I have been meaning to write about this for a while now. But it has not been an easy topic to write on. I started with the very simple belief that our lives have some meaning beyond our daily humdrum existence. That there is something more to us than what we are today. With that concept, I decided to take a few other opinions and got a mix of various words such as calling, purpose, passion, ambition, innate talent and so on and so forth. I read multiple articles, read the famous book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl and finally came back to the same point. That each one of us has a purpose that gives our lives meaning and direction. Each one of us is born with some potential – a seed within us waiting to sprout.
Do I need a purpose? What do you even mean by it?
Purpose of life. Meaning of life. These are big terms and over centuries there have been many discussions on this from various angles – spiritual, philosophical, scientific, theological, cultural – so on and so forth. For the purposes of our discussion, let me try and put it as simply as possible (not easy though) – your life’s purpose is that which gives you inner joy, a sense of fulfilment and ideally makes use of your innate talents and desires.
“I am leading a perfectly normal life – happy with family, career, money etc. etc. What more do I need?” Ask yourself if deep down you are really happy. Do you have a sense of fulfilment? Are you surrounded by people who give you joy? Do you feel energized? Look inside honestly and tell yourself the answer. If your answer is in the affirmative – congratulations! You are indeed leading a life of purpose, a life full of meaning.
But, if like the majority of people around us, you are feeling bogged down by life, regardless of career or material success, you have probably digressed from the path that led you to your purpose. Your life is probably on auto repeat – wake up, dress, eat, work, eat, undress, sleep, repeat.
But still, why is it so important?
Because you owe it to yourself. My simple point is that the meaning of your life doesn’t necessarily come from your choice of career, where you are in the rat race, how much money you are making or whether you are a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’. Your sense of purpose or fulfilment comes from somewhere deep within.
You owe it to yourself to find that seed within you, to nurture it and let it flourish. Having a purpose in life is what makes it fulfilling. It fills not only your life with joy but also of those around you. It fuels you with the self esteem you need to move forward and gives you the hope you need in tough times. Victor Frankl rightly quotes in his book – “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How”
But I have no passion, no drive. How can I have a purpose?
I know so many people who might believe they are undeserving of a purpose in life – that they are so ordinary, there can’t be a higher purpose to their life. Or maybe they know their purpose but just feel that they don’t have the ambition to achieve it. And then there are some people who just lose track of their purpose as they get busy living their lives and doing their duties.
There is a girl who has been made to believe that she doesn’t have the drive or passion to do anything. And hence perhaps she thinks there is no purpose to her life. But she needs to look within – deep inside she will find what really makes her happy. And once she finds it, she will also find the passion to carry that through. And also let me tell her – finding a purpose has nothing to do with ambition or climbing ladders of success. Your purpose may actually have nothing to do with that.
There is a boy who was always told he was a good for nothing. So, he is just happy that he has a simple job now and is able to feed his family. Never mind that his sales job really sucks. “I was never good at anything, so what’s the guarantee I will be good at something else. My only purpose is to hang on to this job.” But like that girl, he also needs to go back and remember what really made him happy and find what gives his life meaning.
I know yet another girl who was one of the brightest in her class, a born leader, but along the way of her life, she forgot all about her brilliance. Today she is happy with her family, raising her kids and also doing a job. Her life seems absolutely fine, but inside she feels empty, because she never achieved her true potential.
And what about the guy who has reached the top of his career, envied by peers, has great children and a lovely spouse, but still he finds his life meaningless? Because while he was busy with the rat race, he forgot that music was his first passion.
If I do have a purpose, why haven’t I found it yet?
First of all, there is no specific age by which one is supposed to have found their purpose. Some people know very early on what they want to do in life and how they should get where they want to be. But most others meander through their lives before discovering their purpose, if at all. And you will find scores of examples where people in their 50s and 60s started their lives anew, fresh with their purpose.
Secondly, society has already decided how we should lead our lives. Studies, job, marriage, kids, rat race, retirement. Success has also been equated to money, fame, power. People, including our own parents forget that we are unique and try to raise us as per society’s norms. And when we are all being raised in the same mold, how can one expect to find their own unique purpose in life? It takes us a lot of self awareness and taking off of the multiple layers of our personalities to reach the core – to find out what really makes us happy.
How do I find my purpose?
As I said above, the biggest key to finding your purpose is self awareness. Do some soul searching and you be able to at least see the glimmer of this ‘purpose’ that we have been talking of.
Go back to your childhood: To begin with try going back to your childhood and ask your little self what really gave you joy and fulfilment. That was when your spirit was not burdened with chores and responsibilities and you had probably not already been weighed down by the expectations of your parents, relatives and the society at large. You were free spirited and your soul knew how to find joy. So follow that little child and find out your joys and deepest desires.
Looking back on my own childhood, I remember the time we were all busy filling each other’s slam books – I had created a very elaborate one for myself! One common question in most of the books was what do you want from life or what do you love most – and my answers to those questions in slam book after slam book were – “I want to be loved by all” and something about having as many friends as possible. Later, I remember thinking how silly and pathetic it was – obviously no one can be loved by all. But now I realise that this wish came from the fact that I am a people’s person. I love meeting people, I want to reach out to as many people as I can and in some way or the other make a difference in their lives. BINGO – THAT is essentially what is my purpose and calling. My career choice was dictated by that subconscious wish and I am happy I made that choice. But I felt a different kind of fulfilment when I started writing my blog – and was able to reach out to people directly. It is when someone writes back after reading my blog that this is exactly what they needed to hear that day or that the challenges that I am dealing with are helping them deal with their own challenges, that I feel I made a difference. And that is exactly the reason, I, who could barely stay up beyond 11 p.m. at one time, is now awake at 3.30 a.m. writing this blog.
Think back to all those times when you were really happy: when you delve deeper, you will see a pattern of similar things emerge – those that gave you happiness. Pick on those and start to bring them back into your life. My mum has always loved kids – even when she herself was small – she remembers looking after her little nieces and nephews, feeding them etc. And later in life, when she started her own institute, she continued teaching kids and shaping their lives. And I will never forget, the burst of energy she got when her first grandson was born – the year I was pregnant for the first time was also the year she was diagnosed with diabetes. Added to that was her fluctuating blood pressure. All that combined with stress had left her weak and unwell – but when Arnav was born, it was like she had a new lease of life. And now with Anvay, I can only say that his condition has made her only more determined to stay healthy so that she can take care of him for as long as possible.
Life changing situations: Many times adversity or life changing events act as the catalyst, that helps you find meaning. All of us would have heard of people whose lives went through a huge change after a sudden shock. An event such as this ends up changing your perspective or reshuffle your priorities – many times people realise that what they were chasing after was not really what they wanted from life. Sometimes adversity may take off the multitude of layers and lay bare some other need or want you had but never recognized. Or it may trigger a chain of events that you had never really imagined before. For example, Anvay’s therapist herself has a special needs child and that was the reason she ended up opening a school for the disabled which is benefitting so many other children.
So What’s the Way Forward?
Not everyone can or needs to become Gandhi, Vivekananda or Budhha. Each of them had a trigger event in their lives that set them on their respective paths or calling. You can only know where your calling will take you once you find it. Whether it will take you deeper within or outward to the masses, time will tell. But first you need to start searching for that meaning. The purpose that is hidden within you.
You might say that leaving your current path is not easy – the money is important, so is job security, or that taking care of family is priority and I get that. But who says that you can’t find your meaning alongside all the duties and responsibilities you carry. Just stretch yourself a bit more, find your inner potential. Because you know life is more than just your duties and responsibilities and the different roles you play.
Just remember – you start with one small step and keep unravelling yourself till you reach your core. I promise that the process will be as fulfilling as the result.
And never forget – beyond the ordinary lies the extraordinary. The life you deserve.
Thanks so much for reading! Please comment, share and spread the word!
Regards, Sakshi aka tripleamommy
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