The Importance of Having a Purpose for Your Life

06 June, 2020
Today, tomorrow, and the day after. We hope you'll never lack the purpose to keep moving forward, to keep creating goals for the future, remember what your priorities are, and have clear goals to give you true hope.

In your mind and heart, you must always have a purpose to keep you going. Having a purpose in life is what gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It gives you the energy and motivation to believe that today will be better than yesterday. It gives your life the meaning it needs to make everything worthwhile. There are few things as important in mental health and personal growth as having a purpose in life.

When you talk to people who have mood swings or even mental health disorders, then this is something that really stands out. Many people simply claim to have no goals at all. Their lives just seem to be suspended in a total void, with no hopes and a meaningless day to day existence.

It’s even possible to have hobbies but not to enjoy them. Others have partners, friends, and family and still only feel emptiness.

This condition is a devastating one and requires a delicate, and often very long, psychotherapeutic process in order for the person to rediscover their strength. They also need to reformulate their thoughts and find an emotional balance to rebuild their life with and to clarify new goals for the future.

Reformulating your purposes

At this point, we should clarify that it’s completely normal to go through times when we’re forced to reformulate our purposes. We all go through certain transitional periods, times when we have to face reality and rewrite our innermost desires, thoughts, and feelings.

Ending a relationship, losing or quitting a job, or even going through adversity make us have to define many aspects of our lives.

However, this is a good thing. Human beings are walking stories, extraordinary stories that are constantly being rewritten. As long as there’s still ink in the ink well to compose those purposes, there’s always hope.

A woman walking.

Purposes for moving forward, the pillars of mental health

In 2016, Harvard University began a research project aimed at deepening the concept of how to flourish as human beings. We can understand this as something that transcends one’s own well-being. It is, above all, the ability to overcome and to be resilient – making use of psychological strategies that allow us to face any circumstance in life and achieve happiness.

This research program has been underway for several years, and it’s already clear that one of the fundamental factors to achieve these goals is that people should work on them.

Having meaning in our lives, as Viktor Frankl would say, directly affects our mental health. This is confirmed by complementary studies such as the one published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2019.

According to this study, led by doctors Ying Chen and Erik Kim, having a purpose has a direct impact on physical health, psychological balance, self-esteem, and emotional processing. These goals, and the meaning that each one gives to people’s existence, act as an internal support which takes away burdens, filters fears, and restores balance and hope.

What does it mean to have a purpose?

So, now that you know the significance of having a purpose to improve your quality of life, this leads us to the question: what exactly is a purpose?

Firstly, we need to understand that a purpose isn’t simply a goal. It isn’t about wanting a bigger house, for example. It’s not about getting a better job. Nor is it about achieving an ideal weight or consistently going to the gym.

It’s far more than that. Life’s purposes transcend mere desire. They lift you up, help you find your position in life and give you goals to strive for, hope in your heart, and energy to motivate yourself.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, that having a purpose means having a fixed intention in your mind that takes you towards something that’s meaningful to you, something that goes even beyond yourself.

An example of this would be to help others in some way. Another would be to create something to inspire others: a book, a song, or a piece of art. It could be something to do with learning or achieving greater knowledge of a specific topic or area. Another great purpose would be that of giving happiness to your family or taking care of those you love.

A woman looking at a mountain.

Always move forward with purpose

Mark Twain spoke to us about the two most important days in your life. The first is when you’re born. The second is when you finally discover the meaning of your life, the meaning that gives purpose to your existence.

Sometimes, as you’ll well know, this isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to determine what really sets your heart on fire and makes it beat.

But there always comes a time when it really hits you. When you really feel that passion and meaning. It’s essential that you clarify them, and that you always have a purpose when you move forward. Why? Because when you have purpose, passion, and meaning in your life, it can really help you in times of adversity. In the middle of the storm, you’ll see the opportunities appear, and they’ll give you the optimism to face challenges with hope in your heart.

On the other hand, as we pointed out earlier, those resolutions to move forward can change at any given moment. It’s not the same to be 20 as it is to be 60. Nor are you the same person when you close one stage and begin another, whether on an emotional or work level. Suddenly new needs, new feelings, and new purposes appear on the horizon, and these give birth to hope.

Let’s keep them in mind. You too have an inner flame that can feed all your dreams and every path you take. Keep it lit!

  • Chen, Y., Kim, E.S., Koh, H.K., Frazier, A.L., and VanderWeele, T.J. (2019). Sense of mission and subsequent health and well-being among young adults: an outcome-wide analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology, 188(4):664-673.
  • Cohen, R., Bavishi, C, & Rosanski, A. (2015). Purpose in life and its relationship to all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events: a meta-analysis. Psychosomatic Medicine, 78(2), 122-133.
  • Hanson, J.A. and VanderWeele, T.J. (2020). The Comprehensive Measure of Meaning: psychological and philosophical foundations. In: M. Lee, L.D. Kubzansky, and T.J. VanderWeele (Eds.). Measuring Well-Being: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Oxford University Press, forthcoming.