Note: If you are seriously questioning the point of life or living, you may be depressed. If you think this is the case, contact your doctor or health professional straight away. Or connect directly with a therapist to get the help you need – click here to find one.
What is the purpose of life?
I wish I could give you a simple and clear answer to this question, but I can’t.
The best I can do is to say this:
The purpose of life is to find a way to forget about the question: “What is the purpose of life?”
Trying to discover the point of life is an often unrewarding journey.
It feels like the answer you’re looking for is forever out of reach.
And the answers you do find are unsatisfactory to say the least.
Wherever you look and whoever you ask, all you seem to find is a whole lot of well-intentioned advice.
And this advice is not necessarily bad advice (though some of it is). But it is advice that often does one thing…
It piles the pressure on you.
It overwhelms you.
It makes you feel as though you must do X, Y, or Z in order to find your true purpose in life.
And that if you don’t, you’ll die sad and frustrated harboring many regrets about how you have lived your life.
Who wants that?
You see, the point of life is living.
No need to make it any more complicated than that.
No need to achieve a certain level of knowledge and understanding.
No need to chase particular goals or dreams.
All you have to do is find a way to stop placing so much emphasis on the need to do something, be someone, or feel something.
So that well-intentioned advice that seeks to boil down the purpose of life into simple nuggets of “wisdom” like be happy, love others, leave a legacy, be the “best version” of yourself…
It’s not so much wrong, it’s just too focused on an outcome.
And achieving an outcome is reaching a destination.
If you never reach that destination, you feel forever unfulfilled.
And if you do, what comes after?
There’s a good chance that what comes after is a sense of anxiety that you may lose your grip on this outcome and find that you haven’t reached your destination after all.
It’s like trying to play tag with your shadow – you can never quite reach it no matter how much you run toward it.
You’d be better of turning around, facing the sun, and forgetting that your shadow is even there.
The sun is life. You ought to turn and face life rather than chasing some answer to an unanswerable question.
Right now, you may look at other people and wonder how they can go about their repetitive lives and not seem to care where they are headed…
Truth is, those people who go about their lives aren’t weighed down by the burden of living a life of purpose.
They are just living a life. That is purpose in itself.
They may not always be happy. They may not be making a great positive impact on the world. They may not be successful in your eyes. They may not appear to be growing as an individual…
But they may also be more content with where they are than you are with where you are.
So, please, don’t equate the purpose of life with some great act or deed. Small and big are beautiful in their own ways.
Not everyone will achieve great wealth or fame.
Not everyone will reach the highest levels of spiritual enlightenment.
Not everyone will get to live the life of their dreams.
In fact, the people who do attain such things are a rarity.
If these things were really the point of life itself, we’d mostly be a very depressed species.
When, actually, much of the dissatisfaction people feel with their lives isn’t due to a lack of these things specifically, but due to a belief that these things lead to satisfaction.
Ambition isn’t a bad thing to have in life by any means so long as you don’t equate the thing you aspire to achieve with your ultimate purpose in life.
As many a guru has rightly stated, life is about enjoying the journey and the many ups and downs along the way.
And you enjoy the journey by being present in as many moments as you can.
By not getting bogged down in exactly which direction you’re headed or what stops you’ll make along the way.
Now that I’ve explained why you ought to stop searching for the purpose of life, let’s explore some concrete ways to do that.
How To Forget About The Question Of ‘Purpose’
If you’ve reached this page, chances are you having been wondering what the point of it all is.
And you may have been thinking about this for a while.
In fact, wishing to understand what the point of life is can become an obsession.
So to hear that you should consider ending your quest for purpose might not be easy to take.
What are some things you might do to transition your mind away from this kind of thinking?
Aim For ‘Enough’
One of the main issues surrounding a person’s search for purpose and meaning in life is that we forever doubt whether what we think might bring it actually will bring it.
So determined are we to find the best path to a life of purpose that we get bogged down in the decisions we make.
We strive to maximize each and every outcome, but we can never know whether the decision we made was actually the best one available to us.
So we are left wondering “what if?”
What if we had chosen a different path? Would we now be happier and closer to our end goal?
Yet there is another way. Another mindset you might adopt.
A satisficer is defined as a person who settles for an option which is good enough without necessarily being the one that leads to an optimal outcome.
Satisficers are less likely to experience regret, and they are more likely to be happy with the decisions they make (source).
When faced with a decision in life – big or small – try not to fret over it too much.
Imagine you are on a train journey and you reach a point where the track forks off into two.
You could bring the train to a halt and spend ages trying to decide whether to veer left or veer right…
…or you could accept that neither option represents the end of the journey, pick one, and carry on enjoying the view from the window.
You won’t know for sure whether the view from the other path would have been better, but as long as you enjoy the view you have, who cares?
‘Enough’ is a powerful word when it comes to feeling content with life.
You can still work toward something more, but if you know that what you have right now is enough, anything extra doesn’t so much add to your life, but give you a different perspective on it.
Your purpose needn’t be to change the world in any major way – what you do each and every day is enough to change the world in your way.
When we obsess about finding the one true point to life, we overlook the riches right in front of our eyes.
Those riches are enough for anyone.
You may also like (article continues below):
- How To Be Happy And Content With What You Have In Life
- Existential Depression: How To Defeat Your Feelings Of Meaninglessness
- The Ultimate List Of 30 Questions To Ask Yourself About Life
- Why You’re Feeling Bored With Life (+ What To Do About It)
- 11 Ways To Enjoy Life Like Never Before
- 10 Of The Best Poems About Life
Get Comfortable With Discomfort
There’s no denying that.
Whether it’s the stresses of a job or the ups and downs of a relationship, we experience times that don’t feel good.
And when we feel bad, we begin to question whether we might be doing something wrong.
“Am I missing something?” we might think.
When faced with life’s struggles, it’s natural to try to find a solution.
That solution, we think, is often a higher purpose to our lives that we’re currently missing.
But the truth is, life will be uncomfortable at times.
Things won’t always go as you might hope.
You will feel disappointed or even distressed by events.
Whilst you certainly can find solutions to many of life’s problems, others you can’t.
Sometimes you just have to stick things out and wait for life to unfold. And this can take a while.
It’s at these moments, when you’re waiting for the situation to improve, that you might be tempted to search for greater purpose in your life.
You think that if you can add purpose to your life, it can help fill the hole caused by the pain you currently feel.
Resist that temptation.
As uncomfortable as your life may seem right now, it will eventually feel a little better.
Bit by bit, your mood will improve. Things will seem less bleak.
But if you try to find meaning in your suffering, it will only prolong it.
You can certainly look for reasons to persevere through your current hardship – things that give you the energy to keep going.
But accepting that you will feel bad at times allows you to avoid the trap of pinning all your hopes on finding your true purpose.
Forget What Others Are Doing Or What They Think
People ask what the point of life is for many reasons.
One reason is that they see what other people are doing and they wonder whether they should be doing that too.
Or they listen to what other people say about them and take that as evidence that they are not doing the ‘right’ thing.
So in order to forget about the question of purpose in life, it’s advisable to put what others are doing or saying out of your mind.
This is difficult in our increasingly connected world, but not impossible.
The key is to try not to see what others are doing as some ideal life and not to accept what others are saying as some gospel truth.
If you long for the lives of other people, you put them up on some pedestal. But they almost certainly face many of the same challenges – the same discomforts – as you.
It might seem as though they have life figured out, but I promise you they have not.
They are just going with it as we all have to do.
If they seem genuinely happy, ask yourself whether they have truly discovered some single, overarching point to life or whether they are just able to embrace the moments of life and the journey they are on.
I promise you it’s the latter.
And if someone disagrees with how you live your life – if they belittle the choices you make – position this as their point of view and nothing more.
They may choose to live their life differently, but you should not accept what they say as correct.
If you want to live a certain way, do it.
If you allow others to make you think you are wrong in the way you live, the inevitable consequence is a search for something that is right…
…a search for a purpose.
If you keep reminding yourself that there is no wrong or right way to live, you won’t be lulled into thinking that you are on the wrong path.
Let Your Intuition And Values Guide You
“What is the point of life?” is a question that comes from a mind that feels lost.
It is a search for guidance. It is the desire to feel confident in what you are doing.
You feel you need to know your purpose in life so that it can inform your decision-making process.
But there is another source of guidance available to you – if you are prepared to listen to it.
Your intuition is pretty good at choosing the path that feels right. It does this based on your intrinsic values.
In other words, by listening to your gut, you can act in a manner that most closely befits your internal moral compass.
Your intuition doesn’t know what the purpose of life is, but it doesn’t care. It just knows what feels good and right in any given circumstance.
If you allow it to, it will show you the right path for you at that moment.
Intuition is a very personal thing. What feels right for you might not feel right for someone else.
And this is more evidence to suggest that life does not have a single purpose or point to it.
How To Obsess About Your Search For Purpose (a.k.a. What Not To Do)
Let me share with you a few of the things you might find when scouring the internet for the purpose of life…
- be happy
- explore the world / go on an adventure
- reach your full potential
- be a lifelong learner
- leave a legacy
- live life to the fullest
- serve others
- love others
- connect to a higher purpose
- live a hero’s story
- solve problems
- develop good relationships
- make the world a better place
- live without regrets
A worthy list of things to aspire to in life, I’m sure you’ll agree.
But your true purpose can’t be found in these things.
As I mentioned earlier on, it is unwise to place conditions on your purpose. You should not feel pressured to be, do, or feel something.
The inevitable consequence of placing conditions on purpose is that you will feel a lack of purpose should you not be able to meet those conditions.
What if you can’t be happy all of the time – or even most of the time?
What if you don’t want to explore the world?
What if you don’t want to push yourself to reach your potential?
What if you have no great legacy to leave behind?
Have you missed the point of life entirely?
Have you failed at life?
I can assure you that you have not.
The purpose of life is not an outcome. It is not a set of boxes to tick off on a form.
You won’t arrive one day and say, “Aha! I have achieved my purpose!”
Sure, those things in the list above might lead to a more enjoyable life, but the lack of them doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a less enjoyable life.
If you only ever try to be, do, or feel something, your search for purpose will never end.
Which is why the four pieces of advice in the previous section are all about adjusting your mindset, not achieving a particular aim.
When you aim for enough, accept discomfort, forget what others do or say, and listen to your intuition, you aren’t looking for more…
You are accepting what is.
You are relieving the pressure on yourself to forge ahead toward a particular outcome.
The outcome is irrelevant. Your enjoyment of the journey is what matters.
When you sit back and enjoy the view from the train window as it passes through the landscape of life, you no longer feel compelled to answer the question “What is the point of life?”
You are free.