Thursday, 26 January 2012

Happiness, meaning and a sense of purpose.

What does it mean to have a sense of purpose?
How much would a sense of purpose guide and affect your choices?

Having a sense of purpose gives you a reason to aim for something. It encourages you to move towards more fulfilling goals and in doing so enables you to experience longer lasting happiness.  Having a sense of purpose means having clear goals that fit into your wider life story, so that what you do holds meaning and direction.

Having meaning in your life gives you the ‘why’ you do what you do. Knowing that your life has meaning helps you face up to difficulties and overcome hardship. The meaning, ‘your story’, defines your role and makes you who you are and what you do matter.

‘Lack of meaning and purpose accounts for much of the rise in depression in America’
Victor Frankl

Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, remarks in his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning that lack of meaning and boredom in people’s lives cause more mental health problems than

A sense of purpose doesn't have to be a grand world changing ideal, it is a way of holding who you are in harmony with what you do. Living a purposeful life has direction; you know the path you are on and equally importantly who you are. You are the path you walk: when your path is more important than the destination, life becomes vibrant and exciting; you know where you are headed and why. Your path is not so much about goals and work but the quality you bring to the process of living – your purpose, your unique contribution.

Where you feel most autonomy and freedom is a good place to find a sense of purpose to your life. Knowing what you value, and living to those values, gives the meaning and purpose to what you do. 

We have multiple sources of meaning, our values and needs change as we change and grow, and what we value in one area of our life can be different from another. Unpicking what you value can be a big task, especially if you are living values you inherited or reflect a way of being that was once important and necessary but is now redundant .

When we are young we often inherit our parents’ values and many people continue for years living a life someone else has given them.Our experiences also shape our needs; for example, if you grew up in an environment where you were afraid, you might well need safety above everything. Finding your life purpose requires that you are able to differentiate emotional needs that are a consequence of past experience from needs that fulfil your potential and give meaning to what you do. Because values help us prioritise our needs and often give us the reason 'why’ we do things, they can have cultural and linguistic meaning and importance                                                                                                                                        

However, we can be multifaceted and authentic: we can integrate ourselves to our lives in a coherent way. Having a sense of purpose is the most powerful way we can do this.

Inside we all have a personal calling,  there are some needs that consistently resonate with us most strongly and we always respond to and there are characteristics in our behaviour that we are most comfortable and happy exhibiting. Our purpose can be seen when we are behaving in a way that is natural to us.
When have you felt most able to be yourself?

When have you felt real freedom of action?

When do you take responsibility?

Have you ever noticed the respect you command when you speak with your own voice and what were you saying?

What are you doing when you feel you have autonomy; what activities do you enjoy for their own sake?

Do you know what your purpose is at the moment? What are you aiming for?

What holds most meaning for you?

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