It’s been proven time and again that living a purposeful life is a strong predictor of living a happy life.
Yet, a lot of people simply live life without questioning the things they are working towards. Without a purpose in life, you may feel like you’re not really going anywhere, which can cause anxiety and unhappiness. When you know what motivates you, you’ll be better equipped to lead a happy life.
However, finding your purpose in life can seem like a difficult and daunting challenge. Where do you start?
These are the most inspiring books on finding a purpose in your life. If you’re looking to find the thing that sparks you in 2021, then one of the books discussed in this article is bound to inspire you.
- 1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- 2. Staring At The Sun by Irvin D. Yalom
- 3. The Code Of The Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani
- 4. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
- 5. Boundaries by H. Cloud and J. Townsend
- 6. Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg
- 7. Waking Up by Sam Harris
- 8. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
- Closing words
1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
While incarcerated, he observes that the survivors are only those who preserve a sense of purpose and meaning within their suffering. He keeps himself alive with the purpose of one day lecturing about the psychological states of prisoners in the concentration camps – a purpose that he eventually fulfilled.
His book is raw and sometimes unnerving, but deeply inspiring. It is an irrefutable account of someone for whom finding purpose was a matter of life or death.
This quote from the book is my favorite:
Mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become. What a man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.
Contributor: Jaimie Eckert
2. Staring At The Sun by Irvin D. Yalom
This book teaches you how to live with purose by discussing death and meaninglessness, which is a welcome change!
There are two things that I particularly like about this book. First, it welcomes the reader to consider something we often avoid – our own death – and he convincingly suggests that thinking about death brings vitality and purpose to life. Entire theories (e.g., Terror Management Theory) explain how avoidant we are of death, so this is a welcome change.
Second, the book condenses the best ideas from the author’s long career into inspiring, actionable gems. These are the ideas that have helped his patients and Dr. Yalom himself deal with anxiety about death and meaninglessness, and he repeatedly encourages readers to pause and consider the ideas in relation to one’s own life.
It’s also quick and easy to read, so it won’t feel too daunting!
Contributor: Jon Reeves
3. The Code Of The Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani
This book made me bolder and more comfortable pursuing my own dreams.
This is my favorite book on living life with a purpose because it gave me permission to quit following society’s BS rules.
It showed me how to finally quit worrying about what other people think of me. I knew I had a purpose in life – and I knew what it could be – but I didn’t know if it was right. This book gave me a way to free myself to live.
It showed me how to focus on living MY life, not someone else’s version.
Contributor: Janie J Jurkovich
4. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
The simplicity and beauty in which Thomas Merton expresses his life’s journey to fulfillment has stayed with me for years.
I am not Catholic nor a monk, but Thomas Merton’s memoir on converting to Catholicism and becoming a Trappist monk has always inspired me.
My life is not remotely close to what he experienced, but his search for hope and fulfillment provides a wonderful look at how our individual journey can take us where we want to go based on our choices. Merton made some poor decisions early in his life that brought him significant unhappiness. He was able to turn his life around after finding for himself what would make him happy.
In the end, he followed the path that his heart needed. His search is illustrative for us all.
Contributor: Kyle Jones
5. Boundaries by H. Cloud and J. Townsend
This book breathed life into me when it made me realise that “No” is a complete sentence and it is okay.
Finding purpose in life is not just about actionable steps but also about looking at the underlying issues that might hold us back from finding our purpose. This book taught me that boundaries are about protection.
This has helped me protect my own journey to finding my purpose. It has given me the courage to say “no” to the things that don’t align with my purpose. This is one of my most highly recommended books as a therapist to help people get unstuck from the expectations of other people and the world.
Contributor: Bianca Hughes
6. Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg
I always refer my clients and family to this book about finding purpose in life. Lovingkindness doesn’t just help you find your purpose, it completely changes your life and how you connect to yourself and others.
Not only is it written in a very relatable, conversational tone, but the book also has a multitude of exercises and questions to ponder. It isn’t just a self-help book, though, it is also a book on the philosophy of life. Rather than just tell you what you should do, this book gives examples of why you should do it and how it will change your world and the world of those around you.
Contributor: Liz Shuler
7. Waking Up by Sam Harris
My favorite book for finding meaning is Waking Up by Sam Harris. It’s very focused on meditation and letting go of the idea of the self.
The author bridges the gap between science and ‘spirituality’ (for lack of a better term), particularly for secular humanists like me who know that a belief in god isn’t a requirement for a purposeful life.
Contributor: Kayce Hodos
8. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
The book helps readers learn to clarify their core values. Core values provide direction for the everyday life as well as big choices that infuse life with meaning and purpose.
The Happiness Trap also provides guidance on the practice of mindfulness, which helps readers learn to direct their attention to what matters most.
Contributor: Anna Yam
Finding your purpose in life takes time and will likely not happen overnight. In fact, your purpose is an evolving part of your life that changes as you grow older. It’s therefore important that your daily life and mindset is constantly held in-line with your purpose.
The goal of this list is to show you books that can inspire you to find your own purpose in life. These are recommendations from experts on the topic, and I’m sure that there is a book on this list that will help you find your purpose.
Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.