Is it essential to have a sense of purpose in life?

Having a sense of purpose can keep us motivated, help us to fulfil our personal and professional potential, and benefit our mental and physical health, too.

Why are we here, and what is our purpose? These are questions that we all ask ourselves and that many people have tried to answer. Some find purpose in religion or faith or helping those less fortunate than themselves. Others believe their role is to raise a family, while some view power and wealth as their life’s goal. While everyone has their own definition of a purposeful life, research has shown that people who have a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility; or who engage in altruism, like donating their money or time to a good cause, have a greater sense of purpose than those who don’t. Research from Harvard Health shows that having a purpose can enrich and prolong our lives and leave us happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Here are some ways we can help bring a sense of purpose to our lives.

Create some space

Create some mental and physical space to assess what’s currently happening in your life and think about what’s really important to you. A clear mind and uncluttered environment reduce stress and irritability and improve sleep. Practising daily mindfulness or meditation can help calm your mind, leaving you feeling more grounded and in control of your thoughts and emotions. Research shows this helps boost your ability to think clearly and concentrate, helping you develop and prioritise your sense of purpose. Give a little, gain a lot Many people find a great sense ofpurpose in life by helping others. For example, doctors and nurses devote their lives to helping the sick. First, responders like firemen and women constantly put themselves in harm’s way for others. But we can all be of service and “pay it forward” in small ways each day. Being there for a friend in need, offering our skills or experience as a volunteer, or doing something kind for a neighbour, can help enhance our own sense of purpose. Shifting our focus away from our anxieties, stress, and worries is beneficial for our mental well-being.

Run your own race

It’s easy to feel somehow “less” than others by comparison. Learning to be happy in our own shoes and skin isn’t always easy. Many of us suffer from “imposter syndrome”, where we may feel that everyone else has life sorted while we’re struggling or pretending we’re in control. The truth is that nobody’s life is perfect. Spending some time each day focussing on what you’re grateful for in your own life will help you work out what makes you happy, what you want, and where your own personal priorities lie.

Pursue your passion

It’s never too late to identify your passions or interests, which could become hobbies or careers or even develop into a greater purpose. We may not always be aware of them. Still, the things or activities we enjoy and care deeply about could actually be fantastic motivators, fulfilling and enriching our lives and sustaining us through more challenging times. Your sense of purpose may or may not end up being linked closely to your work. Still, it’s the things we love that brings us joy and inspire us to act. Identifying and pursuing our true passions is also a way to meet others we’re more likely to connect with too.

Trust in yourself

Many of us feel constrained by expectations whether from within ourselves, friends and family, or society. While it’s essential to respect other people’s opinions, remember that your life is your own. Focus on your own goals, interests and happiness: what will bring you joy, give you a sense of satisfaction, and make you want to live life to the fullest. Others may see you as a partner or parent or have a specific career they want you to pursue. Still, there are no pre-written rules for living a purposeful life. Your life has meaning when it has meaning to you.

Having a “growth mindset” and looking for and embracing new challenges and opportunities helps you to pinpoint, pursue and realign your sense of purpose. Purpose is often found in taking action, not waiting for something to happen.

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