Tip #87: Find a purpose in life.
The why: There’s a quote that hangs above my desk, a quote that in my times of greatest doubt or struggle I read.
I’ve read it so many times it has burned itself into my brain and become a reflex.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
This quote by Nietzche essentially means that if you know your purpose in life, you can get through anything.
If you have a purpose, whatever it is that you are going through can be overcome, because you have your reason to carry on fighting, a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a reason to live.
Now, the whole idea of having a purpose can seem a little daunting. Well, hugely daunting.
People often associate knowing your purpose with knowing the exact path your life is going to take, what career you want, a five-year plan followed by an 80 slide powerpoint presentation with a 100-page folder of notes, footnotes, annexes and explanations.
But luckily, dear reader, that is not what I am talking about.
By purpose, I mean something in your life that makes you want to continue, a thing that you are passionate about, a thing that makes your life worthwhile.
The Japanese call it an Ikigai, the French call it a rasion d’etre, the British call it Tea (just kidding on that last one).
This is to say, a reason for being alive.
I once read a book called The Happiness Equation, and in it the author mentioned an island in Japan, Okinawa, that has the longest-living population in the entire world. The residents claim that their secret to a long life is alway having a purpose.
A reason to hold on to life, day after day.
But not only a longer life, but a more meaningful and happy life too.
Purposes don’t have to last a lifetime either, they can change over time, adapt to your new wants and desires. A purpose is sort of like a space-time companion following you throughout your life, taking different forms as you move, change, grow, but never leaving your side.
Sort of like a cute pet!
For instance, my purpose is to help people.
Very general, very unspecific, but also very guiding.
It means that during the dark times in my life where I felt like throwing in the proverbial towel, or ever feel like I can’t go on, I remember that my life is not my own, my life is in the service of others.
So long as there are people who need help, I can’t give up, not when I know I can make a difference.
Even for the smaller things like getting the motivation for revision or going to a party I always link it to my purpose:
“Get good grades so you can get a good job that makes a change in the world.”
“Go to a party so you learn how to speak to people so you can help understand them.”
Now obviously I do things for myself as well, and go to parties because people I love are there, but having a purpose certainly, helps get me through tough times when I’m not really sure how.
But how do you find your purpose? Your reason to be?
Let’s try an excersise. 20 push ups. Just kidding I’m not that cruel.
For a moment close your eyes, and imagine the world exactly as it is, all the trees are still swaying in the breeze, the oceans are still deep, and the sun is still way, way too hot.
All exactly the same, but with one rather huge detail missing.
Imagine the world, but imagine it without you.
It may seem a dark thought but wait.
Think harder now. What is different about the world with you not in it?
Even if you can’t find an answer, I promise there is something, probably even lots of somethings.
If you have a pet, who will look after it? If you volunteer, who will help make the world brighter? Who will your best friend ring when they are in trouble? Who will write those beautiful poems in a voice that only you can produce? Who will go on to university and figure out all the answers to the questions we had when we were younger? Who will look after their elderly parent? Who will one day film the next big movie franchise? Who will travel the world and see it through your unique eyes?
Gosh, we do so so much in our short lives.
I guarantee there will be something very amiss with the world with you missing, think hard about what that is and whatever it is, that is your purpose.
Heck, even finding your true purpose can be a purpose!
Write it down, and stick it somewhere you can easily see, to serve as a reminder when things get too rough.
I’ve said that word too many times it sounds rather strange…
Anyway, as I’ve said, your purpose doesn’t have to be long term, you can change it when you need to, or when you find something more your style.
But having a reason to carry on means that you’ll be able to get through it.
You’ll be able to get through it all.
Have you found a purpose? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!