For some people, adding value and having a purpose in life is an essential and fundamental aim. For others, fulfilment and purpose are halted by fear of failure, lack of motivation or by a blind desire to pleasure seek for themselves only.
A great deal of research now suggests that people who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of everything they do. They also experience less stress, less anxiety and are less prone to prolonged bouts of depression.
A sense of purpose helps us to answer burning questions such as ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘What’s life all about anyway?’ Often it’s something that can’t be distilled into one definitive answer and goes far beyond the day-to-day activity. Your purpose will guide you in how you choose to live your life, what you strive for, and will provide a framework and benchmark for the goals that you set yourself. It can help you to make sense of what happens to you, and can provide a source of comfort and strength in challenging and difficult periods of your life. Most of all, a sense of value and purpose helps us feel that we are not alone, because we are part of something much bigger.
There is a concept that we are all connected and that if we hurt others, we will only end up hurting ourselves; therefore our purpose is to be kind and considerate towards others.
By taking more personal responsibility for the consequences of your actions, your purpose becomes more honourable. If you approach every life situation with positive and kind intentions, then you will be making your own great individual contribution to creating a better world.
For some people finding meaning comes through experiences; often difficult ones. Other people find their meaning through deep reflection, others from loving and being loved and others just from the way they choose to approach other people and the world around them. You can find your own way too, but it’s important to remember the importance of meaning when making major decisions about families, jobs, lifestyles and priorities.
‘You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.’
Value and Purpose – Steps to Success
Identify your purpose and meaning in life
Be the change you want the world to be
Practise kindness on a daily basis
Develop an attitude of gratitude
Respect and value other people
Be happy and be the best you can be
Create a Vision
Creating a vision board is a very powerful inspirational tool that can help you to discover your own value and purpose in life and motivate you to achieve your goals. It can be easier to stay focused on your aspirations if you have an image to help you visualise what achieving them would look like.
A vision board is, of course, a very personal thing, so there are really no rules. The basic idea is to cut out images, inspirational quotes and words that represent your goals and purpose, that show how you want your future to be. Stick the material you have gathered to a board, in a scrapbook or even assemble them electronically on your computer.
- Who you want to be?
- How you want to be?
- What you want to do?
- What makes you happy?
- What makes you excited?
- What do you want from life?
- What you want to do for others?
Once you have an idea of the answers to these questions, look for images that represent them.
You will find inspiration in traditional print magazines as well as on websites such as Pinterest, Flickr, and Google Images. Keep your eye out for unusual images that reach out to you. They don’t have to be literal or obvious, they just have to mean something to you personally, and stick in your mind. Add inspirational quotes and write key words over your images for even more impact.
Scientific studies show that kindness is not only the key to making others happy, but also to finding your own happiness. It intensifies life satisfaction, provides a sense of meaning, increases feelings of competence, improves our mood and reduces stress. It can also help to take our minds off our own troubles too.
So if you want to feel good, do some good for other people. It could either be in the form of small, unplanned acts of kindness, or regular volunteering (which is in its own right a powerful way to boost your own happiness as well of those around you). The people you help may be strangers, family, friends, colleagues or neighbours.
Giving isn’t just about money, as some people may believe, so you don’t need to wait until you win the lottery! Giving to others can be as simple as a few kind words, compliments, a smile or a thoughtful gesture. It can include giving time, care, skills, thought or attention. Sometimes these can mean far more than any financial gestures. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone.
Human beings are highly social creatures and have evolved as a species living with others. If people are altruistic, they are more likely to be liked and in turn build better social connections and stronger and more supportive social networks, which leads to increased feelings of happiness and well being.
It used to be assumed that human beings only did things when they got something in return. How, then, could we explain people who performed kind acts or donated money anonymously? Studies of the brain now show that when we give money to good causes, the same parts of the brain light up as if we were receiving money ourselves or responding to other pleasurable things such as good food, money or sex. Giving to others activates the reward centres of our brains, which make us feel good and so encourages us to do more of the same. Giving money to a good cause can feel as good as receiving it, especially if the donations are voluntary.
Finding yourself and your own value could well be deeply rooted in giving to others. It is no coincidence that volunteers are proven to have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and feel more hopeful than those who do not volunteer. So distract yourself from dwelling on your own problems, be grateful for what you have, and start giving yourself now!
Make a Difference
You can find happiness by making a difference to yourself and to the world around you. If you know that you are doing the best you can, every day and in every way, you will know that you add value, and your purpose in life will be to make a positive difference in everything that you do. So start making a difference right now!
A good example has twice the value of good advice. When you endeavor to do things to make a difference, you should also seek to influence others to start doing things that make a difference too. The best way to convince other people is to lead by example. Start doing whatever is within your ability today. Start showing more consideration for the people you live with, work with and come into contact with each day. Every effort counts, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. Just do something, and do something good.
You will almost certainly have witnessed someone being treated unfairly. It happens both professionally and socially, and sometimes individuals who deserve recognition do not get it. Perhaps they are scared of confrontation and find it hard to stand up for themselves. By taking up the fight and making sure others get what they deserve and what they have earned, you will make a lasting impact on their lives. They in turn will get the justice they deserve and will feel better. However, be sure to get all the information right before you jump in feet first!
There are so many things that you can do to make a difference. It’s the little things that can make another person’s day, like helping someone with a heavy case or a pram, holding open a door, picking up some litter. It really doesn’t need to be huge. Having the courage to compliment someone if they look nice is lovely and can make someone glow all day. You have most likely been on the receiving end of some kind act yourself, so I am sure you know how good it makes you feel.
Making a conscious decision to be grateful for who you are and what you have in your life is a very positive way to behave. This will also help you to value everything in your life and not take things for granted. Research suggests that if you practice gratitude on a daily basis, after 28 days your happiness levels can increase by 25 per cent.
Happiness and love are two of the greatest gifts you can give to the world. Too often, you can be so absorbed in your own little bubble that you forget that there are people in this world who you can make a little happier and make feel a little more loved.