How to Find the Purpose in Life – in 4 Steps
For 40 years it was almost all I thought about, how to find my life’s purpose.
Now I’m not saying I’ve got all the answers, but I do know this:
- If you’re searching for meaning or purpose in life (especially if you’re a man), then you won’t be happy until you’ve found it.
- And if you don’t have it yet, then what you need is a new perspective.
I know you came here looking for answers, so let’s get right to it. Here’s how to find meaning and purpose in your life.
1. Stop Looking for It
I don’t mean resign yourself to never finding it. I mean stop chasing your tail.
Searching for meaning or purpose is like searching for happiness. It doesn’t work like that. They are things you experience when you’re on the ‘right track’.
And more than likely, the right track is something you’ll stumble across when you’re on your way somewhere else.
Sometimes you just get lucky, but don’t count on it. Don’t just wait for it to happen.
Because luck usually follows when you take productive action and show a little persistence.
Just get yourself going in the right direction first, and the way will unfold from there. The next steps will show you how that’s done.
2. Clean Up Your Room (literally and metaphorically)
If you know who Jordan Peterson is then you know what I’m talking about. And if not, go and check him out (when you’ve finished this article).
Put your immediate life in order before you go trying to climb a mountain or changing the world.
Firstly because you’ll feel better for it, and secondly because then the next step becomes clearer.
There’s something you can do, right now, that would make your life a little better. What is it?
If you’re really stuck, just start with something ridiculously simple like doing the dishes, or having a shower.
Don’t overwhelm yourself or try to fix everything in your life today, just move forwards one step. Because the first step leads to the second, and so on.
After a couple of easy wins, you might want to look at the things you know you’re avoiding.
For me that was always financial. I’d rather bury my head in the sand than sit down and look at my accounts. And I still feel resistance when I think about it.
But that resistance is like an illusion, a huge wall that doesn’t really exist. All you have to do, is walk up to it, take a deep breath and walk straight through it. That’s hardest part done.
I know it’s not always easy to face what you’re avoiding; but it’s worth it. It’ll set you free.
Perhaps it’s money, or a conversation that needs to be had, or getting a medical check-up about something that’s on your mind. The key, again, is to take the very first step.
When you start creating order from chaos, it lifts you, you think clearer, and you get a sense of humble pride.
You start exercising your internal locus of control – the sense that you’re in charge of your life – and that leads to more productive action.
Responsibility means having both hands on the wheel.
Everything bad that’s happened in my life, every disappointment or regret (to do with health, money, career or relationships) has been because I didn’t take full responsibility for something.
Finally, I’m realising that it’s something to be embraced not feared.
I made a tool for myself called the Responsibility Triad, to help me know what to focus on.
It basically gives you an overview of what’s important in your life in the areas of Health, Wealth and Self. Feel free to use and adapt it to your needs if you like. You can download it for free.
3. Be Useful… and Enjoy It
You’re a piece of something bigger, whether you feel like it or not.
Whether you choose to think of it in terms of your immediate circle of friends, family and work, or society, or the cosmos or whatever, what matters is that you feel like a useful part of it.
And you do that by helping people. Or maybe animals, or the planet. But it’s usually people you get the most direct reward from helping.
Again, start small if you have to. You could fix something in the house and make your wife happy; or help out a friend or neighbour.
Perhaps offer your skills or your time somewhere. At this stage it doesn’t really matter where, because it’s just about creating the positive feedback loop that changes your brain chemistry.
Maybe you’ll discover something you could apply yourself to, but the real point is to get that dopamine buzz that comes from taking productive action and seeing results. Because then your brain will start rewiring and getting creative, and finding ways to get it again.
That feeling is also what you’re trying to mimic when you trick the system with alcohol, drugs, porn, computer games or gambling.
All they do is hijack the reward systems in your brain, giving you the sensations without the effort. Feels good in the short term, but ultimately leaves you feeling empty and doesn’t move your life forward in any way.
So this step is just about getting out there and finding ways to be useful. I’m a firm believer in ‘selfish altruism’; if you’re doing something positive but it’s mostly to make you feel good, that’s totally ok.
4. Pursue Mastery: Go Deep
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”
― Robert Greene, Mastery
Mastery is the process of leaning right into your strengths and interests, treating the next 5-10 years as an apprenticeship, and becoming someone who can provide something truly great and unique to the world.
It means thinking long-game.
Learning, growing and building. Accepting that failure is part of the process; and going fathoms deep where others just splash around on the surface.
If you already have a passion or skill you care about, then that could be the route you choose to take. But sometimes it’s not that straightforward.
Although I’m a chiropractor by profession, my chosen field of mastery is creating meaningful online content, that I can turn into a business.
It took me years to realise that this is what I want to do, and I still have pangs of guilt about whether it should be chiropractic instead.
But although I love being able to help people with my hands, the subject I care mostly about, and have always thought about more than anything else, is finding meaning in life.
Ever since I was a child I felt like I saw the world differently to most people, and wondered why no-one ever talked about what I saw was the single most important thing; meaning.
It remained just a quirk of mine until I started realising that perhaps it was something the world needed, maybe more than I and it had realised.
Especially with the growing conversation around men’s mental health, loss of meaning and suicide.
Then ‘coincidentally’ I came across the book Mastery by Robert Greene at the same time as I discovered a course on digital marketing. I listened to the book twice in a row on Audible, and felt like it had been written just for me.
Not only in Greene’s explanation of the process of mastery, but also the importance of it.
That you don’t just need to pursue and achieve mastery for your own sake; society desperately needs it too.
In these days of quick fix, easy access, and instant gratification, the value of depth, and soul and real skill cannot be overstated.
As Greene himself puts it:
“It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and then retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures. Alienating yourself from your inclinations can only lead to pain and disappointment in the long run, and a sense that you have wasted something unique. This pain will be expressed in bitterness and envy, and you will not recognise the true source of your depression.”
So I created this site to explore the importance of finding meaning as a man, and the many implications around that.
And my apprenticeship is in digital marketing, where I’m learning how to provide real value, that people need and are looking for, and how to create a business out of it that gives me and my family the life we want.
My mentors for that are Wealthy Affiliate (WA), and if you’re at all interested in having an online business then I’d recommend checking out what they have to offer.
As it happens, they weren’t the first course I discovered (that turned out to be a little too much of a multilevel marketing scheme, which wasn’t my cup of tea), but it led me to discovering WA which was the perfect fit for me.
One step leads to the next.
This is just the beginning of that journey for me, but I wanted to share with you what I’m doing here and why I’m doing it. I hope it’s helpful, or perhaps even inspiring.
I’ll explore the topic of mastery in more depth on another post. But for now I want to give you an overview of the process I’ve discovered that has helped me find meaning and purpose in my own life.
It has helped me more than all the many courses, books and exercises on ‘finding your why’ (which never worked for me) combined.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article, and any questions or insights you have on the subject.
Until next time.