On Finding One’s Purpose in Life

Finding One's Purpose in Life
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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

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I wonder (and I am sure I am not alone) if we all have a purpose in life. Are we all destined for the life we lead? Is it all just fate and chance? Is it all predetermined? I wonder. Are we just actors playing our part in a perfectly scripted play? I do not know. No one does. But I find it hard to believe so.

Then comes the other question. If our lives are not predetermined, if it is not all on destiny or fate or chance, then is it our responsibility to find our purpose in life? Is it our sacred duty to make our lives more meaningful and purposeful by finding to do something that makes sense of our time on earth? This, I believe, is more plausible than the first scenario. More accurate and true.

I believe that we are not born with a purpose but can certainly discover one along the way. I do not think our lives are predetermined. I do not think we pass every minute of our day dictated by a fate that has already decided our future and our death. I do not think that the destiny of a man ensures that he suffers from poverty until he dies, and neither does it ensure another enjoys his life with all the riches in the world.

In fact, I feel that destiny or fate, or chance, is often used as an excuse by men to not do or keep doing something that is meaningful to them. It is used as an excuse to not even bother finding one’s purpose in life, or in case they have found it, to not work hard enough, consistently enough, and be patient enough, to actually fulfill that purpose.

That is why one often hears a man curse his destiny for keeping him poor. One hears him make himself the victim in every situation. One hears him say, “What can I do? That’s my luck” or “That’s my fate” or “What can I do? It’s just not meant to be”

Now, for sure, there is a certain element of luck or chance involved in life. It cannot be denied. But it also cannot be used as an excuse. It cannot be used to dictate one’s life.

I believe it is extremely important for one to find their purpose in life. What else can motivate you to wake up every single day with an eagerness to do something you think is important or necessary? Certainly, it cannot be a 9 to 5 job you couldn’t care less about (unless it is your own company). It also cannot be someone else’s vision, for that would never be the same as working toward your own personal vision.

So, let’s say that you work for someone, spending hours and hours of your day trying to achieve that someone’s vision, whatever it may be. And suppose it is not a conventional 9 to 5 job, that is, you have relative freedom in working hours and can be relatively casual compared to most other 9 to 5 jobs, but you are nevertheless working for someone else, toward something that you do not necessarily care about, to achieve someone else’s dream, while your own dream is either lost, forgotten, or has never been discovered in the first place.

Now, in this particular scenario, would you still be happy? I ask. Of course, you may say yes. Yes, you are quite happy with where you are and what you are doing. Everybody says that. You have a comfortable job, a comfortable, regular income, a comfortable routine, and a comfortable life, you would say.

But, I ask again, are you really happy? Do you wake up every day (or on most days at least) waiting to go to work for that someone else? Do you ever consider yourself fortunate to be working for someone else whose vision you are spending your days trying to realize? Are you truly grateful for doing what you do, for the way you live your life? Or do you find yourself anxiously looking forward to the weekend, a public holiday, or the month-end?

A few people do. But most, I can say with much conviction, do not. Most people, even though they think they are happy, or convince themselves to be happy, are really not. As Henry David Thoreau aptly said: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. It is a quote I agree with wholeheartedly, for it is truer and more accurate than all the quiet lies men tell each other to prove that their life is exactly as they desired it to be, even though it clearly is not.

It is obvious to me (although I may be wrong) why most men are desperate or quietly frustrated with their lives. It seems too obvious for others to not notice it, and so, sometimes I feel I may be wrong. Most of humanity spends their precious, numbered days doing things they do not like to do or even remotely care about. They are living someone else’s life, someone else’s dream, and vision. They feel empty, as they are not motivated enough to spend nine or ten hours (in several cases even more), working and slogging for someone else, on someone else’s schedule, on someone else’s rules and regulations, on someone else’s whim and fancy.

They feel chained, even enslaved. Enslaved in shirts and expensive suits and ties and polished shoes. They feel helpless not knowing what else could they possibly do if they were not doing what they are doing already. In short, they lack a definite purpose in life. They have no purpose, and even if they did, they do not bother working toward it. Or if they had a purpose in the past, they have lost it somewhere along the way or forgotten all about it as if it had never existed in the first place.

Their minds are numbed by the routine and mundane jobs they have endured and suffered through for years. They have forgotten to dream, or think that dreaming is silly, unreal, just a fantasy. And so, they take no action toward realizing that dream. They take no concrete steps toward achieving that purpose of theirs. They are scared and terrified, and rightly so, for it is not easy to find and chase one’s purpose, even though, in the long run, it may surely be worth it.

Instead, they prefer to stay at a job they despise, work under someone they hate or do not respect, and waste away years and years of their lives building another man’s vision while retaining a false sense of security and happiness that they gain out of their monthly paycheck.

But what they all forget is that such money truly cannot buy happiness. And the reason for that is quite simple. The only thing we as human beings crave and desire more than money is freedom. Freedom to do our own thing whenever, however, and in whatever way we want. We desire personal freedom more than money, even though we refuse to admit it to ourselves or to others. And working for someone else, no matter the money one earns, can never provide us with the sense of personal freedom we crave, desire, and cherish so much. It is just not enough because it is just not the same thing.

A wise man would prefer to earn less money while preserving his personal freedom and remaining happy and being more content with his life. While a foolish man, like most of us, goes out of his way to forfeit his personal freedom for more money, in the vain hope that that excess money will compensate for his lack of freedom and keep him happy and content in life.

But how wrong he is, that naive and ignorant man. How mistaken! He fails to realize that it is all just an illusion. Such a man is never content or satisfied no matter how much money he earns. And the worst part is that he does not even realize that it is not the lack of money that is keeping him unhappy but the lack of personal freedom. And so, he goes about complaining and grumbling about how little he earns, how he deserves more money than his colleagues, how his boss does not value his work, and, finally, how fate or destiny or chance has done him wrong. And then he goes on to say, “What can I do? It’s my destiny. I’m not lucky enough. It’s just not meant to be.”

And this cycle continues, day after day, month after month, year after year, job after job, until finally, he realizes that it is too late, that he wasted away his life looking for more money in every new job while he should have actually been looking for more freedom.

But, on the other hand, these problems disappear (maybe not entirely but almost) when one finds their purpose in life. By purpose, I do not mean some great destiny predetermined by the Gods. I simply mean something that one finds meaning in. Something which seems worthwhile to that person. Something they are probably passionate about (if that is not too strong a word).

In such cases, the man is content, and relatively happier, in spite of the struggles and challenges, he may face. In fact, those very struggles and challenges, which might otherwise seem quite impossible to overcome, motivate and inspire him to achieve his purpose in life. It forces him to work harder and smarter, and learn quicker. It forces him to be creative and enterprising. It automatically instills in him the required discipline, a tendency to persevere, and the skill of facing and handling countless rejections. Rejections that would have otherwise broken him down, forcing him to give up.

This is what finding a purpose can do to one’s life. It ends up being more than just about money. It ends up being about true personal freedom.

Pablo Picasso found his life’s purpose in painting and Michelangelo in sculpting. Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce found it writing. Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix found it in music. Muhammad Ali in boxing and Pele in football. And the great Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela found it in their cause for the liberation of their people.

Every successful man or woman, regardless of the field they were successful in, had found their purpose in life. And this purpose lifted them up above the rest, allowing them to overcome challenges the others could not. Not because they were special or lucky, and not because it was their destiny or it was their fate. Not at all. The only reason they were able to achieve what they did achieve was that they liked what they did, they were passionate about it, believed in it, and they found some kind of meaning in it, which others might not find or understand.

And that is why I truly believe that it is important for one to find one’s purpose in life. That is the only way one might truly succeed in life. Just so you know, I am not equating money with success over here, for there are too many billionaires and multi-millionaires who hate their lives, and their money, and find it impossible to sleep peacefully at night.

Success, at least for me personally, is when one sleeps and wakes up with their mind at peace, and with gratitude in their heart, thanking the universe, almost every single day, for having the freedom to do what they love and being paid for it. That, to me, is the true definition of success (although I know most may disagree with me).