The combination of a successful career, a loving family, and a strong social network can seem like a recipe for a perfect life. However, even those who can check each of these boxes can feel that something is missing – and that “something” is their life’s purpose.
“Finding your goal” is much more than a cliché or a dream that will never come true. It is indeed a tool for a better, happier and healthier life that very few people try to use.
According to an analysis of the topic in The New York Times, only 25% of American adults have a clear sense of purpose to make their lives meaningful, while 40% claim neutrality on the subject, or say they don’t.
The process requires a lot of self-reflection, listening to others, and finding out where your passion lies. These five strategies can help you manifest or find your purpose so that you can start living a more meaningful life.
Donate time, money or talent
If there was one habit you could form to help you find your purpose, it would be to help others.
Researchers from Florida State University and Stanford found that happiness and usefulness overlap but were distinct: happiness is related to being a recipient rather than a giver, while meaning tends to be a giver rather than a taker. Being the “giver” in a relationship connects people to a more purposeful life.
Charitable behaviours can include volunteering for a non-profit organization, donating money to causes you care about, or simply helping those around you on a daily basis.
Whether you decide to spend two Saturdays a month serving food at the soup kitchen, or volunteer to take your elderly neighbour to the grocery store once a week, doing something nice for others makes you feel that way. Maybe your life has meaning.
Surround yourself with positive people
As the saying goes, you are the company you keep. What do you have in common with the people you love to be around?
Don’t think about co-workers or family members you feel obligated to see. Think about the people you choose to spend time with outside of work and outside family functions.
The people you are around say something about you. If you are surrounded by people who are driving positive change, you can benefit from their inspiration.
On the other hand, if the people around you are negative people who drag you down, you may want to make some changes. It’s hard to feel emotional and purposeful when you’re surrounded by people who aren’t interested in contributing positively.
Start conversations with new people
It’s easy to browse social media when you’re alone on the subway or at the bar waiting for a friend. Resist this request. Instead, take the time to talk to the people around you.
Ask them if they work on a project or what they like to do for fun. Talk to them about the organizations they are involved in or if they would like to donate to a specific cause.
Although interacting with strangers may seem awkward at first, talking to people outside your immediate social circle can open your eyes to activities, causes, or career opportunities you didn’t know about before.
You can explore new activities or discover different places to visit. These activities may be necessary to help you find your purpose.
Consider complaints that bother you
Many people have their own pet reasons or emotional projects surrounding the injustice in the world. Is there anything that makes you so sad when you think about it that it basically bothers you?
It could be related to animal welfare, a particular civil rights issue, or child obesity organizations. Maybe the thought of seniors going on vacation alone makes you cry or you think drug addicts need more rehab opportunities—there are organizations, and they need your help.
You don’t necessarily have to stick to your goal the whole time. You may find that your career gives you the ability to help a cause you feel passionate about. Or you may find that you are able to donate time — in exchange for money — to donate to a cause you believe in.
Find out what you like to do
On the other end of the spectrum, just thinking about what you really love to do can also help you find your purpose.
Do you absolutely love musical theatre? It may be best to use your skills in a way that brings live performances to children who can benefit from performing arts.
Is data analysis something that you find really interesting? Any number of groups can find this skill to be an invaluable asset.
Consider the type of skills, talents and passions you bring to the table. Next, come up with ideas for how to turn your passion into something meaningful to you.