Have you ever wondered, “What is my purpose in life? Why was I born on this planet? What did I come here to do?”
Finding your purpose in life, the reason for your existence is a universal and timeless quest.
After all we humans are sentient beings; doesn’t that entitle us to a greater purpose? Surely we have been formed in this Universe (or created by a Creator if that’s your belief) to fulfill a specific purpose!
Many are the answers that have been postulated throughout history. Every culture and religion has proposed its views. Science has contributed facts and theories.
Which religion should you heed, which philosophy should you believe?
I find that they all speak the truth. Philosophy alone is inadequate, scientific facts may be dispassionate and empirical, but they are also realistic and practical.
The teachings that resonates the most with me come from both Science and the laws of Dharma.
Live Well, Nurture Your Body
The first and foremost purpose of all life is to live and to live well.
Human beings have been honed by the forces that shaped our solar system. We are all products of billions of years of evolution; winners of the longest running survival game of natural selection. We are indeed made of star stuff.
Remember this my inquisitive reader. It does not do to live only for your mind or your spirit, and neglect your body.
We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.
This human body is a miracle, the most complicated machine in the world. You see, hear, breathe, walk and run, and sense the world with it. Your bones, muscles, organs and brains have been molded with marvelous design and exquisite beauty.
Cherish your human existence! Nourish your body, the vehicle of your spirit. Care for it as you would a precious vessel. A strong body paves the way for a resilient mind.
It is only through an able body that you will be able to live long and fulfill your life’s purpose.
But we humans are such ambitious creatures. We are not just satisfied with living. We aspire, we dream, we conceive of unimagined possibilities. We envision a life beyond our reality.
Therein lies an unspoken question in our hearts, “if I can imagine a different life, doesn’t that mean that my life has a grand purpose? What part does my story play in this epic human tale?”
In my own quest for life’s purpose, I find myself reaching back to Hinduism and Buddhism for the answers that were woven into my earliest prayers.
Hindus believe that each of us has a true self, the atman (spirit or soul), which is eternal. This eternal spirit manifests in physical form across numerous lifetimes to fulfill our true purpose, our dharma. Only through the attainment of this dharma can we experience fulfillment leading to liberation (from the endless cycle of birth and death).
The Laws of Dharma guide us in fulfilling our life’s purpose. You don’t have to be religious to accept these truths. You can learn from them and incorporate them into your own life in a way that will add greater depth and meaning.
Seek Your Higher Self
The first step in realizing your life’s potential is to seek your own Higher Self.
As advanced and complex as we humans are, we continued to be ruled by baser emotions. The monkey mind is always at work, amplifying negative feelings and drowning your own voice of Wisdom.
Fear, anxiety and unhappiness impede rational thought and affect our judgement. It is simply not enough to depend on external situations to create happier emotions, we must proactively shift our mental focus towards the positive!
To seek your higher self, begin by subduing your monkey mind. Practise meditation to find inner peace; build a fountain of joy. Meditation will awaken a greater awareness, a connection to the Divine. Meditation will bring clarity and help you tune into your intuition which holds all the answers.
Seeking the higher self also means living to our highest ideals – being compassionate, forgiving and loving to ourselves and everyone around us. It means choosing those ideals even when circumstances are far from amenable. It requires being a leader in your own life, living your values with a positive attitude.
Find Your Talents And Gifts
The second step is by finding your talents and gifts.
Each of us has at least one special talent; it is something that we can do better than anyone else.
Nature has forged strong neural pathways to deepen our ability for this skill. We demonstrate this talent repeatedly, assuredly and effortlessly.
When we exercise this talent, time stands still; we become completely immersed in our performance. The skill is intrinsically rewarding empowering us to shed our self consciousness and enter into a blissful state of action and awareness.
Your talent is your gift to yourself and the world. By identifying your talents, you will able to uncover your full potential. By harnessing those talents, you will be one step closer to living your life’s purpose.
Be Of Service To Others
The third step is to use your talent to serve the world.
In the same breath that you ask, “What is my talent?”, consider, “How can I use this talent to serve others?”
Even without the guidelines of Dharma, it seems foolhardy to live a self-absorbed life. If you think your talents are simply for you to make a lot of money, retire, and die, you have missed the point of your life.
I am not asking you to give up your self interests, just to remember that your talents can serve humanity. A gift shared brings a deeper sense of satisfaction and richness to life.
When you recognize that you have been bestowed talents that are yours to give, you will realize that you are rich beyond mortal wealth.
Education brings Humility,
Humility develops Character,
from Character one obtains Wealth,
from Wealth one does Good Deeds,
in which there is joy.
You will stop struggling, being anxious and worrying. You will stop chasing position and power; you will begin to live your purpose.
Live Every Day Fully
Even when we recognize and channel our talent, we tend to dwell on a mythical all consuming life’s purpose, attempting to discern value in each action.
We inspect our daily actions and commitments with a burning desire to unearth a greater purpose.
“What was the purpose of my education? Why did I spend years in a complacent and insipid job?”, we enquire.
“Where do I go from here? Should I start a business or should I get a different job? How can I raise a family and pursue my life’s purpose?”, we wonder.
We have been so thoroughly brainwashed into believing that our life’s purpose has to be one great achievement that the mundane details of ordinary life inject a jarring note.
We disparage the value of everyday activities. We hasten time spent on household chores and in reading to our children.
Even in our jobs we resist putting our best effort into the little things – creating spreadsheets or communicating well. Our minds are not meant for menial tasks, we lament!
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
Life’s purpose is not to be reserved for the grand tasks. Life’s purpose exists in all of our daily actions, even the small things.
Even if you are not an empire builder you can take pleasure in the tasks of daily life. You can be present in every moment, whether you are doing laundry or creating a spreadsheet.
Every single thing that you do in your life has meaning simply because you have the capacity to impart meaning to it. By bringing love and attention to every task and every moment, it becomes a part of your life’s purpose.
Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.
“My life’s purpose is to live fully.” Let this mantra echo in your mind (as it does in mine) bringing serenity to determination.
Build Your Masterpiece
What is your life? Is your life like a novel, strewn with clues that are yet to reveal your true identity? Is it a dance, a graceful waltz or a heart-pounding samba, where you learn the steps as you go, seldom lead and often follow? Or is your life a box of chocolates, with an assortment flavors waiting to be experienced?
My life is like a work of art. An ever evolving kaleidoscope of color, textures and patterns.
The canvas of this life was handed to me. For decades, I had no control over the patterns or colors I chose. I didn’t dare to be creative.
But the picture on the canvas is emerging into sharper relief. Now it truly represents my beliefs and my dreams. My tree of life’s purpose is rich and vibrant.
Each brushstroke has a purpose and a value. Even mistakes are valuable; they inject variety and dimension.
My life’s purpose is to build this masterpiece brushstroke by brushstroke mindfully. It is to immerse myself in this process, to bring my entire self to it. It is to accept that this indeed is my masterpiece with all its heartbreaks and heartaches; to find the joy blooming in each branch.
There are labels that go with each branch of my tree – scientist, mother, lover, artist. My life’s purpose is to inhabit each of these labels fully.
If I were to lend greater significance to one label over another, if I were to favor only those that come with societal rewards, I am but living a half life.
Life is a journey of self-knowledge; one you must engage in by living consciously and mindfully. You direct your purpose in life by responding to what is happening in your life in each moment.
To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.
When you begin to live your highest values every day, when you attribute meaning to the small as well as the great things, you will begin to experience liberation. You will feel greater openness and awareness. You will become carefree and joyful.
Your unlocked passion will overflow into your talents catapulting you towards your dreams. The painting of your life will radiate with the unleashed potential.
What is your life? Have you found the purpose in yours? What will your masterpiece be?