I believe that everyone’s end goal in life is the same — “ to find happiness” or “to be happy.”
In order to feel more fulfilled and find the path to sustainable happiness, we follow our passions and purpose. But what is your purpose in life? I believe this is the question we ask over and over within ourselves.
There are three ways in which you can achieve this, through…
- What you have
- What you do
- Who you are
1. What You Have
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our needs go in the order below and we would need to fulfill the most basic needs first before we would have the urge to fulfill the others.
- Physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest)
- Safety needs (security, safety)
- Belongingness and Love needs (intimate relationships, friends)
- Esteem needs (prestige and feeling of accomplishment)
- Self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential including creative activities).
As you need to live, certain basic needs need to be fulfilled first and foremost before you can find purposes from other things in life. Starting from food and shelter, money is the mean to buying the most basic things that you can’t live without.
Sometimes though self-esteem is derived from material possessions. The purpose in life is then to become wealthy, to have beautiful things, and to be able to afford luxury. When your purpose in life is based on what you have, your happiness comes from the outside in, rather than inside out.
I have learned that this could be a tiring process. Once you have reached your purpose in life in material attainment, you find yourself struggling to stay happy. It is not sustainable. Surely comfort feels great, but it is mostly a state of mind.
2. What You Do
Throughout our lives, we fit into different roles . Each comes with different responsibilities — from the role of a child, to a sibling, a student, a friend, an employee, a boss, a lover, and a parent; from the role of a student to an employee, a manager, a director — the list goes on and on.
And if you haven’t noticed….
At each stage of our lives, we define our purpose in life based on the role we have, in which its responsibilities define how fulfilled we feel at the time.
Our ability to fulfill the role we partake the best we can becomes our purpose. Our inability to fulfill as such becomes our failure. These role-based purposes in life that change over time as we go through different stages in life affect how we feel — how happy we feel.
- A child feels happy when a parent praises them — “Well done, I’m so proud of you.”
- A student feels happy when they get a high score in their favorite subject.
- An employee feels happy when they’ve have done a great job for the company and that the boss loves it.
- A parent feels happy knowing that the family is well fed and well taken care of.
- A sales manager feels happy when the team is doing a great job and has reached the target.
As you can see here, it is quite almost impossible to fulfill all of these different facets in life at the same time.
The secret to finding joy and happiness through one’s purpose in life is to have “What You Do” and “Who You Are” aligned.
3. Who You Are
This comes down to the foundation of your being — your personality traits, your strengths and weaknesses, your core values, your perspective of the world, and your beliefs.
When your purpose in life is based on who you are … and who you are and what you do align, your happiness comes from inside out, rather outside in. This leads to a feeling of contentment.
A feeling of rich and emotionally fulfilled accomplishment is what you’d feel when you succeed in what you do — when what you do aligns with who you are.
Sometimes it is hard to discover and understand who you are.
There are several ways in which you can start discovering your core values and your natural talents.
- Look at your past experiences and the situations you’ve been in. When having to pick between two critical decisions in life, which path did you go with? The path your gut instinct tells you to choose normally reflect your core values.
- Look at the people you dislike. Why do you dislike someone? What is it about him or her that you don’t like? What behaviors of theirs that you don’t like? Is it their work ethics? Is it their perspective of the world, their attitudes, or their beliefs?
- Look at the people you like and admire. Why do you like someone? What is it about him or her that you like or admire? Is it their work ethic, their attitudes, their perspective of the world, and their beliefs? Is it their way of life? Is it their ambition, their aspiration, the way they work, or the way they think? Is it what they’ve done in the world the “reason” behind why they do what they do?
- What did you love doing as a child? What were your childhood hobbies? Were you good at drawing, painting, writing, musical instruments, or sports? When you role-played as a kid, what roles did you like playing as? A lot of the time, these relate to your natural talents — when you’re unrestricted by societal norm and let run free by the dream and imagination of a child.
- What do you love doing in general? Do you find joy in making sure things are organized? Do you like freedom? Do you hate or love schedule? Do you like talking to people you don’t know? Do you have or prefer to learn something that is methodological and systematic or abstract and conceptual? How do you describe the way you see and the way you think?
Your gut instinct is your best friend in this. Trust your gut instinct.
If you’re stuck in discovering who you are, ask people around you — your close friends, your boss, your close colleagues, your partner, etc to describe you.
If you’re not happy with who you are, because you’re too pessimistic, lazy, unorganized, or selfish. Then maybe your purpose in life becomes your aspiration. Your immediate goal is to first become who you want to be.
Bit by bit. One by one. Nothing is more satisfying than knowing that another month or year has gone by and that you have become a better person, that you are more in control of yourself and your attitude. You are able to find your passion, turn it into what you do for a living, and marry it up with who you are.
That is a purpose and passion-driven life.