In the hierarchy of needs, survival comes first, then comfort and then meaning. We perceive purpose as a luxury that can only be based on a sufficient handle on life. But sometimes, we go through a strong experience that makes us change this order and brings us to choose meaning over comfort.
Here is the story of Ric Elias. I will meet you on the other side.
It just so happens there was a strong experience in my life that changed my priorities (see 35-hour baby) and brought me to the same conclusion: being a dad is what makes my life meaningful. It did not happen quickly, though. I carried the sadness that Ric describes in me for nearly 10 years and had to see a therapist to get out of it.
But the final change happened while I was training to be a life coach. We had covered goal setting, beliefs, values, rules, needs and long-term goals. We had experienced great personal growth and refined our coaching techniques. Then, we got to Purpose.
To many religious Western people, purpose seems almost obvious: to serve God or maybe to be good enough to make it to Heaven. To many Eastern religious people, it might be to be kind or to reincarnate as a higher being.
But when you sit down and try to write a clear description of your life’s purpose, you can scratch your head for a really long time and then realize you have simply never thought about it. It is one of these things we associate with big words and famous people, like Mother Teresa or Gandhi, but seem too big for us mere mortals.
Yet, there is a way to come up with your purpose in life, which I would like to share with you. After that, I will make it even easier still.
How to find your purpose in life
The general formula for a purpose statement is
I want to BE <something>, DO <something> and HAVE <something>
For example, Mother Teresa would say something like “I want to be a saint, minister to the poor, sick, orphaned and dying and have a pure heart and a place in Heaven”. Gandhi might say, “I want to be a national leader, free the Indians from oppression by the British and have peace of mind and good reincarnation”.
It is very important to being with the BEING part. What kind of a person do you want to be? For some perspective, ask yourself, “How do I want to be remembered after I die?”
For the DOING part, remember that a purpose must be so large and so endless that no matter how much you do, you never do it all. A purpose is not to be achieved, it is to be lived. It is an ideal that gives your life meaning and direction, a kind of moral compass.
The HAVING bit is where you get some reward for all that noble being and doing. Despite a good purpose typically being focused around the service of others, there has to be something in it for you, or you will not pursue it. But rewards are not financial or material. Making money and buying things are just ways to get feelings. Your purpose statement should declare your desired feelings directly – love, appreciation, respect, satisfaction, significance, self-worth and so on.
My purpose in life
Most likely, you are reading this because you are a parent. So this part should speak volumes to you.
Since the following statement became clear to me, my life filled with joy every day and there is a good reason for everything I do. Being happy is just a matter of remembering what I am here for.
I want to be a great dad, to raise my kids into independent, kind and happy individuals and to have the satisfaction of being part of this wonderful creation and a big sense of achievement