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Living on Purpose

Don’t waste any more time stumbling through life

It’s important to have a purpose. I have seen lives filled with loneliness and despair when no specific purpose has been embraced. On the other hand, I have seen drastic improvements in psychological well-being when people have identified a meaningful purpose.

Without purpose, what’s the point of getting up every day? Life can’t be just about growing-up, getting a job, taking a few vacations, retiring, and dying, can it? Is that why we are here on earth? I believe that we are each on earth for a special purpose, which is up to us to name. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “purpose” is defined as: 1) the object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal 2) a result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention 3) determination; resolution, and 4) the matter at hand; the point at issue. Purpose in life is the intended result of our focus, determination, and intention. It is the entire point of our existence.

Many spiritual disciplines offer a framework to help followers define their life’s purpose. Followers take comfort in the teachings and traditions of spiritual leaders and their insights into a higher power’s purpose for them. Some believe that life is about striving to stay pure in mind and deed. Others emphasize that life should be enjoyed and experienced. Others say that life is suffering, and our purpose is to detach from our egos and melt into the cosmos. Still others say that life should be about service to others. Regardless of the particular spiritual tradition or philosophical base, there is profound psychological value in clearly defining a customized purpose.

Why is purpose so important? A purpose sets the entire context for our lives. Without a clearly defined purpose, we are just a haphazard combination of goals and non-goals and actions and non-actions meandering through space and time. A purpose is a master plan for our life. Knowing our purpose helps us define our goals. It helps us avoid getting lost in the minutia of daily life by keeping our eyes on the target. It can make life much more enjoyable and effortless. Purpose is not something that others choose for us; rather, it is something we must choose for ourselves. It emerges from an exploration of what we value most. When we are defining our purpose in life, it is important to not worry about how we will go about achieving it. When we identify and commit to our intentions, the opportunities and methods for achieving our purpose will begin to show up. In fact, they are often already in our lives, but we may not have noticed them because we were not paying attention. Defining our purpose helps us focus.

As long as your purpose fills you with passion, it can be simple and safe or grandiose and daring. My purpose is to help bring hope and healing to the world. All of my activities, intentions, and goals emerge from this basic purpose. What’s your purpose? If you don’t already know it, take time right now to define it.

  1. Start by examining what you value most. Is it balance, faith, family, compassion, excellence, generosity, peace, connection to others, or something else.
  2. Consider what you would hope others would say about you when they describe you, or what you would want to be written in your obituary. What legacy do you want to leave? You will be known for something. What do you want it to be?
  3. Take a moment to write down your own special purpose. The simple act of writing things down, like goals and purpose, greatly increases their power in our lives. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just write it down. You can hone it as you go.
  4. Start each day and end each day by reciting it. Write it on a business card and carry it in your wallet or purse. In moments of fear, frustration, and sorry, pull it out and read it. Doing so will help you keep things in perspective and remind you to stay focused on what is most important to you.

Don’t waste any more time stumbling through life. Take time to identify your purpose and strive to let your purpose express itself each day in your work, your play, and your relationships. Living life on purpose will translate to better well-being for you, your family, and your world.

Dr. Brad Klontz, Psy.D., CFP®, is a financial psychologist, an Associate Professor and Founder of the Financial Psychology Institute at Creighton University Heider College of Business, a Managing Principal of Occidental Asset Management (OCCAM). and co-author of five books on financial psychology, including Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health.

You can follow Dr. Klontz on Twitter at @DrBradKlontz.

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