The great psychologist Carl Jung once said ‘The least of things with a meaning, is worth more in life than the greatest without it’. My own take on this is that life can be what you make it…meaning and purpose can be found in the most simple of things like taking a great photo, seeing a great band or going for an amazing bike ride. All those little projects, hobbies, interests, people and passions you experience everyday are what give life meaning and the great thing is, only you know what really, truly gets those juices a-flowin’…so to speak 🙂
To illustrate the point, here’s how my head has looked at various points over the past 4-6 months in particular:
I’m going to get fit! I want to find a new flat! I really like this guy.! I want to date and play the field! I’d like to organise a get together for friends! I’m going to do a leadership diploma! I’m going to achieve big things in my job! I’m going to book some holidays! And trust me, the list most definitely goes on… 🙂
It seems I am addicted to pursuing purposeful projects in order to ensure my life always has meaning. I flit from one thing to the next like a meaning seeking missile and if one area lets me down, well that’s okay because I’ll just move onto the next…
Now to many people looking at each of those things, you might think ‘well why does your purpose have to be one thing or another – can’t you just do everything at once?’ Well yes of course you can, and to those who do, I whole-heartedly applaud you – you must have a very rich life indeed! In fact you might just be my new rockstar 🙂 But I think one of the reasons I personally tend to focus on just one or two things at a time, is because I’m an all or nothing kinda gal. I’d much rather focus completely on a small number of things and do them well than to stretch myself too thin and wind up giving none of the areas the attention they deserve…That’s just how I make things more achievable! And if I’m honest it might also be in part because I’m an awful multi-tasker ;)!
But mostly I think it’s down to the fact that I like to have the option to switch my attention to something else should I happen fail or do badly on a ‘project’. Sort of like a safety net to ensure I’ve always got ‘something’ to fallback on I suppose…it also provides me a very convenient excuse for not performing well at something e.g. ‘I don’t have time to save money for a flat, I’m far too busy travelling and seeing the world’ 😉
But the positive thing I’m beginning to learn more and more is that there is almost always a way to find meaning where it feels like there is none. We’ve all been there before where for one reason or another we lose our passion and we lose our purpose – it’s a very dark place to find yourself in and it can feel like you’ll never get your ‘zing’ back. It’s equally hard as a friend, family member, partner etc to see someone close to you go through it too. You want so badly to help them but the truth is, all you can ever be to someone in this respect is their support – the hard work and reinvigoration process is almost entirely up to them. Many, many people look at their lives and struggle to understand what the point of it all is – heck, the ‘what is the meaning of life?’ question is something philosophers the world over have been trying to figure out for centuries! But by jove! I think I may have cracked it…I have a little secret for getting your groove (read ‘purpose’) back – projects, projects and more projects!
So I know I said earlier that my purposeful project jumping can be a pain…well that’s still sort of true but when done in the right way it can also be a plus point too. One of the frustrations with trying to find ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ is that the very things that would help you to achieve them can feel either completely unobtainable or a long, long way away. Let’s take buying a house / setting up home and applying for jobs as a couple of basic examples we can all identify with…
You long to have your own space, somewhere you can put your own stamp on it and somewhere you can have the creative space to indulge some of your favourite pastimes (like walking around the place naked lets say J). It’s really important to you and it’s all you think about…but the market is such that a) either you can’t afford it for a while and / or b) the right properties aren’t available at the moment.
You’re desperate for a new job – a new challenge, a new culture and hopefully a new attractive wage. The trouble is, the job market is just SO tough at the moment and there’s not a lot out there and even for those prospects that are decent, the competition is so tough it’ll blow you out of the water…
The positives here are that you have a vision – you know what you want to achieve and thus you have an endpoint / a focus / a purpose. The negative is that you either have no idea when it might be achievable or even if you do, it won’t happen for a long time since the funds / opportunities aren’t there to make it happen immediately. So it’s a lost cause right? Move onto another area to focus your efforts upon? Wrong!!
My take on it is that it can become a purpose project – something to work on day in day out towards an end goal. Even the smallest steps each day will be satisfying (like saving a tenner from lunches at work to go into a ‘furniture fund’ or making a future costs spreadsheet; Updating a CV or practising interview questions…). The way it becomes a purpose-filled project as opposed to another lost cause is through the steps you decide to put into action to make things happen. The smallest, teeniest-weeniest of victories each day, week or month can be meaningful and positive. You know exactly where you want to go, all you need to do is start the journey to getting there 🙂 But the key is really not to set unachievable goals / steps or to give yourself a hard time if you don’t do something…this should be like a hobby and as we all know, hobbies become rubbish the moment you feel like they’re an obligation and not a choice.
The other thing that can often be a purpose killer is other people’s opinions and perceptions. For example, ‘you want to do what?! Don’t be so ridiculous – you’ve always been a dreamer! You get so carried away with things and sometimes lose sight of the practical elements’. Well forget ‘them’ – as I mentioned at the beginning, only YOU know how important certain things in your life are and just because something appears meaningless to someone else doesn’t make it any less meaningful to you. So go for it! Another plus side of my so-called ‘purpose projects’ are that they have the added bonus of proving all the critics wrong 😉
So, what am I saying here? Well my message is this – you can always find meaning and purpose in your life, yes it may change from time to time (or even day to day if you’re me!) and sometimes it may feel like it’s been lost but it IS there, you just have to find the right tools to locate it! And never, ever let people tell you your dreams are wrong or unachievable – the moment you try to align your purpose and interests to suit someone else is the very same moment you start to lose sight of your own. So here are some tasty top tips:
1. Start with some PVC – plans, vision and creativity. If you have these three you can achieve most things you set your mind to – these are your tools that allow you to find your purpose and meaning.
2. Find meaning in the smallest, most simple of things. By taking the small steps which give you purpose each day, you can sometimes achieve the big things that give your life meaning in the long-term. Keep winning the little battles and you’ll eventually win the war!
3. Have some faith in fate. I never thought I’d hear myself say this since I’m an avid believer in the ‘make your own destiny’ philosophy BUT…weirdly it does sometimes feel like life has an alternate path or purpose for us and it does no harm to embrace that philosophy from time to time if it helps you to feel content
And as for anyone reading this who needs some reinvigoration in finding purpose and meaning in your life my message is…you can do it! This may sound a little preachy (well my friends would tell you that I’m practically clergy-like in my behaviour anyway ;)) but all it takes is a vision, a plan and a little bit of patience! And if all else fails, just take my lead and become a meaning seeking missile…keeps life interesting at the very least and I’m rarely in a head space where something random hasn’t captured my interest or imagination 😉