Finding Purpose: Navigating Challenging Times with Clarity and Cohesion

Finding purpose in life is one of those things that most people want. Whether we know it or not. As nice as it sounds, it can seem challenging to attain.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about your own purpose, you might have some preconceived ideas about the purpose of life. These baked-in ideas about life often come from our family and the communities we grow up in. The purpose of our life is to get married and have kids. Or, maybe it’s earning a certain amount of money or achieving a certain position in society. 

But these types of achievements often don’t bring the kind of fulfilment that comes with finding your personal sense of purpose. A personal sense of purpose is less of a specific end goal and more of an ongoing impact on the world, large or small. Purpose is your why.

This personal sense of purpose guides and sustains you. Day to day and through the years. Even when you have setbacks and the world turns upside down, purpose gives you stability and a sense of direction. That’s why finding purpose is essential for living a happy, healthy life.

“While asking what your purpose is can seem like a lofty question, it’s one worth asking. And trying to answer. Finding your purpose can unlock greater satisfaction and success in all areas of your life.”

So let’s dive into the big questions:

  • What is purpose in life?
  • Why finding your purpose  matters
  • 5 steps to finding your purpose.

What is the purpose of life?

Philosophers have sought and debated “the purpose of life” for centuries. We won’t try to answer that here. What matters is your purpose in life.

Most people will ask at some point, “Why am I here?”  It can be a scary question or a thrilling one. Leaning into the discomfort of this existential question can lead to a better sense of self and more rewarding paths forward. Your purpose in life is as unique to you as your fingerprint. We all have a particular set of talents, experiences, skill sets, and interests that light us up. Purpose is related to these, but it is your reason for being. It is why you get out of bed in the morning, even when the day is dreary, you’re tired, and you know the tasks and challenges ahead are going to be hard or even boring.

“Purpose is the long game, not the short-term goal. You never get to the end of it.”

However, even a strong sense of purpose can wear you down. That’s why, ideally, your purpose blends with what interests you and brings you joy. In Japan, this idea is known as ikigai, and it’s the concept of following your joy. Ikigai has grown popular in the West in recent years as a way to help people find their dream careers and career paths. The concept is finding the overlap between what you love and the world needs with what you are good at and the world will pay for.  You craft your sense of purpose from your passion as well as practical considerations. 

Why is finding purpose important?

Finding your purpose in life might sound like a nice-to-have, but it’s more important than you may think. Living a meaningful life contributes to better physical health and mental fitness. It also reduces the risk of chronic disease. Multiple studies have even found that it can help you live longer. Having a sense of purpose comes from feeling connected to others. Using your gifts in the service of others can help you find your true purpose, while isolation and loneliness can cause you to have an existential crisis.

You will probably find that your purpose changes throughout your life. Continuous growth and progress can help you stay connected to your purpose.

How to find purpose in life: 5 tips

1. Develop a growth mindset

Having a growth mindset is linked to having a sense of purpose. Constantly growing and becoming a better version of yourself helps you identify your purpose and commit to pursuing it. 

A growth mindset also allows you to:

  • Embrace challenges as opportunities 
  • Persevere in spite of failure 
  • Accept feedback and constructive criticism

2. Explore your passions

Your passions and interests are a good indicator of the area in which your life purpose might lie. But they can be hard to identify. They’re so ingrained in our ways of thinking that we can become blind to them. 

If you’re not sure what your passions are, ask the people who know you best. Likely, you’re already pursuing them in some way without even realizing it. Perhaps you’re an unofficial mentor to young people in your community. If so, that could be your passion.

Another way to find your passion is to think about what you’re good at. Someone who’s great at helping others solve their problems might want to consider a career as a coach.

You might prefer to keep your passion as a hobby, or you might decide to turn it into a side hustle or full-time source of income. 

3. Be part of a community

Purpose is about feeling connected to others, so being an active member of a community can contribute to a greater sense of purpose in life. 

When you find your purpose, you’ll discover that there are many others out there who share your passions, interests, and values. 

Joining or creating a community allows you to find that sense of connection with others as you work together toward a common goal.

4. Spend time with people who inspire you

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If you spend time with people who are positive and purpose-driven, they are likely to inspire you to have the same mindset. You may even discover your purpose through them.

Look beyond your colleagues and family members and ask yourself who you choose to spend your time with. Evaluate those relationships and make sure you are surrounding yourself with aspirational, positive people who lift you up.

5. Read

One of the best ways to expand your mental horizons is through reading fiction. Nonfiction books are useful for acquiring knowledge on certain subjects. But research suggests that reading fiction may have more benefits.

Reading fiction improves your empathy and critical and creative thinking. This is because when you put yourself in the shoes of a character, you imagine how you would react in that situation. 

Reading also connects you to other people across time, place, and cultures. This helps you cultivate the sense of connectedness that generates a sense of purpose in life.

Finding purpose in life doesn’t have to be hard

Behind every successful person is clarity of purpose. And unless you find yours, you’ll continue to cruise through life on autopilot. You may find yourself knocked off-course and lost, uncertain how to move forward or which direction is forward. Or, life may be smooth but one day you may look back and wish you had used your time differently.

Identifying, acknowledging, and honouring your purpose is the foundation of a well-rounded life. It requires some courage because it opens up questions and ideas that might not be comfortable. Yet it’s worth it. Purpose provides you with an inner compass that guides every decision and leads you to the experiences that will light up your soul.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this newsletter, I invite you to listen to my latest Podcast where I interviewed Emily Gowor, a successful author, speaker and publisher who writes on “Finding Your Purpose”