What I Did When I Felt Lost and Purposeless

Written by on October 19, 2019 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments

By Lizzy Dean | Tiny Buddha

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”  ~Lao Tzu

About a year ago, I came across an e-course titled “Find Your Purpose in 15 Minutes.” I found this course during a time when purpose was something I was actively looking for. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t sure what to do next, and without anything to work toward I was looking for a new motivation to pull me forward.

The e-course I stumbled upon represents a society increasingly concerned with fulfilling its destiny. There is an unsettling pressure, particularly from the self-help community, to live a life of purpose. And when I couldn’t find my destiny, let alone fulfill it, a sense of failure washed over me.

Now, I cannot tell you whether it is possible to find your purpose in 15 minutes, because I never purchased the e-course. But I can say it is entirely possible to find meaning in a purposeless life.

The Appeal of Purpose

Purpose can provide an answer to the question “Why am I here?” It can give you a sense of direction and drive forward in life.

Some people might find purpose in meaningful work, using their skills and talent to serve the needs of the world. Others find purpose in raising a family, caring for loved ones, or being an active member of their community.

Having a purpose will make you feel like you are doing what you’re supposed to do. Like you are living out your life’s mission and making a contribution.

In a world where most of our basic human needs are met, I suppose it’s no wonder that we are now looking to become more deeply fulfilled. When you no longer have to struggle for mere survival, it’s only natural that you pause and ask yourself what it’s all for.

The Problem with Purpose

Living a purposeful life sounds wonderful, and I’m not here to devalue anyone’s purposeful existence. Rather, I would like to remind those that haven’t found purpose yet that life can be meaningful and fulfilling without it.

The problem with purpose is not at all the actual purpose, but rather our intense attachment to finding it. Doing work we love, contributing to the world in a meaningful way, and leaving our mark has become such a prized endeavor that I can often sense a deep existential worry creep into conversations with my peers.

For example, I’ve noticed that many of my friends feel angsty when they don’t know what to do next in life or when they aren’t sure if their current endeavors are what they’re meant to do. I too have felt uncomfortable with the fact that I am not serving the world in big and meaningful ways.

We seem to collectively feel that if we don’t have some grand end-goal to fulfill we are somehow failing at life. And with this, we are passing on the opportunity to create a meaningful life without having a purpose.

The Alternative to Purpose

This is where I would like to offer an alternative. Not to purpose itself, but to the glorification of purpose and the frantic gold-rush that we have embarked on to find that one thing in life that will bring us meaning and fulfillment.

I do believe that living a meaningful life is important. Having no sense of why you are even on this planet can feel restless at best and nihilist at worst. But instead of anchoring yourself in finding purpose, I suggest you anchor yourself in values instead.

Personal values are guides that can help you navigate the road map of life, even if you don’t know where you’re heading. More importantly, they’re a lot easier to find than purpose.

Think of a few people you admire. What values do they exemplify? Courage, empathy, ambition? If you look up to anyone, it’s most likely not because of their achievements, but rather their character, which has helped them reach those achievements. What in their character would you like to improve in yours?

Personal values allow you to live anchored in what is meaningful to you, whether that’s serving others, being brave, or taking radical responsibility for your life. Values, unlike purpose, allow you to infuse meaning into every present moment rather than only finding meaning in one noble cause.


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