We all want to find meaning in our lives and live the life to its fullest. But the question remains: how do you find meaning and purpose in your life in the first place? What happens if you just don’t know or get lost along the way? Finding meaning and purpose in life is not as easy. It takes will power to look inside, face your own demons and faults and accept yourself as you are: a perfect-imperfect human being.
Finding your own way
In one of the previous posts we focused on your character strengths and talents. Have you already discovered what they are? What do people compliment you most for? Think about the activities and actions you perform that feel the most satisfying to you. My advice: start making a list and paying attention if nothing comes immediately to mind. You can also complete Dr. Martin Seligman’s online questionnaire (VIA Survey of Character Strengths) about personal strengths and talents and find out a little bit more how that can work in your favor.
Frankly speaking, I had sort of an identity crisis when the time came to choose a major in college. First I decided to go to environmental engineering just to find out after a semester that despite my great love for nature and conservation, I hated it there. All of a sudden, all my certainties and the path I had outlined for myself made no sense! How could I get out of that crisis? After a few weeks of self-reflection and a little of sulking for quitting college (you probably have heard this a lot but I had never quit anything in my life before), I started remembering what it was I most enjoyed doing in life and what people praised me the most for. I’ve always heard people around me saying “It’s so nice to talk to you. After talking to you I feel so relieved.” Besides, I really liked being a volunteer and to do community intervention and teaching. I love reading, so first I thought about becoming an English teacher to inspire others but finally (and with a little help from close friends and family) I decided on psychology. This is how I became a clinical psychologist. This was 15 years ago. I absolutely love my job and my patients and clearly found meaning in my profession.
Yet, your job doesn’t define you. The job is just my example. Many people find meaning in other areas of their lives: family life and raising kids, community work, preserving nature, political and social causes, etc.
Leading a life of purpose and meaning (and staying on track)
Albert Einstein stated once that “A mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” Once you find your own path of meaning there’s no turning back. Not fulfilling your life’s purpose just won’t feel the same. It’s like a calling you need to pursue in order to feel satisfied with your life, to make meaningful and feel that it’s worth living.
Like Dr. Viktor Frankl often defended in Logotherapy, it’s all about making use of your power of decision. Once you find out, that despite the circumstances, you have to power to decide and act freely, your mind “cannot return to its original size”. It is in your hands to pursue and explore all your talents and strengths in order to lead a more meaningful life.
But what if life seems to get in the way? Because we all need to work, pay our bills and take care of our family? I certainly don’t defend a self indulging, hedonistic life style. But I do believe we can always take some time out of our busy lives to fulfill our free dreams and our calling. Just try it. You can start by taking an hour per week to do some volunteering for instance…
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spaceamoeba/4668978652