A sense of purpose is what we call our beliefs about ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. We can define it as a feeling of meaning or significance. In fact, according to a study conducted by Gallup, the average American spends almost half of his or her waking hours thinking about how he or she fits into society. This leads many people to feel like they don’t belong anywhere.
This lack of belonging creates a sense of emptiness inside of us. And because we’re constantly searching for something to fill this void, we often find it in material things such as money, power, fame, and beauty. As a result, we end up chasing those things and neglecting everything else.
But there is another way to live. You could choose to live every day knowing that you matter, that you make a difference, that you are needed, and that you have a place in the world. If you do this, you will begin living your life with a sense of purpose.
Why Having a Sense of Purpose is Important
According to research, there are six key benefits of having a sense of purpose.
1. Healthier Relationships
2. Better Work Performance
3. More Productive Time Management
4. Greater Happiness
5. Improved Social Skills
6. Higher Self-Esteem
How to Find a Sense of Purpose
There are many ways to find a sense of purpose. Some people believe that they already know what they want to do with their lives, but others feel lost about where to begin. Either way, there are some steps that can help you figure things out.
The first step is to take stock of your current situation. What do you like doing? Who do you spend time with? Where do you live? How much money do you make? Do you have health insurance? These questions are important because they will give you insight into how you are spending your time now. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’ll probably want to change something.
Next, think about what you’d like to accomplish in the future. Write down your goals and dreams. Then write down how you plan to achieve those goals. For example, “I want to go to college.” Now, write down why you want to go to college. Why does this matter to you? Is it because you want to learn more about yourself? Or maybe you want to earn more money. Whatever the reason, write it down.
Once you’ve written down your reasons, ask yourself whether they align with your overall purpose. Does your goal support your overarching purpose? If not, you might want to reevaluate your goal. On the flip side, if your goal supports your purpose, great! Keep moving forward.
Read my steps on How to Thrive in Your Sweet Spot here.
Develop a Growth Mindset
Having a growth mindset is one of the most important characteristics of successful people. In fact, according to research published in Psychological Science, having a growth mindset makes us happier, healthier, and even smarter. So how do we develop a growth mindset? Let’s start with understanding what a growth mindset actually looks like.
The Growth Mindset Model has three components:
• A belief in personal potential
• An attitude toward failure
• A willingness to try again
Distinguish the Do’s From Don’ts
The most important thing to regain a sense of meaning is to distinguish the do’s from the don’ts. This distinction helps us understand how we believe our lives are supposed to work. We’re born into this world with certain strengths and passions and gifts and talents we use to help others. But there are some people who are just meant to live a life of leisure. They don’t have anything special to offer the world. And there are those who are born with no talent whatsoever. Their whole life is spent trying to figure out why they’re here.
With a picture in mind of what you want to avoid doing, it will be easier to choose the path that fits your personality. You’ll know exactly where to focus your energy.
Create a Personal Mision Statement
A personal vision statement is one of the most powerful tools you have for managing stress, finding balance in your life, and staying focused on your priorities. You might think of it as a mission statement for your life. It provides direction, clarity, and inspiration.
Your vision statement tells others about your values, beliefs, and aspirations. It describes how you want to live your life and what matters most to you. It gives you something to strive for every day. And it keeps you grounded and inspired as you pursue your dreams.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about creating a vision statement:
- What do I value most?
- What does success look like for me?
- How will my life change when I achieve this goal?
- What am I willing to sacrifice to reach this goal?
- Who inspires me?
- Who are the people who inspire me?
- When did I first meet them?
- What do they stand for?
- What do they believe in?
As part of my 7 Step Action Plan to Find Your Calling I walk people through one way to create a mission statement. Read more about why (and get the plan!) in my book Lessons from the Sidelines.
Giving back, or prosocial behavior as psychologists call it can enhance your sense that you are part of something bigger than yourself. It can boost your self-esteem and make you feel like you matter. And research suggests that giving back can actually improve your health too. Looking for ways to give back? Read about Supporting Small Businesses and Ministries and supporting people on Patreon. You can also join my Kiva team here!
In one study, researchers asked people to focus on what they felt grateful about while they performed a task that required concentration. They found that those who focused on gratitude reported feeling better about themselves and had greater self-esteem afterward. In another study, researchers gave students a list of 10 words to describe themselves. Half of the group wrote down just three words—one describing their strengths, one describing their weaknesses, and one describing how they wanted to change. The other half wrote down seven words—three describing their strengths, three describing their weaknesses, and a single word describing how they want to change. Afterward, both groups completed a test designed to measure their anxiety levels. Those who wrote down three words reported less anxiety.
Turn Your Pain Into Purpose
We’ve all gone through difficult things in our lives. Some impact our mental health, and others cause us to lose a sense of direction or passion for life for a while. When we share how we overcome the difficult things in our life that we have overcome, we help others realize they too can find purpose in their pain.
Explore Your Passions
What do you love doing? What makes you happy? How do you spend your free time? These questions aren’t just about finding out what you enjoy; they’re about discovering where your passion lies. And while there are many different definitions of “passion,” most agree that it includes activities that make us feel alive, engaged, and fulfilled. In fact, studies show that having a passion helps improve our health and well-being. So, start exploring your passions today. You’ll find that one of them could be your calling.
Be Part of a Community
Purpose is about finding what you’re passionate about and connecting with people who share those same interests and values. This could mean joining a sports team, volunteering, starting a book club, or even getting involved in politics. You can find communities online, such as Facebook groups, Twitter chats, and Reddit forums. These are great places to meet likeminded individuals and learn from each other.
When you find your purpose, it will give you something to focus on and help you feel closer to others. As you become actively engaged in a community, you’ll start to develop relationships with people who share your passions and goals. You’ll begin to feel a sense of belonging and purpose.
Spend Time with People Who Inspire You
Motivational speaker Jim ROHN once said, “You are the average of 5 people you spend the most amount of time with.” This quote really stuck with me because it reminds us to evaluate our lives and how we spend our time. When I think about my life, I realize that there are certain people who influence me more than others. Some people I see every day while others I don’t see often. But what I do know is that some individuals have been very influential in shaping my thoughts and actions over the years. And I want to thank each one of them for helping me become the person I am today.
I’ve learned that spending time with people who motivate me helps me feel inspired to live a better life. As a leader in my organization, I’m always looking for ways to improve myself and grow personally. So I try to surround myself with people who help me achieve success. My friends, mentors, and coaches provide great advice and guidance that keeps me focused on being the best version of myself possible. They constantly push me to be my absolute best self. These people are the ones who inspire me to keep striving toward greatness.
So next time you’re thinking about whom you spend your time with, look around and take note of the people who have had a significant impact on your life. Who inspires you to be your best self?
Reading fiction helps broaden our minds and improve our lives. Research indicates that it could help us learn about ourselves and others better and even make us happier. In fact, one study found that reading fiction makes you more empathetic.
In addition to improving our social skills, reading fiction can also help us think critically and creatively. For example, studies show that reading literary fiction makes you more likely to consider alternative viewpoints. And some evidence suggests that it enhances your ability to solve problems and innovate.
Join a Cause
We all have a cause that feels important to us. Whether it’s fighting against corruption or helping animals, there are many causes out there that make us want to do something good. But how do you know what those causes are? You don’t have to join every charity or nonprofit organization out there. Instead, focus on one or two that really resonate with you. When you find a cause that resonates with you, you’ll start feeling like you belong, which will help you form a community around it. This way, you’re less likely to burn out because you’re doing things that matter to you. And if you happen to meet someone else who shares your passion for that cause, you’ve got even more reason to keep up the fight.
Accepting our shortcomings isn’t easy, especially when we feel like we’ve failed ourselves. But it’s important to remember that accepting ourselves doesn’t mean being weak or letting people walk all over us. Instead, it’s about becoming aware of what makes us human and understanding how we react to certain situations.
When we practice self-acceptance, we understand that we don’t always make the best choices, we aren’t perfect, and we sometimes fail. In fact, most of us have done something stupid at some point in our lives. So why beat ourselves up for those moments? Why not use them as opportunities to learn and improve?
Take Time for Self-Care
Self-care is something we often take for granted. We don’t think about it. We just do it because we know we have to. But what does it mean? What does self-care look like? And how can we make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves?
Prayer is one of those things people think they don’t do because they are too busy, but the truth is that most of us never really put it into practice. We just assume we’re doing it, but we aren’t. In fact, a lot of people say they pray, but they actually don’t. They might sit down for 20 minutes every now and again and ask God for a few things, but that doesn’t count. If you want to start practicing regularly, here are three tips to get you started.
1. Start small
The first thing you need to do is set aside some time each day to pray. You could try five minutes, ten minutes, 15 minutes, half an hour, whatever works best for you. But make sure you stick to it. Don’t let yourself off the hook if you miss a few days in a row.
2. Make it part of your daily ritual
Once you’ve found a regular time slot, you need to make sure you keep it there. This isn’t like brushing your teeth; you won’t feel guilty about missing a session. So go ahead and skip it once in a while, but always come back to it eventually.
3. Find a place where you can focus
You probably spend most of your time in front of a computer anyway, so why not use it to meditate? Pick a spot where you can close your eyes and clear your head. A quiet room away from distractions is ideal. Try using a journal or Write the Word devotions.
Encourage Gestures of Kindness and Support at Work
In most workplaces, employees are expected to show up, do what needs doing, and go home. But there are ways to ensure that even the smallest acts of caring are seen and appreciated.
Gift cards for food-deliveries apps, handwritten notes of concern or encouragement, and acknowledging moments like birthday or anniversary celebrations all send messages that you notice people as more than just workers. And it turns out that those little gestures of kindness and compassion can pay off big time. A recent study found that companies that actively encourage such actions tend to outperform competitors in terms of employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Model Vulnerability to Make it Safe for Others.
The McKinsey study found that companies with high levels of employee openness are twice as likely to experience lower rates of voluntary turnover compared to those with low levels of openness. And while many organizations have been quick to blame external factors like economic conditions or politics for rising rates of involuntary turnover, the McKinsey researchers say there are plenty of internal reasons why employees might choose to leave.
In fact, the most common reason given for voluntarily quitting is that workers feel overworked. This makes sense; we know that work stressors contribute to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, divorce, and even suicide. So what can managers do to reduce workplace stress and improve employee satisfaction?
Here are three simple actions every manager can take today to foster a culture of trust and open communication:
1. Make sure everyone knows how much effort each person puts into his or her job.
2. Give honest feedback about performance.
3. Create opportunities for people to talk openly about problems without fear of reprisal.
Whether you seek to find a sense of purpose at work or in your personal life, these steps outlined here are moments you can incorporate into your daily life or utilize during a quiet retreat to recenter your thoughts. Having a sense of purpose is a great way to avoid burnout and remind yourself of the true meaning of life.
Many Times a Mentor Can Help You Discover a Sense of Purpose
As Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we’re all called to “make disciples of all nations” wherever we live. God invites us to partner with him and live on mission every day, even in the mundane moments of life. We do this when we love people as Jesus taught the disciples to do, without stipulations.
Embracing Holy Interruptions: How Jesus Used Mundane Moments to Love People Deeply is a six-week Bible study that teaches people how to develop a disciple-making movement.
This is not a step-by-step instruction manual.
Jesus modeled using mundane moments to love people, build tension, and point them to God in a way that caused many of them to step from a curiosity about God to a fully surrendered faith. We can adapt his methods and learn from the examples in the Gospels today. This study aims to help people keep their eyes on Jesus and improve their inductive Bible reading skills while also learning to love their neighbors to the best of their ability. This 6-week study is available in both print and Kindle formats.