I'm not going to sit here and tell you I've got this figured out. If you've read some of my posts, you'll know this. However, I have made significant progress towards living a life that is mostly full of purpose, learning, development, and joy. It's taken a long time to move from days of not really ever getting things quite right to days of feeling (for the most part) secure, motivated, serene, and passionate about life.
I can't give you a few years of wisdom in one post and have you absorb it in an instant. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. For what it's worth, it probably wouldn't be exactly what you needed. But I can offer the insights I have and maybe they will provide some clues to help you get to living your life of purpose.
Ready? Let's Go!
1. Be willing to consider that doing things differently will get you a different result.
In a nutshell: If you're doing the same things every day and feeling the same low feelings, don't be surprised. Be willing to shake things up, to look for a new way, to try a new approach. I guarantee you will run in to new results. If you always react to a request for a certain report with the same sense of anger and annoyance, try reframing your thinking about the value of what you're doing. Even if it resembles the TPS report of Office Space, if you change how you think about the doing of the task, you will change your result, even if it's only in your own state of mind for the rest of the day.
2. Accept that the way you've been doing things doesn't work.
This is a close cousin of #1. Not only might you try doing things differently, try admitting to yourself that your method, your approach, your philosophy was WRONG. Really let that sink in. It can be a real pride issue to want to assume that every thing you do is right. But that's not reality. When we can acknowledge that they way we've done something was wrong, we open the door for new and innovative ideas. We evolve. I still struggle with this one. I absolutely know I am always right. Except when I am proven to be wrong. It stings. But when I get over myself, I often find that there are better ways to do things out there.
3. Take a break if you need it.
You might come to a point in your life when you are completely confused about what to do. You go to work but you're unhappy and becoming more so every day. You're a stay-at-home mom but you're going stir crazy and are finding your spirits flagging. You're a college or graduate student and you just aren't sure what you're doing is meaningful to you and you're feeling trapped by your decisions. I say: take a break. Take some time to figure it out. Take some days to think about absolutely nothing, and then talk to people, take online quizzes about what you like, do some psychological tests that assess your strengths. Just learn about yourself. If you're the stay-at-home mom, obviously, you can't just stop taking care of your kid(s), but maybe you take a break by going TO work, or doing some volunteering. The idea here is to take a break from what you are doing. The student might take this approach, too.
4. Do something with your life.
I know this sounds like the exact opposite of #3. And it is. But once you've had your break, or even during it, it's really important to remember that it is nearly deadly to get caught in the trap of a life-long break. There's research that shows that people with too much time on their hands deal with greater instances of depression and are more unhappy. So, this point means: have some sort of mission. I am not saying that you need a job. But I am saying that there needs to be some thing that makes you feel like you have a place in the world. Maybe you have a hobby that you spend a lot of time with, maybe you're a volunteer or part of a volunteer organization, maybe you're working on figuring yourself out though recovery work or self-help, maybe you're going back to school. It doesn't matter what it is, but have one thing that you make your purpose.
5. Surround yourself with people who are living lives of purpose.
There's a quote that goes: Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who are. I believe this with all my heart. If we surround ourselves with people who are doing great things, living fulfilled lives, being useful to the world, I'll likely find myself doing the same things. It's really hard to have motivated, purposeful around you and still be lazy and unproductive. I've tried it. Trust me, it's hard. For one, those people don't really want to suffer lazy people for long. They're busy living and if you're not wanting to be living, too, they'll be off and running. I say: Run with them.
6. Hold yourself to a higher standard.
This one really goes back to one's own sense of self and integrity. When I decided I wanted to care more about myself, I had to hold myself to a higher standard. All of a sudden, it wasn't okay to spend hours on the internet. It wasn't okay to just eat anything. It wasn't okay to never get exercise. It wasn't okay to not look at the way I lived my life and try to make changes. I knew that in order to live a life of purpose I had to have to have the energy and drive to have the experiences that would make my life feel purposeful. For me, that meant doing things that other people might not. It meant having integrity for my own body and my own mind. And after all is said and done, that has made all the difference.