What is your purpose in life?
That’s a question most of us ask at different times of life, usually when we’re suffering a setback of some kind. But it’s such a gigantic question, too often we let it slip by without paying much attention.
I read an article recently that helped me get a handle on some answers. “How To Find Purpose in Life” was in The Greater Good Magazine on the Greater Good website. The author, Jeremy Adam Smith, gives 6 suggestions in finding your purpose — and I hope you’ll read the entire article for its inspiring stories. Here’s a quick recap.
- Read: This is of course my favorite, and I’m convinced that reading of any kind is an effective way to end our isolation and find purpose. Reading allows us to live in the shoes and souls of people from distant lands and distant times. It’s a portal in time and space that connects us to the experiences of a wide variety of people. When I was a child and teenager reading opened me to the world and possibilities, and studies have shown that written or spoken stories are immensely helpful to young people in finding their path and purpose in life.
- Turn hurts into healing: Many people are crushed by suffering, but a key to living a full life is discovering that pain can give us a purpose, if we use it to heal those around us. I’m deeply inspired by the “Me Too” movement, because so many women — and men as well — have refused to be defeated by pain, and instead have called out the predators and perpetrators around them. We heal others and we heal ourselves when we refuse to be victims and instead take control of our lives.
- Cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism: When we open our senses and awareness to the world around us, we cultivate awe. When we focus on the beauty surrounding us, then we cultivate awe. When we can see the extraordinary in the ordinary, we cultivate awe. And when we are mindful of this, then we experience deep gratitude for the many blessings in our lives. When we are grateful, altruism, empathy and kindness flow through us.
- Listen to what other people appreciate about you. Is there a voice in your head that consistently reminds you of all the mistakes you’ve made and the failures you’ve endured, of your shortcomings? Counter it by reflecting on the difference we’ve made in the lives of others and their appreciation of us. It usually helps.
- Find and build community: Most of us come into this world with a built-in community we call family, but that’s not enough. Part of our purpose is to keep building and nourishing other communities, pushing out to include more and more people. I have found communities of good friends both here in Florida and in Chautauqua, NY. I’ve found community with quilters, as well as authors and readers, and all of them help me be a better person. Life would be small without them.
- Tell your story: Write your life story, but even if you don’t, you can share it verbally with your children and grandchildren, as well as other family and friends. My husband did that this summer in honor of a major birthday. And one of the best presents he received was learning that our ten year old granddaughter went home and read it from cover to cover. As you write? Be sure to include all the heroes in your life, the dragons you’ve slain and the romances you’ve had (maybe not all of them). Most of all, work on giving your story a happy ending.
How do you find purpose in your life? Tell us your story.