Do you feel like you go from day to day without a sense of purpose?
Wandering aimlessly through life may work for nomads and cartoon characters, but in order to really get the most out of it you need to have a purpose.
Now, I’m not talking about a to-do list or getting out of the bed in the morning.
Think back to introductory philosophy. What do you want to earn in your life?
Accomplishments, goals, direction. These are all things tied to a lower risk of death.
Don’t let that scare you. I have simple ways to implement purpose into your routine leaving you more satisfied at the end of the day, and more days to enjoy it.
Research on happiness has been conducted since scientists were in labs, but it seems like it would be difficult to measure.
It is, but that doesn’t mean psychologists don’t try.
Granted, no measurement of a thing that resides in someone’s mind is perfect, but carefully constructed tests can give us a good idea of what’s going on in there.
A recent study from the American Medical Association shows that a sense of purpose in life is related to a lower risk of death.
The study also uncovered other health benefits from purposeful living.
But before you panic about finding a sense of purpose right now, you have to consider what it means to have one.
Sure, you can wake up every morning and cross off items on a grocery list and go to work and come home, but is it your purpose in life to do these things?
Although they are related, there is a difference between goals and purpose.
Let me explain.
Imagine you have an empty swimming pool in your backyard.
It’s summertime, and it’s hot, and you want to fill the swimming pool to use it.
But you don’t have time to sit outside all day filling the pool for hours on end. You have a life to attend to.
So instead, you promise to throw one bucket of water into the empty pool each day.
In between, you’ll go to work and save for retirement and drive your car and spend time with your family, but those things have nothing to do with filling the pool.
Some days, it may be so hot, some of the water you’ve thrown in will evaporate.
Others, it will rain and rain, eliminating weeks of bucket-throwing from your schedule.
One way or another, the pool will fill up.
Completing the pool is your purpose in life. The things you do in between throwing buckets are your goals.
While the two can meet (you can spend time with your family while filling the pool), they are not the same.
Living with a purpose means having the swimming pool, and the intention to fill it.
It doesn’t require a timeframe, or daily attention, but it should be something you’re always somewhat aware of.
Your purpose may be a collection of small goals, and you’ll feel whole once you’ve completed them.
Or, it may be to become your definition of successful. Or happy. Or content.
Whatever the sunset on the beach looks like for you, keep it close.
Make a note of it and place it on your desk.
Tell your spouse, or a friend, and share your progress.
However, you decide to pursue your purpose in life, hold on to it. You can count on many contented days to enjoy it.