I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life: 5 Steps to Discover Your Life Purpose
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Have you ever felt that your existence in this big universe is dispensable, that you are a tiny speck that will not be remembered for a long time? Do you think that you are living a self-absorbed life with nothing to look forward to? Do you feel that you are living a monotonous life where the days are blended into weeks and weeks into months with no significant happenings in your life?
This feeling of missing out on something and the accompanying perpetual numbness is often found in people who struggle to find their life purpose. For them, it appears that there is no reason to live and that they are just skimming through their lives. While scrolling your Facebook newsfeed and reacting to your friend’s life achievements, you often whisper the following to yourself, "I don't know what to do with my life."
Before we move on, picture two scenarios.
Scenario 1: It is 12 pm and you have just woken up. You walk into the living room and slump into the couch in front of the TV. Through the corner of your eye, you can see the trail of sun rays fading away. By the time you switch off the television, it is already night. You open the fridge and rummage through the messy compartments.
You just get something you can bite on. By 11 pm, you get into your bed again. This time, you entertain yourself by binge-watching a show on an app. After a six-hour-long marathon of the show you have already watched three times, you fall asleep.
Scenario 2: You wake up at 6:30am sharp and take a cold shower. You reach your office 15 minutes early and start checking your emails. By the middle of the day, you are bored to death. The clock seems to be working at a snail's pace. During lunchtime, you join your work friends.
You don't have anything 'fun' to talk about you only discuss how to prepare for the important meeting. You leave the desk as soon as the clock strikes 6 pm and head to your home to have a microwave meal. Even though you had a really tiring day at work, you still feel unsatisfied, and why exactly are you feeling so sad and incomplete is something you cannot figure out. But you know that your life is slipping away and you cannot hold on to it.
Can you relate to any of the two scenarios described above? Or do you know anyone who may be grouped into any one of the two categories of people who waste their lives doing things that don't matter? Are you becoming the middle-aged protagonist of an indie film that revolves around how the main character quit his high-paying corporate job and went to Antarctica after breaking up with his longtime girlfriend only to rediscover himself?
It is easy for you to classify the person in the first scenario as a slacke. It is also easy for you to blame the person for living a purposeless life, lollygagging in his own living room fixed to a couch.
But what about the numbness that the person in Scenario 2 feels all the time at the office? Why does he lack the infectious passion, the drive, and the unquenchable thirst for reaching the top? Is it true that we can live our life without even setting out to search for life purpose?
There are a number of people who are living without purpose. They follow a society-backed timeline of doing certain things. They enroll in college at the age of 18, get their first job at 22, and get married by 26. By 30, they are already enrolling they're firstborn to a good school. Life goes on as mechanically as it can.
For them, this is what life is all about - checking off items from the greater to-do list. God forbids if someone takes time to complete a few milestones, they are orcastrized from society. They are mocked for living a purposeless life. But, many times, the people who are seemingly doing well in their lives also struggle to find a life purpose.
In this article, we will explore the meaning behind the word 'life purpose' and the various steps through which you can find your life purpose. Having a certain motivation in your life is important to lead a happier life. By figuring out the passion of your life, you will live a life that matters. This feeling of accomplishment will in return make you a happier human.
Side bar: For more information on how to find meaning and increase your life satisfaction, we recommend you to check out this book, which has 53 science-backed habits you can use to increase your happiness.
What Is Life’s Purpose?
Have you read the book Alice in Wonderland? In her encounter with the Cheshire Cat, she asked for directions. The cat immediately asked where she intended to go to which Alice sheepishly replied that she didn't care where. "Then it doesn't matter which way you go."
Alice neither knew nor cared about her destination. It is rather unfortunate that so many people live a directionless life. Granted, they have a stable job, a family to come to, and other life responsibilities, but they don't have a life purpose. They don't know where they intend to go. They are living in the present, but they don't know where they'd see themselves five years down the line.
During a job interview, you might have come up with a satisfying response for 'where do you see yourself in five years.' As an aspiring junior staff assistant, you might have said that you intended to reach a position in middle management. Swapped the five years with ten, and you came up with an even more impressive response. You told the interviewer that you saw yourself at the top, at an important position, heading a department.
There, sitting in a small, air-conditioned, impressively designed room of the top offices of the city, you defined your life purpose without a stutter. You want to climb up the ladder of success in the field you love.
In simpler terms, a life purpose can be defined as the set of motivating aims of your life. But these aims shouldn't be confused with regular tasks that you assign yourself. These aims are the targets that keep you moving, that pick you up when you are knocked down, that motivate you to laugh in the face of fear, that allow you to be a better version of yourself, and that remain with you until the very end.
In 'The Brothers Karamazov,' Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky mentioned that "the mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for." This quote presents us with an important question. What is living anyway? Does the fact that you are breathing steadily is enough for you to say that you are living your life? A Hans Christian Andersen character has beautifully said, "Just living is not enough, ..., one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
Are you living your life voluntary or involuntary? If you choose the latter option, it will suggest that everything in your life happens without your conscious control. You go with the flow to the extent that you forget who you are, what are the things that matter to you, and what other things you are capable of doing.
I Don't Know What to Do With My Life
In the introduction, we took a well-intended pause on this important question. It is something which troubles fresh graduates, high school students, and even CEOs of big companies. Even after living a fulfilling life, you often end up with this nagging question.
"I don't know what to do with my life", you carefully repeat when you are recovering from a breakup.
"I don't know what to do with my life," you wipe tears from your eyes when your company fails to get considerable funding in the seeding round.
The fact that you are mentioning this means that you don't have a well-defined purpose of your life. When you have set a goal for yourself, when you have the inner peace of knowing where you are going, every setback in your life dissipates into nothingness. You don't care if you have to put in extra effort to be recognized, to be taken seriously, and to be able to go ahead.
There are corporate tycoons who say goodbye to their lucrative jobs only to do things that they love. You'd see a person spending their paychecks on feeding stray animals and building a shelter for them. You see someone selling their house and setting out on a road trip in an RV.
What motivated them to do these unexplainable things? Do they have one indescribable moment of enlightenment which guided them to follow a certain path, no questions asked? For us, it may be rare to see that people will look away from opportunities that pay them in six-figures. It may be even more astonishing to see athletes, in their prime, taking early retirement to spend time with their families.
But these incidents happen and at a higher frequency than we can imagine. These are the people who have laid down their 'life plan'. They know what they are after and they focus on getting them. If you are a doctor, for instance, and the purpose of your life is to help people. You will put in your 100% to help the sick. A difficult work schedule or long hours will not bring you down. You know that in the bigger schemes of things, these problems don't matter. You are focused on the bigger picture.
How should you come out of the phase where you don't know what to do with your life? For starters, you should tell yourself to identify and explore the things that matter to you and to consciously define a goal for yourself. When it comes to defining a purpose in your life, you ought to realize that you are on your own.
There isn't a self-help book that will cover a topic on '5 Top Life Purposes of All Time'. No one else, regardless of how experienced they are, can tell you what your life purpose should be. Every person has unique filters and a distinct outlook of life. What excites Person A may not necessarily excite you.
The first step that you have to take is to analyze what you want from your life. Don't spend your life living someone else's dreams. Find the purpose of your life on your own. Your drive and passion are what makes your living purposeful.
When you start the following the passion, you remove the things that you don't want. It doesn't matter if you have a dream corporate job or if you are living in a 3000 sq villa. You have to take full responsibility of yourself, of your actions, and do things that matter to you.
Everything in this universe has a purpose. Even non-living things like a chair or a computer has a useful life - the period during which you can derive some benefit from it. There is nothing that can be labeled as useless. The old junk that you throw away carelessly had, in the past, benefited you in some way or the other.
So, why shouldn't a human spend their time doing something that they love, something that matter, and something that is laced with passion? There are more than a billion people in this world, but you can recognize only those few who lived a purposeful life.
Have you heard of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela? Two activists who lead a civil rights movement in the US and South Africa respectively. These people have struggled to become the voice of the voiceless. They have faced all kind of challenges and yet they remained tall and worked tirelessly towards their goal.
This attitude is best defined by Viktor E Frankl. Frankl survived the German concentration camps in the 1940s. In his book 'Man's Search for Meaning', he said, "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'." There is this man who was at the lowest point of his life, who was held prisoner in Second World War, and who preferred optimism over despair in times of adversity.
We read about people like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Viktor E Frankl, and we often marvel at their strength, at their perseverance, and at their grit. We wish to attain the same attitude in our life. What stands between these people and us is the identification of their purpose.
Even today, what motivates a rights activist to bear the criticism of their colleagues and to wake up to hate mails every day is their clearly laid out purpose. You have to search for the why of your life. Why are you send in this world? Why are you given this life? It is then that you would be able to live a life that will be remembered. It is only then that your name will remain immortal.
A Harvard study has also suggested that people who have a purpose in their lives remain healthy and strong as they grow older. But in order to get what you desire, you have to choose one direction and keep following it.
You require a framework and act upon it, should you intend to reach your goals. The human spirit is so powerful. It is hard to define the efficacy and brilliance of the human spirit. When you see a business tycoon, a billionaire, sharing their success story, you fail to notice one thing - their attitude towards their life goals.
There is hardly a person who gets everything without a struggle. There is hardly a person who doesn't have episodes of panic attacks and self-doubt. There is hardly a person who hasn't faced rejections. There is hardly a person whose ideas were laughed at. But those people have somehow reached upper echelons of fame and success.
Even with hundreds of rejection, they succeeded in reaching their goal and putting their work out there. You should see yourself in them. The next time someone asks you what you are doing with your life, you should tell them exactly what you are doing.
How to Discover Your Life Purpose
The road to finding a life purpose is not straight. There are times when you are stuck in the abyss of uncertainty, when nothing seems to work out for you, and when nothing could bring you peace. These are the alarm bells that are telling you, clearly and loudly that you should start searching for your life purpose.
But the process isn't as simple as it looks, your inner voice tells you. As mentioned above, we can't possibly tell you what your life purpose should be, but we can tell you how you can find your life purpose. Follow these steps and start looking for that one thing which will invoke passion in you.
1. Know Your Worth
Ever since we were children, we were told the set of fixed beliefs that we ought to agree with. At times, they were harmless, "Children your age should only watch animated cartoons". But they quickly transform to "the medical field is only for top students", "you are not a marketing person, do something less extrovert", "you can't learn a new language at this age", and the list goes on.
Throughout our life, we focused on the things that we cannot do. If we fail an exam once, no one tells us to reapply or retake the test. We are told that maybe this university is not where students like us go to and that we should cut down our expectations. The heart of the child that once dreamt to fly turns cold and indifferent. It starts doing things like a machine, operating on the will of others.
The first step towards discovering your life purpose is to build a 'can do' attitude. An introvert can interact with people and join a marketing field. A student who struggled in high school can become a top surgeon of the country. The girl who stuttered during her school play can become a showrunner. These goals can be attained if the person following these dreams is determined to run after them regardless of the challenges that come their way.
What would you have done differently if you don't have to listen to the noisy voice that says that this thing is impossible to do? What would you have done if there were no limitations? What would you have done if there were no negative thoughts, no inhibitions, and no fears?
Live your life away from negativity. Define your goals and take every step to achieve them. It is enough if you believe in them. Don't look for validations at the places that don't matter. Focus on your goal and follow your passion.
2. Listen to the Heart
There are times when you are so excited to do something, when everything goes in your favor, and when there is no reason to feel a tad bit cautious. Still, you have this feeling that tells you not to go ahead with your plan. It is this hard-to-explain gut feeling that keeps you from doing a thing even when you don't see any imminent danger.
It seems impossible to define how your intuition works, but your intuition helps you in making optimal decisions which can be in complete contradiction to what others have been saying about your problem. These are the decisions where you give priority to your heart overhead.
When you are searching for your life purpose, you have to give more importance to the voice of your heart. As only it will help you identify the things that you love. For example, a job with a seven-digit annual income is a dream come true.
It will allow you to go on a vacation every year, buy a new car, and even pay downpayment on your new condo. But you don't want to get trapped in a world of late sittings and 9 am meetings. You like to spend time with people and you are planning to open a cafe. A small coffee shop where people come together to meet.
Everyone you meet tells you that in times of recession, you should be a fool to even consider a second option while having a prestigious job offer sitting in your mailbox. Deep inside your heart, you know that you won't be happy while trapped inside a glass building. More than anyone else, you know what you are capable of and where your full potential lie. Listen to your heart and choose a line of work that makes you happy and satisfied.
3. Welcome Your Purpose
In his widely-acclaimed book 'The Alchemist', Paulo Coelho reassured us by saying that "and, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". As much as you are looking for your purpose, your purpose is searching for you. Your life purpose is not a tangible item that is lying on a superstore shelf nor it can be bought on installments through your Platinum Credit Card.
The process of finding your passion takes time. But once you actively look for it, you start observing all the signs. All the hints and the pieces of an unknown puzzle lead you to one thing: your goal in life.
4. Ask Yourself A Few Questions
When you are searching for the purpose in your life, you should ask yourself the following questions. While these questions may appear simple, they will help you find your purpose in life.
1. What is the thing you do that will make your eight-year-old self cry?
When we are children, we have certain dreams for our future. Your eight-year-old self might love to play basketball and may dream of joining a big league. Now, after four tiring years at college, you have not found a single day where you can play the ball a little.
Will your eight-year-old self be able to tolerate that one day they will lose touch of the things they love? In our life, there are instances where we reconnect with the passions that we have when we were children. When you are actively searching for your passion, take a trip down the memory lane and find out what the eight-year-old you would do with the resources that you have now.
2. What makes you forget the world around?
Do you binge-watch TV shows on an app? One episode after the other, you finish multiple seasons in a matter of two days. You forget to go to the washroom or even check your phone's notifications. When you were a child you was interested in playing video games or reading books.
During summer vacations, you'd spend hours doing a single activity. In the same manner, now you'll have to find something in your life that makes you forget yourself. When you are passionate about something, you get involved in it to such an extent that you don't care what's happening around you. This way, you don't let external factors tamper with your passion.
3. What would you do if you have only one year to live?
Is it healthy to ask this depressing question? Truth be told, yes it is. In our life, we take most of the things for granted. We don't realize the importance of living in the moment. This often keeps us away from following our dreams or passion.
This is because we don't understand the urgency of fulfilling our goals. You do know what people do with their new year's resolutions. In January, we are motivated to follow the list, but since we know that we have 11 months more to go, we just drop the list altogether. Since there is no urgency involved, there is no motivation.
This question will make you think of the same urgency. Instead of wasting your days after days on not pursuing your dreams, you will be motivated to find your purpose when you realize the fact that your life is unpredictable and that the lost time is not coming back.
5. The Myth of 'One'
We grow up believing that we have only one passion that we must follow. We spend our whole life trying to achieve that one dream. Often, when we fail to achieve it, we suffer from severe depression.
We start believing that we are worthless and there is nothing that we can do to bring our life back on track. What you need to understand is that you can take up different roles and follow more than one passion. Your past failures shouldn't keep you away from living a purposeful life in the future and in the present. You have to identify your greatness and break from living a life of limitation.
Wrapping It Up
Living a life full of purpose means that you have a drive and aims that keep you moving forward. A purposeful life allows you to be present and live in the present. Every day is an opportunity for you to go a step forward towards your goal. Once you have found your purpose, you will witness how fulfilled your life is. Living a life with purpose is exciting and challenging.
As Napolean Hill said, "There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it." A life with purpose will also lead you to happiness.
Finally, if you’d like to learn more about how to increase your life satisfaction, then check out this book, which has 53 science-backed habits you can use to increase your happiness.