Happiness is a goal so many of us chase. It is a state of emotions including life satisfaction and subjective well being. Happiness just doesn’t happen, it comes from thinking, planning and pursuing the things that are important to us. Setting and working towards goals is a way to turn our values and dreams into reality. Finding your purpose is not easy.
Two factors come to play when we’re talking about happiness, feel-good and feel-purpose. You can read more about feel-good (hedonia) in my blog post here. Today I want to focus on living with purpose, eudaimonia. This is a much deeper approach to finding happiness. In order to feel in a total state of flow, both factors need to be in play.
Before we get too deep into this. I must mention that you will not be happy all the time. It’s just not going to happen. When you are living with purpose, challenges must be faced and overcome because there will be sacrifices. I’d like to unpack this a bit in the hopes you may find some answers.
The idea of finding your purpose may seem big and scary. The idea that you were put on this Earth to find your higher purpose is a daunting challenge. A few lucky ones know their mission in life at a very young age and will spend their entire lives moving in that direction. Most of us are left wandering around looking for the meaning of life. Asking what you find important is less intimating so it’s easier to answer.
If you can’t handle failure, you’re not going to make it very far. It takes resilience and consistency to achieve your goals, so if you fall, get back up. It’s a make it work moment. This separates the dreamers from the doers. They key is, if you’re aligned with purpose it makes all struggles and challenges worth it because with every tiny accomplishment and win it’s moves you closer in the direction you want to go. Instead of happiness as a goal, I like to aim for expansion. Set your sights on aliveness, inspiration and meaning. To gain clarity, answer these questions.
Children are so pure and have yet to be tainted with major responsibilities. When you’re searching for what brings you joy, think back to who you were before the pressures of society started piling up and squeezing the passion out of you. Those loves are still there, buried deep down. My love of plants has been with me my entire life. I knew for me to be happy, I had to be surrounded by and working with plants. It may seem silly to you, but I felt it in my gut and I didn’t back down until I had what I wanted. You need to honor those desires so promptly start sprinkling them back into your life. Feed and nurture them.
When you are in state of flow everything else fades away. You forget to eat and drink and all other responsibilities seem unimportant. But look for the underlying message in these moments. If it’s video games, that’s not productive. What about the video game is drawing you in? Maybe it the desire for self-improvement, competition, solving technical issues or organizing things effectively. Don’t just look at the actual activity that keeps you up at night but also incorporate the cognitive principles that are behind them.
We all know practice makes perfect. Before you can become the master of your craft, you will absolutely suck at it first. It’s up to you to decide if you’re dedicated enough to subject yourself to the countless times you will fail and be embarrassed, because it will happen. You will never end up doing something that feels important without going through this process.
Being vulnerable and willing to put yourself out there is a must. It seems scary to do but it’s probably because you’re worried about what other people are going to think. Who cares? You have no control over that, so don’t worry about it. Just focus on bettering yourself and stay in your own lane. No need to impress others. Base your growth solely on what you have already achieved, stepping stones. You will probably be scared shitless to try something new for fear of failure, do it anyway. When there is fear, there is growth. Unless you’re being chased by a bear or in immediate danger.
In order to live a happy and healthy life, we must hold onto values that are larger than just our own pleasure and satisfaction. There are a lot of problems in this world! So, pick one or two that you’re passionate about and come up with solutions to the problems. You will not fix this problem alone, but you can contribute to the greater good of humanity. Save the world, the wolves or whatever. Stop sex trafficking, end global hunger or save the oceans or forests from destruction. Think bigger than just yourself and use your talents to drive the ship. Life is about connections. When you pour your heart out for the global good, you will find purpose.
Passion is a result of action so becoming compliant is not a good thing. We are creatures of habit and it’s easy to slip into the same shit day in and day out so we become comfortable. Well, that is not where growth happens. Finding out what you’re passionate about requires some work. It’s trial and error and experimenting until you find something that you like to do. I’m not talking about watching TV or cruising the internet all day, you probably do enough of that. What would you do all day if your internet, TV and video games were taken away and you had to leave your house? Where would you go and how would you spend all your time? Write those things down and then go do them!
For a moment, I’d like you to think about your own death. Shit just got real! What do you want your legacy to be? This exercise helps you focus on your priorities and lets all the other frivolously stuff drop away. What stories will people tell at your funeral? Would they have anything awesome to say? If not, what would you like them to say? Big questions here. I’m asking you to dig deep because I’m hoping to ignite some flames of action.
When you don’t know your direction in life and have a sense of purpose it’s because you don’t know what’s important to you or what your values are. If you’re unhappy it could be because you’re trying to carry out someone else’s priorities instead of your own. This will create a life of unhealthy relationships and misery.
Finding your purpose doesn’t have to be about great achievements. It’s simply finding a few things that are larger than yourself to commit to. Think long term! Use your limited time here to do what matters. It starts with a vision of what life can be and is then followed by building and cultivating action steps to get there. Let giving and caring be your guides. It will require effort and responsibility. What feels right?
Like I said, it’s not all roses and cupcakes but doing this work will lead to a more fulfilling life. You will be happier and less stressed. Finding purpose and meaning makes life rich and fruitful. It’s time to flourish. Dreams don’t work unless you do.