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Finding Purpose AndMeaning In Life

Dr. Elanza Stephenson

According to Viktor Frankl, a prominent existential psychologist, finding meaning is a primary motivation for human beings. Meaning can stem from various sources such as work, relationships, spirituality, and personal values.

In the context of this blog, meaning refers to the sense that life is significant, coherent, and worthwhile, while purpose relates to having goals and direction in life.

Professor of psychology Scott T. Allison, Ph.D., suggests the very grandiose purpose of life is to be a hero and outlines the following key elements: (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-we-need-heroes/201406/what-is-your-purpose-in-life).

• We go on a Journey: As we grow, we go out on our own and start a journey. That journey may be fraught with dangers and discomforts.
• We Grow from Adversity: The things we face along our path will challenge us, and we will learn from them.
• We Gather Allies: Navigating life's purpose involves forming connections, both supportive and adversarial. We need to hold onto our allies.
• We Give of Ourselves: Like heroes in stories, we can contribute to the greater good and give back to society.

How Do We Choose The Path Our Purpose Will Take Us Down?

  1. Identify Your Values Reflecting on personal values and beliefs can provide a sense of direction and guide decision-making. Matt James, Ph.D., suggests that knowing what our own personal values are is very important to a happy, fulfilled life. When we know what matters most to us, we find decision-making easier. Values also help us stay on track when it comes to following our purposes. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/focus-forgiveness/201606/valuing-your-values).
  2. Seeking Joy Understanding what brings us happiness in life can help us find a fulfilling purpose. This could mean becoming a charitable person because acts of kindness make us happy or pursuing passions like music because music speaks to our happiness.
  3. Ask Yourself: “What Does My Life Need?”Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life is often associated with numerous benefits, including greater life satisfaction, better mental and physical health, and increased resilience to stress. Personal purpose could be something that unfolds over many years. It is important to ask ourselves what we need in our lives when we are trying to find our purpose. Do we want a family, a career, a vocation? Essentially, what is the ultimate outcome and what do we need to deem our purpose successfully achieved?
  4. Cultivating Meaning and Purpose Recognizing our strengths and resources aids in choosing compatible purposes and goals. The essential question you need to ask with each purpose you consider is what strengths you may have to support this. It is important to look deeply into yourself and consider what you can do and what you feel confident you could achieve with the right training or education. Several strategies can help individuals cultivate meaning and purpose in their lives: Setting Goals: Setting meaningful goals that align with one's values can create a sense of purpose and motivation. Engaging in Meaningful Activities: Engaging in activities that are personally meaningful, such as volunteering or creative pursuits, can enhance one's sense of purpose. Building Relationships: Nurturing meaningful connections with others provides a sense of belonging and purpose. Practicing Gratitude: Acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of life can enhance one's sense of meaning and well-being.
  5. Be Realistic When Choosing Your Goals We should, of course, not underestimate our skills and potential. It is, however, important to be realistic with what you choose as your purpose. There may be factors that will make some proposed paths completely unachievable. It is important to be honest with yourself because if your purpose just is not realistic, you risk embarking on a failed journey that will leave you unfulfilled.

Conclusion By understanding the importance of meaning and purpose and adopting strategies to cultivate them, individuals can lead more fulfilling lives.

References Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man's search for meaning. Simon and Schuster.

 This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393. 

This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.