Do These Three Things to Connect With Your Purpose in Life
At the core of the human spirit is a need for meaning and purpose. These less-common practices will help guide you to the center of yours.
It's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of goals or of successes: a better body, a financial goal, a holiday, a new car, an award to win, or the new modern craving — more Instagram followers. (You know you want them.)
There’s a deeper craving at the human soul that is stronger our drive for success. It’s the craving for meaning. No matter what achievements we win or material wealth we have, none of it necessarily fills in the need we have for meaning and purpose. In this way, meaning and purpose is our important need of all.
Filling your inner cup with meaning and purpose matters more than anything. The pleasure of material successes wears off. You always need more of it to feel good. It’s easy to get stuck always comparing yourself to others. It’s painfully natural to never feel good enough, no matter how much you have.
But an inner wellspring of meaning and purpose keeps you connected, inspired, and alive as life moves in and out of all its phases of having more, having less. The quest and yearning for meaning is a good thing — a healthy path that goes on all of life and keeps getting better and wiser. The quest for money, followers, better parties, more art, is an endless hunger. Often people who pursue this end up burned out, divorced, and wondering what it was all about.
The pursuit of meaning trumps all other goals and accomplishments.
That’s why I think we need to put meaning and purpose at the very center of our life goals and daily habits, and let the rest of life organically grow into form around this central pillar, however it comes to be. The pursuit of meaning trumps all other goals and accomplishments.
Getting to the core of this question has been central to my journey writing my book, How to Save the World — and then I had to distill it even further into my TEDx talk, I dug deep — until I could sum it up into these three practices.
1. Do one hour of work from within your creative genius zone every day
Devote one hour per day to doing something that reaches to the core of your creative genius zone. Ruthlessly schedule this hour into your day. Do it before your children wake up, before yoga class, before you clean the house, before you shower, do it in your lunch break, when you don’t feel like it. The secret is to be in the daily habit of making it a priority above all other things. You’ll be amazed at how productive you can be and the quality of what you can create when you devote a slither of time to it every day.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the thing that you always wanted to do, but never got around to?
- What is the one constructive activity you love to do? (That’s not relaxing, eating, or getting drunk. It might be writing, coding, or helping people.)
- If you could have any creative project come true for you — anything at all with no limitations, what would it be? Would you produce an award-winning documentary, give a TED talk, write a book, do a photo exhibition, make crafts, grow weird heirloom vegetables, write software, start a restaurant, teach a course, play games with children, dance, design buildings — if you could create any project at the very best creative quality, what would you create?
2. Practice environmental mindfulness in your daily actions
The planet and humans are not two separate entities. We are one organism. To bring environmental mindfulness into your daily actions is to cast your consciousness into the interconnectedness of all things.
Being sensitive to the Earth means being sensitive to yourself. All the actions that are environmentally harmful: plastic waste, excessive concrete, air pollution — it harms us.
I believe that when we do environmentally damaging behaviors (like not composting or buying loads of over-packaged plastic), we live in cognitive dissonance from our “true self.” Have you ever noticed that your “true self,” is also your “best self”? Self-esteem is a direct function of living with your values. That means that every time you act less than your best/true self’s values, it erodes your self-esteem.
We need to take ownership of our role in the planet’s health and move out of a state of dissonance, and into a state of action and responsibility. It’s not possible to live in line with your values, with your best self, and live in a way that is damaging to the Earth.
Most of us are wearing coats of environmental damage and we don’t realize how heavy they are. You can take the toxic coat off. You can take off all the junk food, the bad air, the plastic waste, the trash, and the chemicals and live as your true, environmentally light, and natural self.
Take that part of you (the good part) and make it bigger, make it dominant, and make it grow like the sun — like one of those giant magnolia flowers. Go hiking, go swimming, look at the stars. Connect with the glory of our beautiful planet and your purpose in keeping it healthy.
When we align with the planet in our daily consciousness, it opens us meaning and purpose, human connection, and ideas to get into projects and meaningful work. To be true or your best self, and true to the earth’s ecology are inseparable.
Here are the five main ways you can connect with your ecological mindfulness:
- Packaging: Think through all the materials that needed to be harvested to make the packaging of food and things you use, and try to live without packaging as much as possible. You can cook or make just about anything your self from raw ingredients. (btw you might like my other book Detrash Your Life in 90 Days to learn how to live without making waste.)
- Second-hand: Buy second-hand clothes, books, and furniture.
- Eat more plants: Eat less animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs. Eat more plant foods like rice, beans, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, oatmeal, and nuts.
- Save energy: Go through your home and see how you can cut back on your energy and fuel use. (You might like to try the Energy Lollipop Chrome extension which can help.)
- Your job: Try and improve the environmental impact of your workplace. Can you change any systems in your company? Do you feel the calling to change jobs to a role where you can have a more positive impact in the world?
Doing environmentally friendly behaviors is good for you. It literally gives you a warm glow. A study found that when people do an eco-friendly thing, they experience a higher body temperature. They experience life as literally feeling warmer.
3. Imagine your life goals around what you can contribute to the world
Most self-improvement books will tell you to imagine the life you want. They tell you to come up with life goals, envisage those goals, then go out and make them happen. This is okay — but a life that is just about “achieving goals” starts to run thin. There’s a better way to do life (I think).
I stopped making goals for myself and instead I started meditating on what I wanted most to contribute to the world. When I deeply pondered and imagined the contribution I most wanted to make to the world, I didn’t just dream up a nice eco-house, an instagrammable yoga-bod, and an amaze-balls vertical vegetable garden. These personal goals are nice, but they are also met with a dark stewing feeling that they may never happen. I felt the heaviness of an oncoming burnout, the sadness of possibly missing out on my life purpose, and like I’ll spend my life digging my own grave in pursuit of them — or, as I like to say, the endless loop of suffering the nightmare in order to live the dream.
Instead, when I focused on the contribution I could make, my mind flourished with good energy, big interesting ideas, and a sense of fun of what I could give. It felt good.
I think contributing each of our unique gifts to the world is our most important job in life.
I think contributing each of our unique gifts to the world is our most important job in life. Within the fabric of a meaningful project is often where we make our best friends and experience our greatest joy. It’s the point from which our truest self resonates.
Here’s how to align your personal goals with your contribution
- Make a list of ten things you’d like to see made better in the world. If you could change one thing in the world to make it better, what would it be?
- Draw each of these ten things on a mindmap. Ideate on how you could contribute to them. See how these goals could also become your own life goals.
- Imagine that you are a billionaire and (after you’ve gotten that Tesla and beach house) your quest is to use the money to contribute to the world. What do you fund? What problems do you fix? What incredible project would you create with that epic funding? Try out this guided meditation here and see what sprouts up in your imagination.
Keep learning with my book “How to Save the World”
If you’re serious about pursuing a social and environmental change project, grab my book How to Save the World. It will take you through a ten-step design process that will transform your idea into a force that makes real and measurable change. Forbes Magazine ranked it the top five books for social change entrepreneurs. Order your copy today through Indiegogo or get it on Amazon and get more free material about how to apply behavioral psychology and game design to your cause at katiepatrick.com and on my Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin.