Living By Purpose — How To Find Your Meaning In Life

Image for post
Image for post

“ He who was a why to live can bare almost any how. “

- Friedrich Nietzsche

But, how can we bare any how when no, meaning related answer, is endowed?

We as human beings need a reason in life, a meaning beyond the scope of life and death. Thinking about what will happen after we depart from this world, we tend to ask ourselves, why are we in this world to begin with if we are destined to leave this world insignificantly? A question that has long been hanging in a silent echo-chamber… What is the reason behind our mere existence?

When we ask a question, we do so because we want to turn uncertainty, ambivalence or ambiguity into a logical structural answer. But what happens when no answer is to be found?

A more complexly emphasized question is, what happens when there is an infinite number of answers? We fall into the void of uncertainty.

One of the fundamental human needs rests upon certainty. Hofstede’s cross-cultural dimensions theory, scrutinizes the dimensional impact of “ uncertainty avoidance “ as a crucially displayed cultural mechanism that predicates society’s contrivance.

When silence remains, actions would become useless. It would be detrimental to dwell upon a situation that we can not change. It would be pernicious to dwell upon a question that you as a convoluted cognitive structure can not answer.

When we constantly think about the meaning of life, and repetitively ask ourselves what is the reason behind my existence, do we ever pause for a second to ask ourselves, why do I need a meaning in life?

Take a moment and try to answer this question yourself. You are here, you exist, you breathe, you live, and you will die, what change will it make if you know the reason behind your existence or not?

You’ll be happy? What if the reason behind your existence is to suffer so others can experience joy? Would you still want to know your why? Or would you prefer to not know your why and live life the way you want to live?

You may look at suffering from two different sides. One side comes from a behavioural standpoint. Human beings are fabricated in a orientational manner that avoids pain and embraces pleasure.

Hedonism refers to numerous distinctive theories interconnected by the cruciality of avoiding pain and embracing pleasure.

Another side comes from a logo therapeutical standpoint, without suffering, we would not know what joy is. If suffering disappears, so does joy.

Why did Nietzsche say : “ There are no facts, only interpretations “? Can it be that all the answers we got throughout our existence were interpretations and not facts? How many times have you heard about a scientific breakthrough that changed previous fact related belief systems?

Asking life, what is the meaning behind our existence is asking a universal cosmic question that reflects upon an infinite complexity. Why? Because each and every person’s interpretation can be different, and when we have an infinite number of interpretations as potential answers, we tend to be startled. What if the interpretation you followed turned out to be just another aberration?

The meaning of life is to be happy, is an answer that I often hear. Yet again, you look at whoever gave you the answer, and they are nowhere near the state of happiness. If they know the answer, if they know the meaning behind their existence, why are they still empty? The reason is in fact, uncertainty.

Failing to find an answer, they decide to hide behind their thumb. They get over the repercussion of emptiness by adopting happiness as a way to go.

Religion is another side of the story as well. After finding no meaning behind materialistic possessions and status, existentialism arises and outcomes emanate. Some would commit suicide, some would live a meaningless life filled with voids of depression and episodic existential dilemmas. Nonetheless, a very common outcome is turning towards religion. Religion, wether its man made, or derives from a supernatural totem, serves the indispensable purpose of giving meaning to those who choose to adopt a chosen or given religion.

Interpreting the journey of those who became successful in life, we can see that each and every one of them, as unique as they are, share one thing in common. They had a reason behind their success. Their motivation was constantly fueled by an integral meaning that helped them endure obstacles, setbacks, failures, and picked them up when life brought them down.

We often hear that the experiences that bring us down, only make us stronger. However, this is not always true. Going through the trauma of breakup for example can leave a person emotionally vulnerable and weak. We get stronger when we have a reason to get back up. If your approach to setbacks was based on an ideology that this experience happened for you and not to you, the emotional interpretation will then work towards your advantage.

What is it that you love doing? Find it, and pursue it at all cause. Success stories would always resonate with a message: “ Never give up, never surrender. “

But how accurate is that?

Those stories that motivates a lot of people to follow their passion and aspiration, to follow what they love, can be flawed from a realism standpoint.

When we talk about love, we talk about subjectivity. Facing a situation of life or death with a stranger, is very different than facing a life or death situation with your loved ones.

A caring mother would give her life away for her son just out of sheer love. Rationality doesn’t exist, logic doesn’t exist, and objectivity doesn’t exist.

We can always argue the subjectivity or objectivity of those situations, however, we can never deny that in emotionally charged situations we might face with loved ones will be highly influenced through subjectivity.

So the question is, should we find what we love?

If we follow and pursue what we love, there is a huge complication. If you are coming from a subjective standpoint, thinking that you can follow those success stories, that you can achieve the impossible, would you be able to think rationally and logically about it? Don’t get me wrong, you can pursue what you love and find your purpose in life, but logic and rationality are two fundamental pillars in the search for meaning. If you are being subjective, you might never attain this goal out of irrational and illogical thinking.

Your meaning in life should be something you love indeed. I know this is contradictory but stay with me for a second.

If your meaning in life is not something that fills you with joy, happiness and most importantly love, then you did not actually find your reason to exist.

Even when you suffer, love doesn’t disappear.

Losing our loved ones can put us in such a dark spot in our lives. If your father or mother are ill, and you pass by to the hospital every day to check on them, you sleep on the hospital chair during the weekends, trying to dedicate all your energy towards encouraging them to get back up on their feet. All the pain you’re facing, the hardship, the suffering, love doesn’t disappear, and it will never disappear.

The reason I gave this specific example is because our loved ones can be the reason behind our existence.

When he, or she passes away, subjectively, you’ll be left with a trauma, a tragic memory, a feeling of emptiness, and most importantly regret.

The trauma caused by the experience of death, the memory of losing this person, the feeling of emptiness and loneliness as there is a part inside of you that died and can not be replaced, and the lingering regret, thinking about everything you did wrong, everything you could’ve done differently, every moment that you could’ve dedicated towards seeing this person would hold such an insupportable burden on you. When your job was the reason, you might quit your job so you can avoid these mistakes you did with the other loved ones. If your wife was the reason, you might throw the regret on her so you feel better about yourself, and about your intentions.

The thing is, subjectively, all those consequences can leave us without a meaning. However, that only applies, subjectively. Losing your loved one, who was the reason you existed, who was the reason you woke up everyday and you felt happy, can leave you purposeless for good.

However, generally speaking, people would think objectively, they would find coping mechanisms to forget about it and move on as this is an insurmountable natural process. Death is the only thing that’s certain, and it is real.

If we were to think from a pure subjective side, we would be left immensely affected and traumatized.

If we were to think from a pure objective side, we would avoid every trigger that can stimulate this trauma, we would overcome it, and move on as it is something irreversible.

However, happiness relies in between. Being objective enough to move on, yet being subjective enough to remember what he or she taught you, to visit their grave with a tear in your eye, yet a smile on your face is where happiness lies.

If your purpose in life, is following what you love, eliminating objectivity and thinking that you can miraculously overcome any obstacle you might face, you are bound to fail.

However, if your purpose in life is indeed following what you love, from an objective and subjective point, then you will be on the right track.

Objectively, the obstacles might be overwhelming that you decide to give up following the example where you would erase any stimulating factor that can remind you of who you lost. You move on, and forget that which you once loved.

Subjectively, the obstacles might appear to be easy surmountable that you throw yourself into rimel mouta7arike.

However the combination of those two elements would lead us to happiness and meaning. Being subjective enough to follow what you love with passion and joy, no matter how much suffering you will face, yet being objective enough to know what’s logical, and what’s not. To know what’s rational and what’s not. Only then will you be able to find your why.

When you do this, even when you lose, even when you go through hardships, you will visit that grave, look at what you love, and what makes love so tough. You will at what you lost, yet you look at what you learned and what you’re grateful for, and you move on pursuing once again, what you love. You look at suffering with a tear in your eye, yet, a smile on your face.

There’s an interesting argument about Logotherapy that I often think about.

There are a lot of theories, a lot of philosophers and thinkers who gave their opinion about meaning.

Logotherapy came along, and all of the sudden we have a a solution for existentialism.

But it worked, and changed people’s lives!

The Placebo Effect is real. If you believe that Logotherapy sessions will help you find what you love, can you get throw into a subjective void, that makes you think you found your purpose, when in fact, you didn’t. When we talk love, again, we talk subjectivity, and there is a chance that this subjective analysis, is flawed.

Another think to consider as well… Logotherapy worked on some people, and had no significant impact on others right? If Logotherapy was the accurate treatment of existentialism, this issue would subside. So whether we like it or not, there is a nuance in between that we are yet to explore and uncover.

If Logotherapy is solid, yet flawed at the same time, would that make it a certain branch of science and therapy, or another theoretical experiment?

Theories are bound to be refuted. What if our purpose in life is not the essence of our wellbeing? What if its acceptance? There are numerous theories that explore our meaning in life. The countless celestial and non-celestial religious communities spreading spiritual meaning are enough theories to contradicts our meaning in life as previously discussed.

Nonetheless, theories can have contradictions and similarities. Logotherapy treats individuals on the basis of finding a purpose, now all the theories behind finding this why, are mostly contradictory and objectively uncertain. Everything is objectively uncertain, the only thing that is certain, is of course, death.

We can not create meaning out of nothingness, if nothing exists, then meaning by default won’t exist. Now why and when did people start to question their existence? Did home sapiens question their existence? Who was the first person to ever question his or her existence, and why? What made him different? How did he or she cope with it?

As our intelligence spread, so did our questioning. Existentialism spread and scholars started to answer it. Logotherapy is one theory that tried to answer this question. Islam is as well, Christianity, Buddhism, Nihilism… What makes religion different is believing that it’s divine. Even tho objectivity doesn’t exist, subjectivity fills in and leads the way. And I don’t think I need to refresh your memory on our pure subjectivity analysis situation.

This doesn’t stop it from being a purpose however. It is not something, that when people devote their life to, would disappoint them. They believe everything happens for a reason, what matters in life, is the after-life….

Let’s suppose that god does indeed exist. God made the universe, where everything is working in absolute perfect harmony. The universe made us possible, therefore the universe also created us. Now why did the universe create us? Why did God create the universe we’re in?

Religion came to answer this question by explaining why god made the universe, what he expects from us, and what will happen in the afterlife.

Then through religion, we created order to the social contract we’re part of.

As we stopped questioning the meaning of existence anymore, we went from a state of survive, to a state of thrive.

We as human beings, also create, the first example is reproduction. Keep in mind, for moments after you’re born, you’re still attached to your mother. As we procreated evolution helped our intellectual interpretation and extensile of the universe.

Then human being created, machines, artificial intelligence, and clouds of data and information. The question is, when will this technological intelligence start reproducing? In some cases, it already is. Would artificial life one day question its own meaning of existence?

The death of god, for Nitzsche, will give birth to something unfamiliar, the idea of life, as the sole source of procreational energy in this universe.

Anything that has energy is in the process of procreation, whether its happening directly or indirectly.

Instead of the universe creating life, it is life that created the universe. It is energy. The energy of the stars, the energy of human beings, the energy of thought, black holes, matter and empty matter. As you are reading this book, there are new galaxies forming in the universe, all through some source of energy. Of course, then we can consider the universe as energy, and that’s one other idea. In the case of nuclear annihilation, the human energy would disappear, replaced by nuclear energy. It is a procreative cycle.

Following this idea, the energy accumulated in the universe, once gave birth to us, human beings. We are another source of energy. And by now, the answer to the following question will be systematically easy to answer:

If entities of energy, are creating the universe, and we ourselves are entities of energy, to complete the chain, what do we have to do?

We should be creating. We should be reproducing the energy we have. Human beings giving birth to other human beings, to technology, to advancement and intelligence are all adequate.

There’s a missing part in the formula however. We said god created the universe, the universe made us, religion explained the meaning of our existence, and we live upon it.

If we go back to the example, we see that the missing piece of the chain, is justification. As religion explained why we exist, putting it out of the equation would make it collapse. Something therefore needs to answer the question of meaning to us, and what could it be? Procreation.

We are a part of an interstellar energy-based intelligence that is continuously expanding life, and increasing universal expansion.

According to the formula, we as energy entities should be reproducing energy into other forms. In simple words, we create.

We create a beautiful piece of art, we create a loving family, we create love, we create anger, we create buildings and planes, we create destiny.

To answer the question of existentialism, pick one of those two formulas. If you are a believer, then the first formula is the answer to your question. If you are a non-believer, then the second formula is the answer to your question.

There’s an interesting thought here. Before we create, we always look to ensure the preservation of the entity itself, of you. Once you satisfy your physiological needs, other needs start to emerge, the need for safety, the need of love and belonging, the need of esteem, and the need of self-actualization. Everybody is born to survive, but you have to build to thrive. What do you build in that case? You build meaning.

Different ideologies are based on different identifications and explanations of destiny.

What is our destiny? Is it already mapped out by the universe, waiting for us to discover it? Or is it something we choose, we create and we follow?

I want you to take a minute and think about the question I’m about to ask.

What is your destiny?

There are three possible answers here. You either know your destiny, you don’t know your destiny, or you’re unsure and uncertain.

If you know your destiny, you know the reason behind your existence.If you believe that is destiny was created for you to follow, your interpretation is based upon fate. Fate is believing that the succession of life events we are going to experience and go through are out of our control. If you think you are destined to help as many people as possible in this world like mother theresa for example, is this based on fate, on faith, or on both.

We previously discussed the concept of faith.

If you believe in fate, by default, you need to have faith. If you do not have faith, then the idea of a supernatural power controlling your destiny is indeed flawed.

A chain of experiences led you to believe that your destiny is to help other people. However, when you started working towards following your destiny, no one forced you to do so, you chose to pursue it, and you could’ve, at any moment, decide that this is not what you want to pursue.

Now if you do not know what your destiny is, then you do not know the meaning behind your existence yet. However, you still wake up in the morning and do the work that has to be done because of the continuous nature of life. If you stop, you won’t progress, and when you don’t progress, you feel stuck. You might believe in fate, and that you did not discover what the meaning behind your existence is, however, the universe has it all mapped for you, and you just need to discover it. What I am about to say can leave you stranded…

What if you never discover what your destiny is? When people don’t find their destiny, they make the choice of pursuing the continuous nature of life. Progress, grow, and survive. Of course, people might be happy, it is because they are progressing, it is because they are following a system that is already built for us. People made their decision, it is them who chose to follow the regular patterns of life. There are moments in life, where we find a temporary meaning. Your child is born, and before you know it, you are driven towards providing them with the best life they can have. Soon enough, they grow up, become independent. They don’t need your help anymore. I remember being at the airport once, leaving my home country, and I looked around me, a lot of people were crying, including my own folks. Well of course they are going to be crying! They will miss whoever is leaving. But is this the only reason they were crying? When they lose this source of inspiration they had, it is heartbreaking.

We said before, that the only thing that’s certain in life, is death. There are a lot of common things that most people say before they die. If you went through this experience you might be able to reflect upon what I’m about to share with you.

The most common thing, is their last wish.

Imagine the following scenario:

A traumatic accident took place, where an individual that meant a lot to you, is on the edge of dying. They ask you for one last thing before they depart. Promise that you will… And I’ll let you fill in the blank. I talked to numerous people who said that the reason behind their existence is to fulfill that wish.

Another common thing is regret.

Let’s take the same example based on a different structure however. Before this individual departs from this world. They express their regrets.

“ I regret not spending enough quality time with you… “ Where does that lead us to? You want to make sure that you do not regret the same things. You see the pain that this person experienced, and again, we as human beings want to avoid pain and embrace pleasure. If you follow the same actions the person followed, you will have this fear of falling into regret, of falling into pain. If you build upon it however, and decide that you do not want to go through the pain of regret that he or she went through, you will act differently.

Now why am I talking about all of this? Well, to bring you back to the main idea I talked about in the beginning of this chapter. Whether purpose is based on fate, or faith, it is always a matter of choice. You can decide not to care about what the individual’s regrets are. You might decide that you eventually don’t want to follow through with the last wish they had, as you have another purpose to pursue. Everything that is influencing our meaning in life, is based on an internal interpretation system. Whether it’s an experience of love, a trauma, an idea, or a passion, the external stimulus was processed by your internal system, and based on that, you made the choice. When we talk about finding meaning, we usually try to find the answer out there, in the world. Rarely do we ever look for an answer within. If you can’t find a purpose, I want you to ask yourself a question, can you create your purpose?

Look around you, the book you’re reading, war, money, happiness, are all a construct of our internal processing system. Ideas originate within us. The development of nuclear weapons was based on the idea to acquire power, control and dominance. World War II was based on external interests that generated internally. Happiness is based on pursuing and maintaining joy, however, it is also created within us. Often times, we see some of the successful people in life, who are miserable. On the other hand, we see people going through the hardest times ever, yet, they are happy. Yes the external world does indeed have an influence, it is a primary stimulus. However, the creation was based on internal processing. Albert Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is acquired externally, and then processed internally, however, it is limited. Imagination on the other hand, is based on both external and internal factors, yet it can only be generated on an internal level. The most interesting part, is that imagination is limitless. A lot research implies that we can only imagine things we have seen and experienced in life. Can you imagine a color that you’ve never seen?

Yet, we need to keep in mind that colors are external. However, can you imagine an idea that was not based on any obvious external factors? Electricity was non existent until it materialized in the external world. Beforehand, it was just a idea.

External factors can develop into a purpose, only if they were to be analyzed internally. The reason behind our existence, is an idea. Destiny, is an idea. Whether you believe that your destiny is based on fate, or on choice, it was based on an idea, and its interpretation.

When people are looking for their purpose in life, failing to do so, they usually can’t find a purpose in life. However, rarely do they say, I can’t create a purpose in life. I want you to read the following sentence as many times as possible.

We as human beings, were created to create.

Read it again once more time. Let this idea sink in.

If you keep looking for a reason behind your existence, you will struggle to find it. The question of purposefulness has an infinite number of answers. Our external processing capability is limited. Our internal creative intelligence is boundless.

If you want to pursue your meaning in life, you need to start by creating it. Once it is created, it is found. Once it’s found, it is pursued.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store