Why do we need a purposeful, meaningful life?
We are born, we start breathing, do a few things like school, college, job, and then die. Each one of us — hopefully — adds something to the world, we all evolve, become smarter, and this repeats.
In the end, we do not come out alive then why does everything — a broken relationship, a lay off, a fight at work, a stomach ache, a smartwatch — matter so much? What is it all adding up to? Evolution?
It is adding up to life — to these moments that the life is collectively composed of.
Why is it important to have a purpose, meaning to our life? So that all these moments together are a melodious song and not 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 had no aim, no purpose, what would have been the point in carrying on?
Life purpose gives an essence to our being. And this purpose is individualistic to each, and 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.
The purpose is in understanding — what are we doing and why are we doing it.
On tough days, everything seems out of order. Everyone’s conscious dictates their life. Other’s problems don’t seem to matter and we don’t forget ours. While running nth time in this loop of daily routine which we call life — get up, work, talk to people, eat, come back to the family, and prepare for yet another day — we forget the purpose.
Robin Sharma, writer of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and a leadership speaker, asked: “Did you got busy being busy?”
We are not talking 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.”
Because if all we are doing is 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 — 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 got to complete his presentation. If a friend’s car broke down, you have to leave everything and go. If your father missed his train, you need to book another ticket and make sure it reaches him.
Eckhart Tolle further writes, “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 in 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 explained this by giving examples of the sort of persons some of the prisoners became. He said that they did not leave their goodness behind. “Their behaviors were the result of an inner decision, and not of the camp influences alone.”
They stayed true to life in those difficult moments.
“This spiritual inner freedom — that cannot be taken away — makes life meaningful and purposeful.”
Isn’t that a beautiful thing?
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? Because we all know that there are still a lot of bad days coming our way.
This, in my opinion, is living the life to the fullest — giving yourself to life in each moment— even in the sufferings. Let life overpower.
Like in Friends, Phoebe planned for one baby but instead, triplets were born. Do you freak out, cry, and leave your children? No. You take off the bed cover and make three little covers out of it to cover each one of your children.
How do you find — your — purpose — of — life?
You must be wondering that why am I asking you to find a purpose when I said living each moment of life is our purpose. Or what is the problem in losing yourself in the day to day life — you are being there in each moment.
If you were pursuing your purpose of life, you would naturally remain true to yourself and give your best in each moment. The vice-versa works. If you are being who you are and are giving 100% in each moment, you are on the path of the purpose of your life.
I am honest about my ambitions as a writer and I try to give my best— hopefully aligning with the purpose of my life.
Mark Twain said that the man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. View your life as if from your deathbed to find out your purpose.
While working for a finance startup, I used to get ready, attend work calls on my way, and think about how depressed I was, reach work, and work as if I was waiting to be freed.
One day, I woke up to realize that no one was going to come and free me.
George Bernard Shaw said to become the person you wanted to be. Free yourself. Who is stopping you?
Purpose of life is to be who you are every moment.
As Viktor said, “Man is self-determining — he does not simply exist but he decides what he will become in the next moment.”
Fill that large space between your current life and the life you would want to have.
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.”
Adam Leipzig, a Yale alumni and a producer, asked people to find their purpose of life by answering these five different questions :
- 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 for myself first and then other people.
- I hope people need my writing.
- When they read it, they are inspired or some aspect of their life becomes easier.
This is one way to go about it.
What is that one thing that defines you? That is your purpose of life.
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 is going back to earth one day. What remains? The impact that we leave on 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’s a purpose to have.
Having a specific purpose also makes it really hard.
Unless I am completely honest with each and every single line of an article, I can not publish it.
People stay in the snowy mountains for years to get a glimpse of the snowcat.
Bird enthusiasts stay in the jungle for years and when they spot that one rare species of bird which they thought was extinct, they rejoice. Their purpose of life has been 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 is struggling 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?
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