How to Find Purpose in Life? Practical Tips
When a person’s survival is guaranteed, an intimate and transcendent need appears in them: Finding purpose in life. A reason to exist, to inhabit the world, and to give meaning to what they do every day. That is, a final goal, the last step to climb before leaving this world. Now, how can you find it?
Some people seem to be clear about what they want to do for practically as long as they can remember. On the other hand, others inhabit an uncomfortable limbo where nothing seems worth dedicating their life to.
If you’re in the latter group, fear not: Inspiration never comes without a little help. You can make that feeling go away through experimentation, reflection, or some specific techniques. Let’s go ahead and look at some tips in this regard.
Why is it important to find purpose in life?
Although routine is a vein of security and stability that everyone needs, when it takes over your day-to-day life, leaving no room for rest, it becomes suffocating. Although no one likes to have a constantly changing work schedule or to live thinking about when they’ll have to change homes, there’s more to life than doing the same exact thing day in and day out for the rest of your life.
The key, like everything else, is balance: Having a life that’s ordered and predictable to a certain degree but allows you to get out of your everyday routine and find stimulation. This stimulation —the purpose of life for some— would be what would maintain the idea that life responds to a relevant objective.
In addition, having a purpose in life is related to better physical and mental health, greater resilience to stress, and, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science, longer longevity. Therefore, this deep sense of direction and meaning is a factor of well-being for our mind and body.
Therefore, if you have the feeling that your life is empty and that what you do has no significance for those things or people you care about, perhaps you need a main objective, a purpose. Let’s go with some tips to find purpose in life.
How to find purpose in life
Keep this idea in mind: You won’t find a purpose that makes you feel full of life immediately. However, the path to it can also be exhilarating. Moving forward with a positive attitude as you explore the possibilities can also be beneficial to your overall well-being, as a study published in the journal Emotion points out.
Below, we’ll offer you practical recommendations that will help you define a course of action to find your life purpose.
1. Identify your values and passions
Ask yourself what fills your life with joy and meaning and what motivates you to get up each day. And, of course, don’t forget what universal justice means to you, as many people live to exercise those values in society.
For example, some consider that racism has survived long enough in our society and dedicate their lives to eradicating it once and for all. In this way, the joy of changing human thought through activism makes anti-racism a vital purpose for these people.
2. Try the ikigai technique
The Japanese concept of ikigai is used to refer to those things that make life worth living. It’s based on the intersection of four elements: What you like to do, what you’re good at, what you think your environment (or the world) needs, and what can endow you with wealth.
According to this principle, there should be an activity in your life that brings together these four elements, and it’s your task to find it. On a psychological level, a review published by Concurrent Disorders Society Press indicates that this technique is related to a good development of self-knowledge, problem-solving skills, and goal acquisition. To apply it, follow these steps:
- Draw four circles, creating intersections between them. In one of them, write what you like to do the most. In the next, what you are good at. In the third, write down those skills and knowledge for which you could be paid. Finally, write in the remaining circle what actions and activities you would carry out to improve the world, always out of your own free will and without the need for remuneration or recognition.
- At the intersections of the circles, you’ll find partial answers to what you love and are good at. In this way, your mission will be what you love, together with what you think the world needs. On the other hand, your vocation will be the intersection between what you want to contribute to the world and what you are good at. Finally, you have a profession: What you’re good at and what you could be paid for.
- The next step is to apply this abstraction to your real life, by asking questions like what are you doing to improve the world? Does your profession make you happy?
- Once you’ve deciphered the unknowns, you can begin to balance these four aspects. Achieving it will be reaching your ikigai.
3. Experiment and get out of your comfort zone
If you don’t find anything in your life that endows it with a purpose, perhaps it’s because that something isn’t in your life (yet). Therefore, it’s important that you get out of your comfort zone. It’s about doing all those activities that you haven’t tried yet or testing those skills that you haven’t yet developed. Getting out and exploring is always a good starting point.
Sometimes, it’s also about executing an exercise that consists of looking at oneself. Maybe daring to do that thing that has always caught your attention, but that you think isn’t for you. Take heart; you won’t be able to find out if you don’t try.
4. Set long-term goals
Living day to day is fine, as it helps to focus on the present. But it’s also important to walk toward the future that you want. So, think about what you want to do in the long term —where do I see myself in 20 years?—and set meaningful goals.
That feeling that you’re working for a higher purpose will give meaning to your actions and decisions. However, it’s not enough to set such a goal. Rather, concrete steps are required to maintain motivation and achieve it:
- Visualize the achievement or future situation that you want to achieve.
- Make a list of all the steps you need to take to meet your goal.
- Organize them according to the priority you want to give them.
- Make an action plan to meet them (set deadlines, for example).
- Remember to reward yourself for each achievement because this way, you maintain motivation and generate a feeling of evolution.
- Be flexible: There will be setbacks along the way, and you may need to change your plan.
5. Participate in activism or acts of service
Support others or fight for a cause gives deep meaning to our actions, thoughts, and decisions.
Although the idea isn’t for this to become your only purpose, it’ll bring you well-being through the sense of belonging, the development of empathy, and the motivation to contribute to social justice, as indicated by an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that analyzes the affective responses that compassion activates.
We all have a purpose in life
Finding a purpose in life is a unique process for each individual. Sometimes, it requires deep reflection and facing unpleasant moments or parts of yourself that you don’t like.
Also, remember that life purposes can change, just as life itself changes. Don’t close yourself off to what the future holds for you because the objective isn’t to transcend but to achieve inner peace to live your life in a more meaningful way.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Hill, P. L., & Turiano, N. A. (2014). Purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood. Psychological science, 25(7), 1482-1486. Recuperado de: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224996/
- Kotera, Y., Kaluzeviciute, G., Garip, G., McEwank, K. y Chamberiain, KJ (2021). Health Benefits of Ikigai: A Review of Literature. Concurrent Disorders Society Press. Recuperado de: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349725406_Health_Benefits_of_Ikigai_A_Review_of_Literature
- Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J. K., & Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: an experimental longitudinal intervention to boost well-being. Emotion, 11(2), 391. recuperado de: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-07236-018
- Stellar, J. E., Cohen, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2015). Affective and physiological responses to the suffering of others: compassion and vagal activity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 108(4), 572. Recuperado de: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25621856/