How to Find a Meaningful Purpose

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
  1. Know the difference between a meaningful and non-meaningful purpose.
  2. Self-reflect to learn more about yourself.
  3. Experiment with purposes to confirm if they resonate with you.
  4. Find meaning in whatever you are doing now.

Step 1: Know the difference between a meaningful and non-meaningful purpose.

1.1 A Meaningful Purpose

A meaningful purpose is something that the world around you needs, which you also enjoy providing. Notice there are two key parts:

  1. Other people benefit from it
  2. You enjoy it.

1.2 The Four Levels of Motivation

In his book, Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty explains how to live with peace and purpose every day. One of the key ideas in the book is the four levels of motivation:

  1. Fear — being driven by negative things like sickness, poverty, and death
  2. Desire — being driven by personal gratification through wealth, success, and pleasure
  3. Duty — being motivated by gratitude, responsibility, and doing the right thing
  4. Love — being motivated by helping and caring for others
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Step 2: Self-reflect to learn more about yourself.

2.1 Ask yourself some deep questions

Recall that a meaningful purpose is something that benefits others and that you enjoy providing. In other words, it is the combination of service (helping others) and passion (what you enjoy).

  • If I had all the money and time in the world, what would I do (after I’ve travelled and bought all the stuff I want)?
  • What excites me? What am I happily willing to do even when I am exhausted?
  • What could I talk about for hours without getting bored?
  • What problems do I like to help people with?
  • What am I most grateful for? How can I provide that to others or repay that gratitude?
  • What is my biggest pain? How can I help prevent that pain for others?
Image by lilartsy on Unsplash
  • To advocate for a cause
  • To nurture and care for others
  • To make useful things
  • To create new useful things
  • To create art and beauty
  • To entertain others
  • To maintain order and stability
  • To help those in bad circumstances

2.2 Vedic Personalities

A useful tool to help with self-awareness is personality tests. When it comes to helping you find your purpose, Jay Shetty uses the Four Vedic Personalities:

  • Guides are compelled to learn and share knowledge. They value wisdom more than fame or money. Their purpose can be to share useful knowledge or to use knowledge to help people.
  • Leaders like to influence and provide. They are led by morals and seek to inspire cooperation and support society long-term. Their purpose can be to maintain order and stability or to help those in bad circumstances.
  • Creators like to make things happen, and they are good at innovating and networking. Their purpose can be to create new and useful things for society.
  • Makers like to see things tangibly being built. They are good at inventing, supporting, and implementing. They are motivated by stability and security, as well as supporting those in need. Their purpose can be to make useful things or art and beauty.
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2.3 16 Personalities Test

Another useful personality test is the 16 Personality Tests. You can read a detailed explanation of the 16 Personalities here, but for this article, we’ll just look at the four categories of personalities:

  • Analysts are driven by logic and ideas, so their purpose can be to solve big problems for society and innovate new ideas.
  • Diplomats are driven by compassion and ideals, so their purpose can be to advocate for an important cause and to help those in bad circumstances
  • Sentinels are driven by duty and morals, so their purpose can be to maintain order and stability in the world.
  • Adventurers are driven by novelty and fun, so their purpose can be to entertain others, whether that be through films, music, art, or sports.
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Step 3: Experiment with purposes to confirm if they resonate with you.

Once you’ve learned more about yourself and have an idea of your passion and how you want to serve others, look for opportunities to try out that purpose. Use your free time, such as your evenings and weekends, to experiment with your purpose.

Step 4: Find meaning in whatever you are doing now.

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Example 1: Student in School

Let’s say you are a student in school, and you feel school is so burdensome and tiring. You especially find math class boring, but you have to pass math class to go to university. You can reflect on the questions in Step 2, such as “What am I most grateful for? How can I repay that gratitude?” and “What could I talk about for hours without getting bored?”

Example 2: Typical Office Worker

Let’s say you’re a typical office worker. You just do your job to earn a pay cheque to pay your bills. You don’t feel a strong purpose at work. You reflect that two of your biggest pains growing up was not having financial stability and family time. You could see your job as contributing to the success of the company, which provides a stable pay cheque for hundreds of employees. You could also use your lunch hours to chat with colleagues, encourage them to prioritize family, and give them recommendations for family activities. Doing these two things would give you new meaning to your current job.

Example 3: Going Through Hardship

I can use myself as an example for this one. I had a year of health hardship where I had a really bad skin condition. The steroid creams I got from doctors only suppressed the symptoms, but the symptoms came back worse as soon as I stopped using the creams. It was one of the most painful times of my life.

Conclusion

Having a strong, meaningful purpose in life is all about doing something you enjoy that also helps others. If you only focus on your own enjoyment without helping others, then you’re living for personal pleasure. Personal pleasure is short-lived, whereas a meaningful purpose provides long-lasting happiness. Aside from benefiting our mental health, having a fulfilling purpose also improves our physical health and economic success.

Photo by Fuu J on Unplash
  • To advocate for a cause
  • To nurture and care for others
  • To make useful things
  • To create new useful things
  • To create art and beauty
  • To entertain others
  • To maintain order and stability
  • To help those in bad circumstances

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Alex Chen

Alex Chen

Passionate about self-cultivation, happiness, and sharing wisdom.