Finding your purpose – when does it matter?

Frankly, it isn’t so much about finding one’s purpose but rather finding what it is that makes us happy doing it even if there wasn’t any fancy label or a large paycheck attached to it. The secret to what makes something meaningful is really what Aristotle has said, that is, what does the world need that I and my talents, skills, and knowledge can help meet?

finding your purpose

“Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” – ARISTOTLE

Which then boils down to asking ourselves what currency is it that we prefer to deal in. Would it be the currency of materialism and all that makes our egos feel good or would it be the currency of happiness but having just enough? Would we prefer to be rich in terms of our emotional life where fulfilment is more important? Sure, money is important and we owe it to ourselves to be able to take care of basic physical needs like food and shelter. The important thing is that we live in such a way that we are integrated with our highest values. Therefore the question to ask is: What values do I align my life with? What matters most?

For myself, the answer would be: Happiness. Which I define as a lightness of heart. It is a state of emotional being where we are as close as we possibly can to being well, happy, peaceful, and free from suffering. I know this value is very Buddhist in origin and I am no Buddhist but it is the basis for how I interact with the outer world of others and the inner world of me. I find that it serves me very well and so I will continue to use it as the preferred basis of how I conduct my thinking, speaking, and behaving. Even if I fall short, I will still strive to do my best according to this tenet.

As to what is my purpose in life then, it would be to be engaged in meaningful activity that challenges me to achieve my fullest potential no matter what it is that I do. Secondly, whatever it is that I do, there must also be a sense of ‘seva’, that is, done in the spirit of service. Thirdly, I have to feel that I have added something of value to someone even if the contact was brief or even if the value was small and intangible. It could be as simple as wrapping a blanket around someone who is cold or reaching down to help adjust her shoes because she can no longer do it herself.

So, if there’s anything that I want to emphasize here, it would be this: Finding purpose and meaning in life is about knowing what gives you the intrinsic motivation to keep doing it and the underlying values that are important enough for you that you won’t settle for anything else. It is about doing something to the fullest of your capability and it goes beyond labels and monetary rewards. It is whatever it is that causes time to stand still for you and before you know it, hours have flown by.

Therefore, if you too have chosen happiness as the preferred currency to deal in, then you would precede every endeavour with “Will this make me happy here and now doing it?” That would be your yardstick. Should you find yourself having to make choices that postpone happiness but in the meantime brings you what you need, then that’s okay, too, as long as you are aware of why you are doing it. Perhaps it is what you need right now for whatever reasons best known to you. That’s fine.

“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” – ARISTOTLE

These words sum up why we are repeatedly drawn to doing whatever it is that makes us happy. If you like to cook in a deep way then no matter what, things would come around to involve cooking. Opportunities would arise for you to do more of cooking. And then finally one day you surrender and give up that lawyer’s job and don an apron instead. That’s because nature has a way of pointing us to what keeps topping up the tank of feel-good. So whatever it is, don’t live a life of quiet desperation, always postponing happiness because of our fears and what-ifs. Choose to be happy now, and meaning and purpose will follow.

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Activity 1: To help you identify your ideal work. In your journal, make a list of things – little to big – that provide you with pleasure. Which of these can then become something you can monetize, expand on and to create a career out of it? How might you use your skills, talents, or knowledge in such a way that your purpose is recognized by none other than yourself and not because of someone else’s expectations.

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Activity 2: Map your day-to-day activities for a month. Every day for the next 30 days, note down in your journal what you do in a day and the time you allocate to an activity. At the end of 30 days, tabulate these activities and note which ones consume your time and attention the most. You might surprise yourself with what you might learn about what really rocks your boat.

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