At the turn of a year, some of us tend to reflect on the past 12 months as well as to look ahead at what the upcoming year may have in store. While all of us can do that, in reality, few people instinctively know their life purpose and what they want to do with their life in general.
Have you ever wondered what your life purpose is and whether you actually need it? Or, do you think it is something we don’t have to think about as our existence itself determines it?
The need for purpose is one of the defining characteristics of human beings. Purpose provides us with direction, it motivates us, it gives us a reason for our existence. It also helps us make decisions, both minor and major. We as human beings crave purpose; absence of purpose can make us succumb to boredom, anxiety and depression. If we didn’t have a purpose, many wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning and the world would be a far bleaker place than it sometimes is.
Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life. Unlike animals, driven simply to survive, we humans want more from life than mere survival. Without an understanding of the reasons behind our survival, we can quickly fall into disillusionment, distraction and a sense of despair. The alarming increase in rates of drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide, along with the growing reliance on antidepressants, seems to indicate many are doing just that. For example, think about how some of the former sports or music stars ended up when they stopped doing their profession after a long while without being able to replace it with something else, just as meaningful and purposeful.
There are multiple interpretations of what life purpose is. In generic terms, the real purpose of anyone’s life is to be fully involved in living. Beyond religious connotations that some may associate with life purpose, it is simply our life’s direction or mission we wish to drive in the world during our existence on Earth. I believe having life purpose applies to all of us, whether we are religious or atheistic.
Finding your purpose, mission or life goal is not an easy task. In fact, it can be extremely challenging. It can begin with asking yourself questions such as: “What is the story I’d like to see unfold in front of me?” and “What do I want to experience?” “What will make me really proud of myself?”. The answers will help point you in the right direction. However, even if you think you know your purpose, there may be a gap between a concept and reality of life purpose. On the concept level, we suppose that having a life purpose is some sort of a blueprint for life. In reality, possessing one life purpose, or multiple life purposes, may amount only to difficulties, in particular when circumstances prevent us from achieving it.
Finding a purpose is not only critical in our personal lives. As an example, for the past 10 months my company has been going through a massive transformation; as the stakeholders impacted by the transformation journey most, our employees essentially wanted to understand ‘why’ these changes are happening and ‘what’s in it for me’, and be compelled to change and engage. Interestingly enough, Frederick Nietzsche once said: “He who has a why can endure any how.” Knowing your why is an important first step, in figuring out how to achieve the goals that drive you, at work and at home, and create a life you enjoy living (versus merely surviving!). A person who has found a purpose in life can overcome any obstacle in their path. Being aware of why your life is important, and having a positive goal, can make you overcome almost any defeat without giving up.
So what does it mean to have purpose in life? It means we can make an impact in the world as we do something that matters and are passionate about. It means we have a clear direction – we live our life, not someone else’s, with our goals and the journey we are on is ours. We use our strengths and values, so living a fulfilling life becomes easier. In addition, awareness of our life purpose enables us to become our true selves, living a more authentic life. And our energy, enthusiasm and love of life inspires others who may be asking what our secret is! All this ultimately amounts to a happier life. Those who recognise a meaning in their lives are able to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s crisis into an achievement. And it does not matter if you are 16 or 60, who you are and what you do, a life can be meaningful at any age.
Do you remember Sisyphus, a king in Greek mythology? Sisyphus is condemned by the gods to roll a huge rock to the top of a mountain, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity. That is a reminder that we don’t have to be like Sisyphus in our lives, we have a choice. In addition, we have more freedom than he did — and we should use it. Nothing in the universe will condemn us for not making use of our available freedom — nothing except for our own conscience.
Tereza Urbánková is a PR, communications and marketing professional with over 15 years’ experience and proven success in delivering award-winning communications programmes for multinational companies operating in industries such as hospitality, retail, IT, defence, broadcast, logistics and engineering. For the past 10 years she has been living and working in London, UK; currently, she is Head of Corporate Communications for Amec Foster Wheeler plc, a large international engineering and project management company. Tereza also works as a freelance communications and PR consultant. Since 2015 she has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Czech British Chamber of Commerce in the UK. She speaks Czech, English, Spanish and Russian and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or through her LinkedIn profile.