If it seems that life has no purpose, and you’re experiencing an existential crisis, the world can seem pretty bleak.
Feeling that life has no meaning can make you question everything about who you are or why you even exist.
Maybe you’re not quite so philosophical, but you seem to lack a guiding principle for your life. You find yourself thinking, “My life has no purpose, and I don’t know why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Perhaps your job has grown stale, or you don’t know if you’re in the right career at all.
Are you spending time with the right people?
Living up to your potential?
Going in the right direction?
These questions feel impossible to answer when you have no idea what drives you and have no purpose guiding your next move.
What If You Have No Purpose in Life?
If you don’t, you’re not alone. Many people tool through life, bouncing from one thing to the next without anything meaningful propelling them forward.
They live their lives reactively, rather than doing the work to find their “raison d’être” — or reason for being.
But just because others settle for having no purpose doesn’t mean you should. It’s well worth the effort to seek it out.
Finding and living your purpose in life will:
- Increase your well-being and overall happiness.
- Help you maintain a healthier life and increase longevity.
- Support emotional stability, according to research.
- Strengthen your relationships.
- Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2010 study.
9 Steps to Uncover Your Purpose In Life
Having a purpose gives your work and life intention, fulfillment, and meaning. It can direct you toward your life passion or next significant achievement. Or it can simply reveal who you want to be in this crazy world.
These simple steps will lead you to clarity and action so you no longer feel your life has no purpose.
1. Define Your “Why”
If your worldview includes the idea that humans have a responsibility to be good stewards of our planet, our communities, and our relationships, then the question of life purpose begs your attention.
You are driven toward life purpose by the very nature of this higher responsibility.
Or maybe your faith defines a supreme being and specific tenets that offer the framework for guiding your life.
You can start uncovering your life purpose by finding out the “why” behind your career and life decisions. Based on your worldview, your faith, or your spirituality, what is deeply important and valuable to you? How can you act on these things?
2. Ask Yourself Probing Questions
Start by asking yourself these questions about your life right now:
- Why are you working in this particular profession or job?
- Why did you choose your spouse, partner, and friends?
- How did you develop your political and spiritual beliefs?
- Why have you chosen the lifestyle you’re living?
If your answers reflect a lack of intentionality and free will, then your choices may not be sustainable. They don’t reflect an authentic, deeply-considered reason, grounded in your values, your sense of self, your integrity, and the legacy you want to leave the world.
If you want to be more intentional and discover your “why,” here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What kind of person do you want to be? Describe the most important characteristics of this person.
- What core values do you want your work and life to reflect and support?
- What aptitudes and skills do you possess that you find meaningful and fulfilling?
- What parts of your personality and your belief system do you want nurtured and supported in your job and elsewhere?
- What deeply moves you, inspires you, or motivates you to action?
- Who inspires you and whose life would you like to emulate?
- How can improve the world in some way? What legacy do you want to leave?
- How are you are living outside of your integrity in your work or life? What can you do to restore your integrity?
3. Step Out of Your Bubble
Often we miss our life purpose because we’re trapped in the comfortable bubble day-to-day existence.
For the most part, our lives are relatively easy. We have enough food to eat, a roof over our heads, enough money to pay the bills, and generally good health.
But we are the exceptions. Many, many people in the world are suffering. Our environment is suffering. Animals are suffering.
To find your purpose, you may need to embrace the discomfort of this suffering. You have to seek it out, allow it to touch your heart, and find a way to respond to it.
Having a purpose doesn’t mean you have to save the world or find a cure for cancer. It can be simple, like sowing the seeds of peace or expressing yourself and empowering others through creativity.
Your life purpose can be expressed in your own community — even in your own family.
Often it’s not until suffering touches our own families that we recognize our purpose. Consider how Mothers Against Drunk Driving began or why Amber Alerts are now automatically sent to millions of cell phone users.
What has touched your own family or community that might become a purpose-driven endeavor for you?
4. Do Your Research
Your answers to the questions above can give you clarity on what your life purpose might be. You will likely find some commonalities in your answers.
- You might share core values with the person who inspires you.
- Your most meaningful skills and aptitudes may be precisely what’s needed to support your “why.”
- Uncovering your values can refine what’s most important and where you should put your energy.
Once you gather and sort this information, you can find the need out there waiting for you to fill it.
For example, core values of creativity and helping others improve their lives can work well with skills of communicating, writing, and listening.
5. Match Your Research with Career Possibilities
You may want to find careers that match your purpose or what you think your purpose might be.
Your skills, interests, and reason “why” may initially seem at odds, but you’d be amazed at the creative ways you can use your skills to facilitate the bigger purpose.
For example, maybe you are passionate about playing the guitar, but you also want to help people cope with depression. Perhaps you use your passion for the guitar in a therapeutic way to help ease depression in others.
Just Google “meaningful careers” or “careers that help people,” and you’ll find tons of ideas and information on ways you can serve a larger purpose through your work.
If you need help finding a meaningful position that matches your skills and experience, check out mission-driven companies that are changing the world.
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6. Experiment Before You Commit
If you want to make sure you feel comfortable about the purposeful work you’ve uncovered, experiment with it before you commit. You can always volunteer, take on a side gig, or shadow someone working in the profession.
You might explore a variety of career options before settling on one that feels like the best fit. Allow yourself time for this experimentation and on-the-ground research.
If you take the time to find meaningful work, don’t settle for something that doesn’t make you want to get out of bed in the morning.
Volunteer Match is a great organization matching people to a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. You can also find a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in your own community through the United Way and other non-profit organizations.
7. Include All Areas of Your Life
Your work is just one area to tackle when you have no purpose in life. Your personal life is ripe for opportunities to find meaning and fulfillment.
All of your relationships — particularly your love relationship — deserve intentional consideration and action.
- Who do you want to be as a spouse, partner, friend, son, daughter, or work associate?
- What do you hope to achieve in each of those relationships?
Perhaps your purpose is to raise happy, stable, resilient, and compassionate children. Or you may feel called to be a mentor to your friends or those with whom you work.
A sense of purpose should thread through every area of your life, creating a universal framework for all of your actions and decisions.
8. Put Your Ideas into Action
When you better understand your purpose in life, write down some specific next steps for your personal and professional circumstances.
These steps may seem random and unrelated at first. You may want to begin in the areas where you feel the most suffering or confusion. Your first steps may be looking for a new job, finding a volunteer opportunity, or defining goals for your marriage.
A purpose doesn’t come to life until you put it into action and commit to it every day. The more you work toward living your purpose, the more purposeful and fulfilled you’ll feel.
Measure all of your major decisions, choices, and actions against your purpose(s) so that you can enjoy the benefits listed above.
9. Ponder Your Legacy
Pretend that you are age ninety and look back over your life. Think about the things you have achieved, the people you have impacted, and the legacy you have left your family, friends, community, and the world.
You don’t want to look back with sadness that you had a lack of purpose. You don’t want to regret your choices (or lack of choices) that led to a life that made a difference, a life that was meaningful and profound.
Your life purpose isn’t something you attain at the end of your life. It is something you live in the here and now. You are constantly creating your life in response to your evolving awareness of who you are and how you wish to serve the world with what you’ve been given.
If your life has no purpose, make it your primary goal to figure it out. The search itself will give you a sense of hope, control, and confidence about the direction you are taking.
A purpose infuses your life with something we all deeply long for – meaning. At the end of the day, we want to feel our time on Earth has made a difference.
When you are doing something you love that makes even a small difference in the world, happiness is inevitable.