Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? About the meaning of your life? Do you think you’re living up to your greatest potential? Do you know what your “why” is – the thing that motivates you and lights a fire under you?
Why is your “why” important?
Finding your purpose or your “ikigai” (the Japanese term for “a reason for being”) is anything that makes your life worthwhile. When you are able to find your “why,” you will be inspired to pursue the things that give you fulfillment. It can help guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning. For some people, their purpose is connected to vocation (meaningful, satisfying work). For others, their purpose lies in their responsibilities to their family or friends. Some seek meaning through spirituality or religion. Others may find their purpose expressed in all these aspects. You may find that as you start to find your purpose, it may shift and change throughout life as your priorities evolve and fluctuate with your own experiences.
Other benefits to finding your “why”:
1. Clarity and confidence
For years, psychologists have studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. People with a sense of purpose are often seen as unstoppable and powerful. They are capable of shaping their lives in the ways they want, when they want. When you become laser-focused on your goals, you won’t question what you are accomplishing every day. Without knowing your “why,” you might feel unclear about what you want out of life and become prone to wasting your time on futile endeavors leaving space for self-doubt and conformity to how your life is.
2. Zest for life
Once you know your “why,” you can confidently commit to pursuing your goals. The thought of never settling for less than what you want in life will fuel you with a zest and passion for life that you’ve never had before. It’s unlikely that your ultimate goal is to work for someone else or be someone’s assistant – you probably want to create your own way. Your goals will be fueled by your passions in life.
3. Live a healthier lifestyle
Living with a purpose causes everyday stressors to have a smaller impact on your overall well-being. Once you have your “why,” you are more likely to adopt other healthy lifestyle habits to better all aspects of your life.
How to Find Your “Why”
Everyone’s purpose is unique – what you identify as your path may differ from others. Some ways to find your “why” could be through journaling, meditating, or looking for inspiration. Here are some questions to think about;
1. How do you make others feel?
Self-awareness is key in finding your “why.” Research has shown that people who have a sense of purpose and are grateful for the life they live often contribute more to the world beyond themselves than those who don’t have this sense of gratitude.
2. What activities fuel you?
Think back to activities or projects that you’ve felt passionate about. What was it about these activities that got you excited to start, and ignited your passion to complete it? Not sure where to start? Think back to when you were a kid – what did you do for fun, do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up or your favorite game? Reflect on the things you would do when you did not care about anyone’s opinion.
3. What do people ask of you?
Do people ask something specific of you because of a talent you may have? Do people come to you for advice or a listening ear? What do people thank you for? Appreciation from other people can help fuel your “why.” Ask your family, friends, and co-workers what they think your strengths are or take the VIA Character Strength quiz to help you get started. Look for common themes in the reasons why people reach out to you in times of need.
Other questions you can you reflect on are:
Who am I?
Where do I belong?
When do I feel fulfilled?
Sometimes the very thing that you do on a regular basis with no thought at all could very well change your life. It’s everyday living that can change your entire world. When reflecting and finding your “why,” remember that every single thing you do has a purpose. Finding your purpose and pursuing your passions can make your life more meaningful and enjoyable.
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Allison, Scott T. “What Is Your Purpose in Life?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 26 June 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-we-need-heroes/201406/what-is-your-purpose-in-life.
“Bring Your Character Strengths to Life; Live More Fully.” VIA Character Strengths Survey & Character Profile Reports | VIA Institute, www.viacharacter.org/.
Leonard, Barb, and Mary Jo Kreitzer. “What Is Life Purpose?” Taking Charge of Your Health; Wellbeing, University of Minnesota, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-life-purpose#:~:text=Your%20life%20purpose%20consists%20of,vocation%E2%80%94meaningful%2C%20satisfying%20work.
Smith, Jeremy Adam. “How to Find Your Purpose in Life.” Greater Good Magazine, UC Berkeley, 10 Jan. 2018, www.greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_your_purpose_in_life.