Throughout my life, I've often felt idle. As though I was working towards nothing, spending my days waiting for my weekends. I guess part of me expected to stumble upon purpose and contentment. I thought happiness stemmed from success and that I would feel purposeful once I found a career. I've learned that no matter what you accomplish, it never feels how you think it will. The real pleasure and sense of accomplishment comes from the journey.
There’s a reason that billionaires and retirees are so miserable- idle time. Idle time leads to boredom and boredom to depression. What is the opposite of happiness? Not sadness, they're two sides of the same coin, like love and hate.
“The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.”
Thus the goal becomes to add excitement, eliminate what causes you stress and anguish, and fill the empty space with success-building habits. So the question becomes, what excites you?
Once you see yourself as someone who can set and accomplish goals, when you feel fit and confident, when your mind is quiet and free from the chains of comparison, that is when you will feel purposeful. That is where you find a sense of well-being. It isn't a day-long process or a week-long process; it's not even a lateral one. Some days you'll feel better than others, but the point is to progress. To build consistency for yourself, and slowly, you'll find meaning in the process.
5 Ways to Add Purpose to Your Life
“I can elect something I love and absorb myself in it. “
It seems obvious but moving your body is crucial to feeling well. I'm not the type to lace up some running shoes and hit the pavement for an hour every morning. But I love sports. I love competition and building skills. I love the awkwardness of learning and the soreness of muscles I didn't use before.
When you exercise, your muscles exert a protein called Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α). This protein is sometimes referred to as a "Hope Molecule." It alters the way the brain responds to depression.
There is a biological basis for moving more; you can combine it with the benefits of competition. I train in Muy Thai and Boxing; It provides a way for me to add resistance and challenge in my life. Training sets goals for me to reach. It’s exciting to improve and see the reflections in my physical appearance. Fight training requires discipline and consistency. I'm building upon the benefits of exercise and using them to add other powerful psychological practices to keep me motivated and engaged.
If you're not a fighter, maybe you are a yogi or gym rat. Maybe unlike me, you love to run and feel the rhythm of your breath in tune with your feet on the ground. Whatever appeals to you, whatever excites you, pursue it.
2. Develop a Hobby
“The aim of life is self-development, to realize one’s nature perfectly.” – Oscar Wilde
I've written since I could read. I used to copy down stories from my eight-year-old mind. Everything would be misspelled, and I rarely used a period, but the passion was there. I've toiled away for years writing stories that no one would read because I love it. Now that I actually make money, it only makes writing sweeter.
What activity makes you lose track of time?
I believe that everyone should have a hobby that has the potential to make you money, one to keep you healthy, and one to keep you sane. We need things to work towards; we like to feel like we're improving. If the task also feeds your soul and nourishes your spirit, that's a bonus.
Important Note: Have a plan. No one ever stumbles upon success they didn't plan for. Most overnight successes actually weren't so. Put something on the horizon to aim for.
I know I'm not the first to recommend this, and I won't be the last. I've been meditating consistently for about a year now. I can't speak highly enough of the practice. Meditation helps me find gratitude and stillness. But it also helps me accomplish my goals and empty a chaotic mind.
"When I became disciplined in my pursuit it bled to other areas of my life. I became more motivated to work out and continue to better myself. I wanted that sense of peace to stay with me at all times and it compelled me to do more to maintain it."
Meditation is good for overall brain health. It has a hand in most things that drive contentment and well being. We are living in such a high-stress atmosphere that just a moment of stillness could change your life. Shift some of that weight off your mind and release your obligations for just a few short moments per day. It helps make room for what really matters and changes the structure of your brain to yield itself toward happier thinking.
4. A Morning Walk + Gratitude Practice
“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals.
If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
I wake up around 7 am with a groggy mind and cortisol already shooting through my veins, driving up my anxiety. Sometimes it's tough to battle my nerves and shakiness to get out the door and take my walk.
However, my walk has become a staple of my life. It helps me more than my anti-depressants ever did. Walking inspires creativity and helps me release some of that pent up negative energy. I often do my best thinking, and I love to observe the world around me.
The morning is also a great time to practice gratitude. During my walk, I'll find a quiet place to sit and reflect. I'll think or say some of the things I'm grateful for in that moment. Whether it's my health or the fresh, crisp air, sometimes it's the sun warming my skin or my family. I also give myself appreciation by breathing life into my work and self-confidence.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
When you practice being grateful, it sets you up to receive more. When you can't appreciate what you have, you'll never have enough.
5. Keep Learning
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
It's easy to fall into the routine of working and going home to recover. Rinse and repeat. The days mix together, the only variation being what you watch on Netflix. There is a profound pleasure in pursuing knowledge. Why do you think kids are so engaged with life? Everything is new! They are learning so much every day; it keeps them curious and exploring.
Adults could benefit from some wonder. We've all grown so apathetic towards life. Expand your perspective, attend a seminar, read a book you normally wouldn't, study a philosophy that appeals to you. Learn a trade, learn how to nurture your relationships, learn a different language, learn a skill.
I keep learning by listening to podcasts and reading books. I join Facebook groups with people interested in similar or different things, and I read what others have to say. People are your greatest resource. You'll find life and purpose in them. It only takes a sentence or a phrase to change how you think and what you do forever.
The path to purposeful living is simple but not easy. It takes effort to get out and go for a walk. It's hard to learn something new. It's difficult to find a hobby that you're passionate about. You may not know what excites you, but isn't it invigorating to consider finding out?
You have the power to renegotiate your current reality and be as happy as you want to be. But you have to be malleable and allow yourself to embrace the changes. Fall in love with life again and enjoy the journey.
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