noun. the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
The big question ‘what is life’s purpose’ is something I’ve gone down the rabbit hole pondering from many angles, reading with enthusiasm the many different philosophies and arguments over the centuries. Over the last two months of living in these unusual circumstances of both existential crisis and opportunity, it’s a good time to think about how to making meaning in this new world.
My younger self would have said that life’s purpose is to have a good job, raise a family, leave something behind for said family to thrive from and continue to grow. Obviously that younger self was naïve to the possibility the older self would be 36 and single after exiting a long-term relationship into a new direction that is so far off from the ‘Purpose in Life’ plan of the younger self. So, now what?
Realising that my purpose-in-life ponderings were taking me further away from a potential construct of what life could look like, taming my ruminations back into the here and now, I have concluded that my purpose in life is to spend time finding my purpose.
The discussion of life’s purpose runs deep into core values, finding your why, storytelling and language, inter-generational and religious/cultural influences, behaviour patterns, life ages and stages, therapy and ‘doing the work’ to explore emotional and psychosocial spaces, life experience, and all the liminal happenings that make our life our own.
For the purpose of this article, I’m not going to delve into these elements individually, but stay with where this existential thought goes first – my core values; especially, adventure. Upon reflection, I can see I’ve been making more and more decisions based on the level of adventure that decision will bring. This doesn’t mean I’m jumping out of planes every weekend (although that is on the list of crafts to learn), rather, creating meaningful and adventurous moments to be had in the everyday.
This comes in many forms from imagining cloud shapes during my morning walks, or taking a different route for a regular travel schedule (according to my sister I expressed an unreasonable amount of excitement about going to the train station one stop before my usual), or choosing to read or watch something I wouldn’t normally consider.
Or it could be a bigger gesture like visiting somewhere new that seems usually inconvenient – not allowing comfort to get in the way of an adventure felt counter-intuitive at first. Saying yes to something my usual behavioural patterns and conditioning might automatically say no to also means leaning into fears, or getting out of stuckness – both these places (fear and stuckness) are a block to adventuring.
Irrespective of the gravity of the action, the gravity of living each day with an adventurer’s lens has been enormously valuable for my outlook on life, mental health, and ability to find joy in every day, and in the every day.
So I’ve stopped obsessing about defining a purpose in life that is bound to a future that is by no means concrete or certain in any way, as we’ve since discovered with the onset of COVID-19 where life changed literally overnight. Rather, I am living a life of discovery and adventure, of making meaningful and purposeful decisions based on my core values – courage, freedom, integrity, growth, adventure, compassion.
For now, I am content with my purpose in life to be living a life with purpose.
There are many great readings about life’s purpose and existentialism. Here are a few resources to enjoy but please do let me know what else you find intriguing on this topic.
- Uncertainty and Our Search for Meaning
- 3 Unexpected Ways to Find Your Life Purpose
- The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness
- Finding Meaning in Life Through Philosophy and Psychotherapy
- Six ways to discover your life purpose
- What You Need to Live a Life of Purpose
- Oprah and Eckart Tolle: A New Earth: Your Inner Purpose (Chapter 9)
If you are feeling the heaviness of this time, please reach out for support, or seek help from one of your local organisations like Beyond Blue in Australia.
This article was first published here in Being Together – please let me know if you’d like to join this community of well beings.
Thank you Patrick Selin for making this image available on unsplash.