Meaning and purpose; call off the search

17 Dec

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It’s one of the biggest questions we ask ourselves; what is the meaning of life? And why am I here, what is my purpose? Finding meaning and purpose in life is critical to our happiness but sometimes the pursuit can take us further away from the goal. Without it life can feel dull, we struggle to see the point and it leaves us feeling empty and lost.

I spent many years searching for meaning and purpose in my jobs, relationships and places I lived and each time that didn’t work I’d move on the next one hoping that my meaning and purpose would be just around the corner and my life would transform. Recently I’ve learned that meaning and purpose can mean many different things and in my case the search was in fact taking me further away from the goal.

Through this journey my life did transform but not in the way I’d imagined. I found my meaning and purpose in the everyday things in my life, that things that mattered and as my perspective shifted I realised it had been there all along, within yet I’d been so busy searching for it outside of myself that I’d not really noticed. I was waiting for this epiphany of the soul to come and sweep me off my feet and take me to a place where I fitted in and everything worked out for me!

I’ve seen and heard a few different takes on this from experts in the field. Some talk about finding our passion and having our world set alight, whilst others argue not everybody knows what their purpose is and that we shouldn’t feel the need to have one. This in itself can lead to us spending a life time searching for this elusive something that inevitably takes us away from living our lives.

Yes there are some who’ve known right from when they were young children what they want to do with their lives. There are some who have a passion that makes their heart sing, that absorbs 100% of their concentration and brings infinite joy into their lives. Many artists speak about this and the feeling their art gives them when they are in flow. But then there are some who seem to have a void, a gap, a nothingness where this meaning and purpose should be. Perhaps they’ve spent their whole life searching for it and are desperate to bring passion into their life but how if you’re not sure where that passion comes from? Many will argue that there’s passion in all of us it’s just finding something to ignite the spark but then as we occupy ourselves in this search our life passes us by. Some people never do find that spark and the one big thing they are ‘meant to do with their lives’.

I’d like to suggest that meaning and purpose is vital to our happiness and that it is something that everyone needs but it is not something we should need to search for. It is not always this big extraordinary amazing thing that lights up our life, it can be a lot more subtle and show up in the smallest of things.

I recently read some research about the deterioration of the elderly when they move into a nursing home and lose their independence. Researchers found that if some of these elderly people were given the responsibility of a plant to look after, this slowed their deterioration down. The conclusion was that by having a sense of purpose and bringing back some independence contributed to an improvement in their health and wellbeing. But it’s something so small and so often we believe meaning and purpose to big this big all encompassing ‘life’s work’.

I believe we find meaning and purpose in our everyday lives; it’s when we have our first child and become a parent, when we help an elderly neighbour. It’s when we share our knowledge or skills with others. It’s when we play sport alongside our team members, or take care of a sick pet. Meaning and purpose can be providing for our family, exploring new places, growing our own food or simply just clearing litter from the road. When our actions match our values and beliefs we find peace of mind, this is finding meaning and purpose in our lives.

I like to travel, I am a nomad, I enjoy writing and I enjoy many other things. Sometimes I can get absorbed in what I do and much of what I do brings me joy but this is more about how I do it rather than what I do. This applies to if I’m writing a book, an email to my mum or a letter to the bank! What makes my heart sing and what brings meaning and purpose into my life is the way I live it; the people I help, the personal values I am able to uphold and the amount of times I make myself smile throughout the day.

Life is for living and that in itself is meaning and purpose, how we live our life! We only get one shot so rather than spend it pursuing, searching and wondering. Remember that it’s the journey not the destination and it’s more about how we do it rather than what we do.

We all have meaning and purpose and we don’t need to go on a massive pursuit in search of it. It is already here in our lives, in the everyday moments of joy, the things that mean something to us, that we cherish, that are important.

The meaning of life is simple; to live it. Our purpose is to live it the best way we know how.