Anyone who has ever lived without a sense of purpose in their life will usually say they are miserable. They’ll describe their situation as hopeless, joyless and useless.
An article appearing in Psychology Today this week confirmed what people without purpose already know — that happiness is elusive without some sense of purpose for their lives.
Dr. Steven Stosny wrote that pursuing happiness often backfires and works to make us less happy, if not miserable. That’s because happiness is more about feelings and sensations, all of which are short-lived.
In fact, people can often find themselves in a vicious circle when relying upon feelings for a sense of happiness. If you have negative feelings at the moment, then most of the memories, self-talk and actual speech that derive from that condition will be negative as well.
For people of faith, Jesus put it this way in Luke 6:43-45:
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Meaning and purpose is more about motivation or what inspires you to get out of bed every day. When people aren’t happy, they often can’t detect any meaning or purpose to what they are doing. On the other hand, when people are excited about life, they can’t wait to get started every day.
Steven wrote that a sense of purpose is often tied to our ability to love ourselves. He may be right.
In the darkest moments of my life, it was difficult to love myself or others because I considered myself to be unlovable. When you feel that way, it’s very hard to give love to others because you don’t have a reservoir from which to share with them.
Consequently, when we feel unlovable, it’s usually because we have slowly slipped into a pit of self-centered thinking. When you only think about what you need or want, it’s usually impossible to give anything to others.
Sometimes it can’t be helped. For example, if you haven’t had anything to eat in a few days, it’s hard to think of anything else but finding a meal. You certainly aren’t looking for ways to help others. Or, when everything seems to be going wrong, it’s more difficult to see an opportunity in front of you.
People who see themselves as lovable are often “compassionate, kind, loving and respectful people whose humane values are bigger than their egos,” Steven wrote.
Many times our behavior choices contribute to our sense of purpose, he added.
“Behavior choices should be those that make us like ourselves better. Liking yourself is a necessary condition for loving yourself, and the quickest route to meaning, purpose, and well-being,” he explained.
To prove his point, Steven created “The Love Yourself Quiz” in which he asks eight comparison questions to help people to discover how and when they like themselves better. For example, do you like yourself better when you are kind to others or when getting others to do what you want them to do?
You can access the quiz at Psychology Today.
When you analyze what makes you feel better about yourself, then you’re on the right track to discovering your unique purpose. When you pursue that, you actually feel better, have more energy, creativity, problem-solving ability and compassion. Then you can serve or support others out of an abundance of positive feelings stored up within you.
Dwell on negative, you get more negative. Dwell on positive, you get more of that. Psychology seems to prove that conundrum.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.