Some days, it can be hard to feel a sense of purpose in our lives.
We go through our days on autopilot. Everything feels as if it is a box to be checked. We have the job we want. The cars and the house. And yet somewhere inside, we wonder, what is this all leading to? What is the point of any of this? Where is the meaning in life?
In fact, meaning and purpose are adaptive and associated with improved emotional and physical outcomes. Meaning and purpose do not only arise out of discovery and development of your own unique gifts and talents, but also through service and connection to others and the greater community.
Here are 3 ways to cultivate passion and purpose in your life.
Use your pain and suffering for something greater
Sometimes life brings difficult events that are difficult to overcome. We walk through deep and dark places, grappling to make sense of the pain. Pain that seems senseless can be especially difficult to bear.
It’s counterintuitive, but you can use pain to grow and to discover your greater purpose. By turning toward the pain and embracing it, you can find the greater lessons within them, using them as an opportunity to turn wounds to wisdom. Sorrow and pain don’t have to be life defining, but instead, used as opportunities to move in a different direction.
So rise above the pain to use it for something greater. Oprah suffered a miscarriage at 14 to become one of the most influential women in the media. Charlize Theron grew up with an abusive father to become a celebrated actress. Amy Bleuel founded Project Semicolon, a mental health nonprofit presenting hope to individuals struggling with suicide, to honor her father’s passing due to suicide. There is a greater purpose to your pain, and your job is to find it. Struggles happen to strengthen you.
2. Focus on Running Your Own Race
Everyone has their own unique purpose in life. The truth is that you’re awesome — a collection of billions of cells, made of stardust. There’s only one person in this world who has the life and destiny you can live and its you. So spend time running your own race as hard and as well as you can.
3. Tell Your Story
Research shows that those who are able to create meaning out of suffering, and to create a new narrative of their lives after loss, live with greater purpose and fulfillment. Spend time thinking about how struggles and loss have helped you change and grow to overcome life’s adversities. Work to make sense of your experiences. Share your journey to help others feel less alone. Along the way, you’ll find connection, community, and purpose. To see this in action, check out The Mighty, which features a community of individuals, blogging and facing chronic health issues and mental illness together.
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Victoria Chialy Smith, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist providing individual therapy to children, teens, and adults with stress, anxiety, and depression. Our practice provides Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness based therapies, and other top, premier evidence-based treatments, and serves the Falls Church, McLean, Great Falls, Vienna, Arlington, Alexandria, and the greater Washington DC region. Call, email, or schedule an appointment with us online today. We’re happy to help develop the best treatment for you!