How to Live a Meaningful Life Without Knowing Your Life’s Purpose
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Do you remember when you first noticed that emptiness at the core of your being?
It felt as though something had been carved out of you, didn’t it?
And, no matter how hard you try to make it go away, the emptiness remains.
Stuffing your life with busy-ness, and acquiring more stuff, hasn’t made a dent in it.
Zoning out in front of the TV, playing on-line games, or over-indulging with food and alcohol only dulls the ache.
Still though, you know there has to be something that will fill the emptiness, and stop the pain.
Moreover, any number of people will tell you that finding your life’s purpose is what will make you feel better.
If so many people believe it, then it must be true.
“What usually happens in the educational process is that the faculties are dulled, overloaded, stuffed and paralyzed so that by the time most people are mature they have lost their innate capabilities.” ~ Buckminster Fuller
Challenges with Finding Your Life’s Purpose
So you follow somebody’s formula, or do their meditation, or sign up for their process and hope they’ll show you the way to your life’s purpose.
But what if their way of doing it does not work for you?
What if none of those methods give you anything more than a temporary sense of relief?
And what if they do not motivate you to get off the couch, or stop overeating, or stop whatever else is not filling that empty hole?
When the formulas and processes do not deliver what you hoped they would when the emptiness remains and feels even bigger, it is no wonder you get depressed.
But not to worry, there is another way to fill the emptiness.
“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
Filling Up The Emptiness Is Easier Than You Think
Since the emptiness is inside you, it makes sense that the way to fill it is inside you as well.
It is true.
Within you, just waiting for you to pay attention to them are the seeds of happiness and satisfaction.
In Buddhism, seeds are called bija, and they have a wonderful characteristic: they are always ready to sprout and grow when the conditions are right.
What does that mean for you?
It means all the potential you had as a child is still there. The things that didn’t have a chance to grow or didn’t grow well is just waiting for you to notice and nourish them.
All you have to do is figure out how to identify and encourage what you want to grow.
Moreover, I can show you how to do that.
How To Recognize What’s Meaningful To You
Figuring out what’s meaningful to you is inside-out work, and pretty simple.
You get an idea, or a spark of interest in something and let it move you to take action. And you do it without knowing exactly where that action is going to lead.
In the beginning, it is about discovering ideas and activities that give you a sense of satisfaction. It is exploring them moment by moment, and day by day, and seeing where they lead you.
First it is a week; then it is a month or maybe two, and then it dawns on you that you are going in a direction that makes you feel happy and satisfied.
In his book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”, Cal Newport tells the story of Ryan, who did odd jobs for extra money. Picking wild blueberries and selling them by the side of the road got him the most cash.
Next, he started selling the extra produce from his family’s garden. Then he took over the garden and made it bigger.
In high school, he rented 10 acres from a local farmer. Ryan continued to expand upon what he was doing until he bought his own farm.
These are all things you might expect the son of a farmer to do, but Ryan’s not from a farming family.
He is simply doing work that satisfies him and gives his life meaning.
There’s something else about living a meaningful life you need to know.
Just because Ryan started making his meaningful life as a kid, don’t think for a minute you cannot start at any age.
My dentist’s bookkeeper, who is about 45 or 50, has the mindset that regular people, like her and her husband, have jobs and go to them 5 days a week.
Then her husband got laid off and didn’t get another job.
Instead, after finding, fixing and selling an old Hammond Organ, he began looking for more of them so he could repeat the process.
His wife thinks his traveling around finding broken organs is pretty weird and wishes he would just get a regular job, with a regular paycheck. She does admit, though, that he is happy.
Exactly what sparked his interest in doing something like this does not matter.
How you manifest what’s meaningful to you is as individual as you are. A meaningful life does not limit you to one mode of expression.
Nor does it decree starting at any particular age, at any particular time in your life, or in any particular fashion.
All that matters is that you start . . .even when it’s painful as hell.
At the time I heard this story, my life was in the toilet. My business had tanked, a start-up with a partner was crashing and burning, and my life was made hideous with panic and anxiety attacks.
Something had to change, and since I was responsible for where I had wound up, it had to be me.
In the beginning, I resorted to making decisions by determining which choice caused the greatest anxiety.
The scariest ones were what my heart wanted me to do.
I struggled to go where these choices led me. Thankfully, a faint but persistent inner voice kept saying, ‘Yes, this is what you need to do to get the meaningful life you want.’
Slowly I learned to listen to myself, and how I felt. I trusted myself more and became more confident.
Today, a year later, I am a freelance writer, happily working hard at my craft. I have the self-fulfilling life I want, and the emptiness at the core of my being is gone.
Here’s how you get started.
Starting to Live a Meaningful Life Is Easy
First of all, you do not have to do it the way I did – out of desperation! Nor do you have to lose a job first as the Hammond Organ man did.
Begin identifying and encouraging what’s already inside of you by doing these 5 things:
- Give yourself permission to follow and act on your inclinations, those inner promptings that want to take you in a different direction from what you are used to. Taking action on those bits of inspiration is what creates meaning.
- No goal going where those inner promptings lead is an intuitive process. It builds upon itself, according to an inner plan that gets revealed bit by bit.
- Be open to new possibilities. Ask yourself, ‘What if I did this instead of that’ Take action based on what feels right to you. Alternatively, do as I had to do at first: go with what scares the heck out of you because you can sense it is where your heart wants to go.
- Let your curiosity slip its leash. Have fun, explore, and experiment. Track down answers to questions that pop up. Nothing is too small to pursue.
- Understand ‘going with your gut’ is not an exact science. You’ll need to take risks, and accept you’ll make mistakes. It is the process by which you are learning to have more trust in yourself.
Thomas Merton put it this way: ‘We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.’
This process helps you make those choices.
What Satisfies You
Even though you desire to make a change and believe it is going to make you happy, that does not mean you do not have to work at making it happen.
Help yourself out by expanding your self-awareness with a bit of daily journaling.Do just a little-written reflection on your day and your feelings.
- What gave you a feeling of satisfaction, or made you feel good?
- Did you feel prompted to do something, but either drew back or talked yourself out of it?
- When you did that, what story did you tell yourself?
- What could you do to make taking action less risky?
- What new story could you tell yourself?
Looking closely at things, you can see what makes you happy, and where old habits of thinking are getting in your way.
“But I do know what bliss is: that deep sense of being present, of doing what you absolutely must do to be yourself.” ~ Joseph Campbell
The Rewards of Living a Meaningful Life
This process is a simple and organic method of exploring who you really are.
As you take one step and then wait for the next step to manifest, you are learning to trust yourself, and this boosts your confidence.
Plus what you are doing rewards you along the way, with lots of meaningful and satisfying moments. They are the built-in encouragement that lets you know you are going in the right direction.
Embracing what satisfies you and makes you happy is how the emptiness gets filled and the pain goes away.
It is the only way to do it, and the best time to do it is right now.
Give yourself permission to live a meaningful life, and then just go for it!
You have nothing to lose except the emptiness inside.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou
Over To You –
Too often we talk ourselves out of doing things because we imagine what people will think, or say, or how they will judge us.
What would you do if no one was watching? How brave would you be? Imagine how that would feel. How much did you love that feeling? Please share in the comments so you can inspire other people including me.
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