Finding life purpose
Many start out life with no real conception of a life purpose. In fact most people go through a significant portion of their life wanting only to satisfy their own personal desires. These desires are usually ego driven such as the accumulation of wealth or material possessions, or to rise to a position of power or recognition. This life purpose may also include wanting to satisfy a host of physical bodily desires. Finding purpose in life is something we eventually arrive at when most of those other desires are fulfilled. Once all those other desires are fulfilled people find they are still left with a certain emptiness. In other words, they find out fulfilling all their physical desires did not bring lasting happiness, contentment, satisfaction or sense of fulfillment.
How to analyze your life purpose
Here is a great little exercise to bring an awareness to life purpose. Take a moment and write down 10 things you commonly do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. These must be things you are currently doing, not wish you were doing or want to be doing. It must be something you are currently experiencing in your life. You should also attempt to prioritize these items by the time you dedicate to them. So for instance you may come up with a list similar to this:
- Work – as a computer programmer (i.e. 40 hours per week)
- Watch TV, watch movies (i.e. 18 hours per week)
- Interact with the phone, social media, you tube, snap chat, twitter, music apps, text, email, etc.. (i.e. 18 hours per week)
- Commuting – to work, shopping, social events, etc.. (i.e. 11 hours per week)
- Cooking, Eating, Cleaning & Chores (i.e. 10 hours per week)
- Socializing with family and friends (i.e. 9 hours per week)
- Personal hygiene, dressing, shower time, grooming, primping? etc.. (i.e. 5 hours per week)
- Shopping (i.e. 4 hours per week)
- Exercise (i.e. 3 hours per week)
- Miscellaneous (i.e. 3 hours per week)
Its not hard to see how our life purpose can take a back seat to life activity; whether we are conscious of it or not. In the above example every hour of waking life is taken up. Since there is only 168 hours in a week and assuming 7 hours of sleep per night, one is left with 119 waking hours (less if you sleep more than 7 hours.) The above activities consume those 119 hours per week. So if you truly want to get the benefit of this exercise, then I encourage you to write down your own list before you read further. I have given you the above list as a good starting point so you don’t have to recreate too much. Change the hours, delete or add to the above list and you will finish this exercise quickly. It is important to have some idea before reading further.
The life purpose thought experiment
So here is the exercise to help you put your life purpose into context. Suppose you were told you could only pick 2 items on that list to do for the rest of your life. Assume that food and shelter are provided because this is not an exercise to determine what is necessary to sustain the basic functions of life. Instead we are talking about what you want to do with the rest of your life and the rest of your time on earth. These two activities would be the only two things you could experience for the rest of your days on earth. What would those two things be? Below is a list of things to ponder as you look at your life’s activities.
- Of these activities in which are you expressing your talents and your abilities
- In which of these items are you living your life by watching other people live their life?
- In which of these activities are you expressing your true self or your passion in life?
- Which of these activities are necessary to sustaining your life?
- Are you doing any of these activities because you are bored and have no other priorities or other things to work on?
- Is there anything you desire as a life purpose on this list?
Having gone through this thought experiment:
- Have you suddenly realized you don’t really have a life purpose?
- Have your realized what you really want is not even on your list?
- Are one or both picks grouped into the miscellaneous list representing the fewest hours spent each week?
When do you define your life purpose?
You life is moving past your very eyes. It was only yesterday you were in college or in school. It was only yesterday you were goofing around with your friends or holding your baby. It was just yesterday you moved into your first apartment or bought your first house. You may find your life to this point has been filled mostly with routines and activities. These activities and routines fill the space of what could be a life purpose. Given the trajectory of your life, will anything change?
Perhaps this experiment is valid, we are really doing what we will do for the rest of our lives. Fast forward to the last week of your life, look back on your life, does this thought make you happy? Today is all we have to change tomorrow, today is all we have to look back on tomorrow. Today is all we have to make things different from yesterday… if not today, then when? A small change of course on the open sea will greatly effect our final destination. If you can’t make a dramatic change in your life then at least work to make enough of a change that will make a difference at the end of your life.
Applying the lesson:
- If you examine your activities for the week, which activities bring you true joy and happiness?
- Which activities are you likely to remember in 5 years?
- Which activities give you a sense of contentment and peace?
- Which activities make you feel good inside?
Maybe contemplating a life purpose is not uppermost on our mind, but without some quiet reflection and thought, it will never be. Life really does go by fast and it moves faster every year you are alive. It’s not uncommon for people to lament that life indeed passed them by. I believe this is a function of allowing activities and routines to fill the space between birth and death, rather than consciously choosing a purpose in life and pursuing it with passion.
Please share if you found this post to be meaningful. I would love to hear your comments and thoughts… Thank you for reading : )