Why do we need a purposeful, meaningful life?
We are born, play around, attend school and college, get a job, set up a family, and then die. Each one of us — hopefully — adds something to the world; we evolve, the human race becomes smarter, and this repeats.
In the end, we do not get out alive, then why does everything — a broken relationship, a layoff, a fight at work, a stomach ache, a smartwatch — matter so much? What is all of this adding up to? Evolution?
All of this is adding up to these moments that the life is collectively composed of.
Why is it important to have a meaning in our life? So that all these moments together sing a melodious song and not blare out a cacophonous cry.
Nietzsche said, “He who has a “why” to live for can bear with almost any “how”.” Like Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning and a concentration camp survivor, said that the prisoners who thought that they would never leave the camp were suicidal. They had nothing to look forward to.
If you have no aim, no purpose, why would you carry on?
Life purpose gives an essence to our being. And this purpose is individualistic to each, and it can only be fulfilled by that individual.
Like consciousness, life purpose makes ‘an I’ — ‘the I’.
But what is this purpose?
Robert Byrne said that the purpose of life is a life of purpose.
On tough days, everything seems out of order. Everyone’s consciousness dictates their life. Others’ problems don’t matter, but we never forget our troubles. While running for the nth time in this loop of the daily routine — get up, work, talk to people, eat, come back to the family, and prepare for yet another day — we forget the purpose.
The purpose might not be about big goals, like buying a Ferrari, starting a multi-millionaire company, marrying Madonna or John Cusack, publishing a book more popular than A Song of Ice and Fire.
We are talking about simple day-to-day goals that get us out of bed. Like the aspect of writing makes me peek out of my duvet.
Viktor Frankl said, “that we needed to stop asking about the meaning of life but to think of ourselves as those who are being questioned by life. Our answers are not in talk but in solving life’s problems and to fulfill our tasks, in every moment.”
If we are doing nothing apart from examining, then are we living?
Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, said something similar in a conversation with Oprah Winfrey — the purpose of life is what you are doing right now. What does life want out of you right now?
If your colleague is sick, you have to complete his presentation. If a friend’s car broke down, you have to leave your engagements and fetch him. If your father missed his train, you need to book another ticket and send it to him.
Eckhart Tolle elaborates, “Don’t be dissatisfied with some future goal as fulfillment is by becoming one with the current moment. Even if it does not look like your life purpose — by being true to life at this moment — by giving your best — you are aligning yourself with the purpose or the essence of life”.
This best moment leads you to the next best moment.
Viktor concurred with this by giving examples of some of the prisoners who did not leave their goodness behind, no matter what kind of treatment they were subjugated to. “Their behaviors were the result of an inner decision, and not of the camp influences alone. This spiritual inner freedom — that cannot be taken away — makes life meaningful and purposeful.”
Viktor asked — “Would growing old matter to a person who attacks life actively? No. Because instead of possibilities, he has realities of work done, of having loved, and of suffering bravely suffered.”
You know what bothers me on bad days — not the problems I faced, but how I faced them. Was I graceful? Would I stand if the problems hit me hard again?
How do you find the purpose of your life?
You must be wondering that why am I asking you to find a purpose when I said living each moment completely is your purpose. Or what is the problem in losing yourself in the day-to-day life, as you are there in each moment?
While working for a finance startup, I used to get ready, attend work calls on the way to the office, reach work, think about how depressed I was, and work as if I was waiting to be freed.
One day, I woke up to realize that none of the angels had enough time to free me. George Bernard Shaw once said, “become the person you wanted to be. Free yourself. Who is stopping you?”
I quit that job and freed myself. Now I write. I am honest about my writing ambitions and I try to give my best— I am aligning with the purpose of my life.
You are not there in each moment if you are not happy where you are or where you want to be. Get closer to your purpose by filling that large space between your current life and the life you want to have. Mark Twain said, “the man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
If you have to pursue your purpose of life, you have to remain true to yourself. The vice-versa works. If you are being who you are and are giving 100 percent in each moment, you are on the path of the purpose of your life.
Eckhart and Oprah discussed — “End is no different from its mean. If the mean did not contribute to happiness neither would the end. Future is no more than an extension of now.”
The right now will take you to the future, but slowly.
- Their identity
- What they did or loved to do or what were they supremely qualified to teach other people?
- Who they did it for?
- Did those people want it or need it?
- What did they get out of it or how did they change?
- I am Priyanka.
- I write.
- I write first for myself and then for other people.
- I hope people need my writing.
- When they read it, they are inspired or their life becomes easier.
This is one way to go about it.
What is that one thing that defines you? That might be your purpose.
Lizzie Velasquez, once labeled as The Worlds Ugliest Woman, Ted talked about how to be happy and asked everyone to define themselves. As when she defined herself as a motivational speaker, she found the meaning in her life.
Purpose of life should be greater than ourselves, as I, or this being, is mortal and would return to the soil one day. What would remain? The way we had impacted others. My family would remember me but who else?
Victor J. Stretcher, a man without limbs and the author of Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything, thought that talking about what he was going through could help many people face their tragedies. He was spot on. Now that is a purpose to have.
I can only give you a direction, you would have to find your purpose yourself. We all have to.
Having a specific purpose also makes it really hard.
People stay in the snowy mountains for years to get a glimpse of the snowcat.
Bird enthusiasts stay in the jungle for decades, and when they spot that one rare species of bird that they thought was extinct, they rejoice. Their purpose is fulfilled.
But are those people who do not have any defined purpose living an easier life?
We have to put in a lot of effort in everything that we do — meetings, presentations, billions of lines of inherited code, social coordination, relationship issues, childbirth, and so much more.
Everybody struggles with his or her daily life. Then why don’t we struggle while doing something meaningful — something that we were meant to do. Why not be busy living for our purposes? If you have to do something, why not do it well?
As Viktor said, “Man is self-determining — he does not simply exist but he decides what he will become in the next moment.”
Don’t be busy just for the sake of being busy. Chose what you want to become. Your decision and efforts might make it better for the rest of us.
Don’t let the song that you wanted to sing die while you are busy stringing and unstringing the guitar.
I am here for a purpose and that purpose
is to grow into a mountain,
not to shrink into a grain of sand,
henceforth I will apply all my efforts
to become the highest mountain of all
and I will strain my potential
Until it cries for mercy.
— Og Mandino
What do you think is the meaning of your life? Let me know in comments.