Have you ever known somebody who seemed to have everything going for them, but could not find happiness? Did it seem that their life was lacking in something fundamental that you couldn’t quite put your finger on? There is a strong possibility that thing they were lacking was a sense of purpose. Princeton, from the filthy and wonderful musical puppet show Avenue Q, understood this well. His song Purpose begins like so:
“Purpose – it’s that little flame that lights a fire under your ass! Purpose, it keeps you going strong, like a car with a full tank of gas. Everyone else has a purpose – so what’s mine?”
I have been without a sense of purpose myself. It feels lonely, confusing, exhausting, and sad. I did indeed feel like a car that had run out of gas. Thankfully, like Princeton’s character in the show, I found mine in my mid-20’s. This puts me among the lucky ones. Some people don’t find an authentic and fulfilling sense of purpose until much later in life. Others never find it at all. Many are fooled into working towards a purpose that was forced upon them. They adopt it as their own, but never truly feel its power in their soul. Although this is not the worst way to live a life, it is far from ideal. It might leave you feeling strangely empty, even in the wake of a great accomplishment.
So, how do you prevent this from happening? Find a purpose that is truly and uniquely yours! Look deep into your soul and determine what is important to you. What makes you feel alive? What makes you feel useful and powerful? What validates your feelings of “self” and “home”? What brings out the best in you? Answering these questions – as well as some others I found that are designed to help in developing your sense of purpose – is a tricky business. Thankfully, Psychology Today has compiled a wonderful guide to help you along the way. As Dr. Susan Biali states in writing this sage advice, “Your purpose might indeed be something grand and complicated, or it may be as simple as dispensing love and kindness wherever you go. Remember to be present in the moment, and delight in watching it all unfold. Life really is beautiful.”
As Dr. Biali pointed out, your purpose does not have to be grand in scale. It also does not have to work in tandem with your job. A career that aligns with your sense of purpose is certainly an ideal scenario. However, it is seldom practical. Instead, strive to develop a robust sense of purpose outside of the office. Even dedicating just a few hours per week to your passion can change your entire mindset. Volunteer at a dog shelter. Paint a mural. Write a book. You have a whole life with which to do what you decide. Shouldn’t some of it be reserved for what lights your heart on fire?