or being married!); not having children (or being consumed by your children!); etc. Throughout history, people survived even the most horrendous of circumstances if they believed their lives were meaningful. Thus, defining your life’s purpose and using it as a guidepost is a smart step towards a satisfied existence.
Frederich Buechner defined purpose as, “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s needs”. For most of us, uncovering and defining our purpose is a prolonged process. If you would like to take this journey to a more meaningful and gratified life, here are some pointers that might help you along the way:
Prioritise your priorities
Even “living the dream” will seem empty if your life is not congruent to your belief system and inner principles. Take time to stipulate what you really deem important in life. Your faith and temperament will influence this.
The benefit of having a clear “priority map” is that it will help you to manage the things in your life that are killing you from the inside (e.g. the ethics in your workplace might be in full contrast to your moral values). On the other hand, even seemingly meaningless tasks (like changing nappies) can suddenly seem purposeful if you are reminded that they serve your priorities (in this case: raising your family).
Even if you cannot yet define your purpose clearly, knowing what you stand for and living accordingly is a great step towards feeling satisfied with your life.
Dote on your distinctiveness
Steer clear of outlining your purpose according to any perceived “ideal”. You have to know who you are – with all your strengths and shortcomings – before you can accurately determine your purpose. Incorporated in this is the awareness of what makes you come alive and what dreams you treasure deep in your heart.
Living meaningfully is not always pleasant and easy (it may even entail a great deal of self-sacrifice), but it will need to fit your uniqueness and sit well with your soul.
Uncouple doing and being
Purpose is not merely “what you do” and capturing it is not as simple as setting some goals. Although our actions are vitally important, performance is not to be confused with purpose. For example, your purpose will not simply be “becoming a great lawyer” or even – very nobly – “being a good spouse”, although both of these could be intimately intertwined with what makes your life meaningful.
Purpose goes deeper into who we ought to be and how we are designed to live – even if we never reach “greatness”. It cannot be forced. In fact, it is only gradually released from a space of inner freedom.
Many of us have trouble clearly expressing the content of our hearts and fully grasping our potential and this could be a great barrier in your mission to meaningfulness. Therefore, support from friends, family members or people in your faith community could be helpful in formulating your life’s purpose. Just watch out that they do not colour your unique picture according to their own perspective.
Life coaching by a professional outsider is a great tool to help you determine what you actually want and need from life and the practical steps necessary to accomplish this. If you think you could benefit from coaching sessions, get more information here.
Don’t be like a person walking around a grocery store without a proper shopping list! You may be picking up some nice and useful things, but will soon end up unsatisfied at home without all your actual necessities. Define your purpose, “shop smartly” and get what you want from life.