The simple act of survival often limits how much introspection we can afford. But what happens when we have the opportunity to expand beyond basic needs and consider more of our life’s purpose? We’re all worthy of this type of exploration, and there’s no absolute right or wrong way to define it—only that we take action.
The Deeper Meaning
Of all the classic Greek philosophers, it seems Aristotle focused heavily on human purpose, and as a result, many inspiring quotes are attributed to him. Here are just a few:
- “At the intersection where your gifts, talents, and abilities meet a human need, therein will you discover your purpose.”
- “Purpose is a desire for something in our own power, coupled with an investigation into its means.”
- “Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
So, if you’re curious about what your purpose might be, rest assured humans have wrestled with finding an answer to this question for thousands of years!
In more modern times, venerated psychiatrist Viktor Frankl released a memoir in 1946 titled Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, examined his time imprisoned in various horrific Nazi concentration camps and what he observed about the resilience of the victims there. He noted that courage, love, and meaningful work seemed to be the pivotal points for not only surviving dire circumstances, but also elevating life itself.
As just one example of how to learn to discover your purpose, at the Victor Frankl Institute in Texas, people from all over the world explore methods that cultivate a deeper meaning in life. According to Frankl’s research and philosophy, we “connect with meaning through the things we do, through the things we feel, and through the stance we take toward situations.” Frankl referred to these as the “creative, experiential and attitudinal avenues to meaning-discovery,” with definitions we provide verbatim:
- Creative actions. Giving of ourselves and contributing to life through meaningful work, deeds, or achieving meaningful goals.
- Experiences. Receiving from life through meaningful experiences or relationships.
- Attitudes. Adopting the right attitude to situations, especially those of unavoidable suffering.
So how does knowing this help you move closer to determining aspects of purpose and meaning in your life?
Open Up to the Journey
If you manage different conditions related to mental and emotional health and substance use, you understand better than most that the journey matters as much as the destination. Another important point? Some studies indicate that regardless of your age, you can identify a purpose and have greater satisfaction in life. And to that, the Greater Good Science Center notes that our sense of purpose changes over time.
What? Just as we’re trying to figure it all out, it’s going to change. Absolutely. “As we grapple with our identity as teens, settle into the responsibilities of adulthood, and make the shift to retirement, the research finds that our sense of purpose will naturally wax and wane,” the Center indicates. In this article, it outlines how people in different age groups adjust to finding aspects of meaning in their lives.
Foster a Sense of Gratitude, Awe, and Altruism
This part of the process starts with small steps. First, when you introduce more gratitude into your daily life, it’s easier to accept and seek out awe and wonder in the world, especially in nature.
This, in turn, helps you form more enriching connections, as you feel you belong to something larger than yourself. So, as you accept being a valuable member of a supportive circle, your community, and society as a whole, you’re more aware of opportunities that allow you to apply all of your skills, knowledge, and passion to something more meaningful.
Share Your Story
With all of the tragedies he experienced, including losing his entire family in the Nazi camps, Frankl could have kept these secrets buried deep within himself, never rising to the level of influence and achievement we know of him today.
You don’t have to tell everyone what you’ve been through if that’s not your way. However, you might find it more fulfilling to guide someone as a mentor, sponsor, trusted confidant, or volunteer to help them navigate what they’re going through, knowing you inherently understand. By doing this, you’re also instrumental in helping reduce the stigma surrounding certain health issues.
While this might not be your particular purpose, it’s a demonstration that you understand what it means to positively impact someone else—and a great place to start refining your deeper meaning of life.
Cottonwood Tucson: A Place for Healing
Too often, we’re bombarded with messages that self-care is selfish. Nothing could be further from the truth. Choosing to focus on healing and becoming more of who you truly are affects not only you but also others around you, in meaningful ways. Define your life as you want it to be. If we can help in any way, please reach out.