What Is A Purposeful Life? (How-To, Examples + Tips)
Updated 14 August 2019
by Hugo: Founder of Tracking Happiness, marathon runner, data junkie and happiness tracker for almost 6 years.
Everybody wants to live a purposeful life. It's part of our human ways, as we don't like the feeling of standing still. We need to constantly move forward to some goal or purpose. If we don't, we are less happy. It's easier said than done, though.
What is a purposeful life? A purposeful life is when you are moving towards a big goal in your life that aligns with your values, passions and makes you happy. This is harder than it sounds because finding your purpose in life is not always easy.
This article covers what you can do right now in order to find your purpose, and start living your life purposefully. I've included actual examples of how other people have found their purpose and live a purposeful life.
Table of contents
- What is a life purpose?
- How to define your own purpose in life
- Why you need a purpose if you want to live a happy life
- Long-term happiness comes from your purpose in life
- A purposeful life is a happy life
- Tracking happiness shows me how to live my life purposefully
- Closing words
What is a life purpose?
Having a purpose in life is one of the pillars of happiness.
That doesn't mean you can't be happy without a purpose, but it will be harder to find long-term happiness without one. What are some examples of a purpose in life? There are a lot of commonly known purposes in life, like:
- Providing for your family
- Living a successful life
- Making positive connections with others and enjoying those around you
- Traveling the world
- Fighting the declining condition of our planet
Here's a great example of a life purpose, which one of my friends online shared with me in this article:
As a recovering perfectionist, anxiety warrior, and depression fighter, my purpose in life is to empower myself to empower others. I define my purpose in life as a continual journey of becoming the best possible version of myself. By doing this, I can help other people become the best possible version of themselves.
How to define your own purpose in life
You can't copy & paste somebody else's purpose in life and expect to be happy by doing the same things. If you want to live a purposeful life, you're going to have to find and define your own purpose in life.
Just as much as happiness is something that's unique for every single person, the purpose of life differs from person to person as well!
Elon Musk's purpose in life might be to develop futuristic ideas into reality, while your purpose can be to just provide the best life to your family and children.
Copy & pasting the purpose of somebody that you respect and like will probably leave you unhappy and unfulfilled. For example, I think Elon Musk is doing spectacular things, but I wouldn't be happy if I were in his shoes. My purpose in life is wildly different from his!
I have defined my own purpose in life, and I advise you to do the same!
How do you find your purpose in life?
So how do you discover your purpose? Not by sitting in a chair and waiting around all day before this purpose finds you. No, you find it by doing (new) things and taking action.
If you haven't yet discovered your purpose in life, then you are not going to find it by trying the same things over and over again. It's also important to know that your purpose in life and your job are not the same things. Too many people look for a job that is simultaneously something that can fill their purpose in life. A very small percentage of people find actual purpose in the work they do.
For example, I personally have a very simple purpose in life, and it has got nothing to do with my work! That's not to say that I hate my work, I just don't regard it as something I'm passionate about.
Long story short: you have to discover your purpose in life by trying out new things. If you feel like you haven't yet found your purpose in life, that means you need to try something new that sparks your interest again.
Another example of someone who lives a purposeful life
Another person I've met was kind enough to tell me how she lives a purposeful life. I think this is a great example of you sometimes really "discover" your purpose:
I got cancer age 30 and am currently grappling with this question. My focus has completely shifted and I feel like my the whole point of life now is just 2 simple things:
- Making positive connections with others and enjoying those around you. It is a lot easier to sit on the couch and watch a feel-good show then it is to go have dinner with your in-laws when you are tired - but what is the point in sitting there watching TV? We all waste way too much time doing crap like that. Better to build meaningful connections while you can. There are millions of super isolated people in the world as well who would kill to have someone to have dinner with.
- Squeezing every bit of enjoyment out of life. I need to walk home - I can either take the subway for 5 minutes underground or I can walk 30 minutes through a park and tree-lined streets and truly enjoy it. maybe get an ice cream on the way. I'd pick the fast way every time before, now I'm constantly looking for the most enjoyable route instead.
Why you need a purpose if you want to live a happy life
At the start of this article, I mentioned how having a purpose is a fundamental factor of happiness. There's actually 5 fundamental factors of happiness, which I call Pillars of happiness. The 5 pillars of happiness are:
- Confidence and self-love
- Meaning and purpose
- Positivity and optimism
- Physical and mental health
- Freedom and independence
What does this mean? It means that without these fundamental happiness factors - pillars - it will be difficult to find long-term happiness in your life. This might still sound very subjective, so I'll give a couple of examples in a minute.
Each of these 5 pillars is critical if you want to be happy. Even though there is an endless list of things that can make you happy, these 5 specific things are fundamental. It's not like you can't be happy without them, but it is difficult to find long-term happiness if you're missing one of these things in your life. That's because every happiness factor besides these 5 fundamental factors is heavily influenced by them.
Let's look at some example:
- If you're lacking confidence and self-love in your life, then any relationship you have with others will be less powerful.
- If you are not physically healthy, then any amount of exercising or sport will have a smaller positive influence on your life.
- If you don't know what your purpose in life is, you're lacking a sense of direction and achievement in the things that you do.
Long-term happiness comes from your purpose in life
There are different kinds of happiness. Not just in the way we define happiness, but also in the way we experience it. It's important to realize how these differences can influence our daily decisions and also if we live our lives with or without a purpose.
Short-term happiness is relatively easy to explain. It's based on small and easy to obtain, yet rather unsustainable sources of happiness. Think about:
- Watching a great movie
- Scoring a goal
- Laughing about a silly video on YouTube
You see, short-term happiness is based on the release of the chemical Dopamine in our brain. This organic chemical is released whenever we are stimulated by things that please us. These things result in short-term happiness because the Dopamine is released based on a single event. When this event is over, the pleasure is gone. That's why I consider this to be short-term happiness.
And then there is long-term happiness.
Long-term happiness is a little bit harder to explain because it revolves around other concepts of happiness. Long-term happiness is created by feeling happy about your purpose in life, the successes that you've had and/or the satisfaction of who you are and what you've accomplished. Long-term happiness is based on concepts that are not created by a single event.
For example, I'm happy at the moment because I'm grateful for the life that I have right now. This happiness is not caused by something I'm doing at this very moment. No, I'm happy because I have been able to work hard on things that give me a sense of purpose and have achieved things that I am very proud of. As a result, I have created a situation in which I am happy by default, without having to rely on single events. This is partially caused because I am living my life purposefully.
A purposeful life is a happy life
When you live your life with a purpose, you are much more in control of your long-term happiness. You won't have the feeling like you're just drifting, working towards some vague goal that doesn't make you happy.
When you have a purpose, your long-term happiness, satisfaction, and sense of achievement are much better definable. With a purpose, you are able to steer your life in the best direction possible. And that's the direction where long-term happiness can be found!
Tracking happiness shows me how to live my life purposefully
I want to mention here that I've been tracking my happiness for over 5 years now. What does this mean? It means I spend 2 minutes every day to reflect on my day:
- How happy was I on a scale from 1 to 10?
- What factors had a significant effect on my happiness?
- I clear my head by jotting down all my thoughts in my happiness journal.
This allows me to constantly learn from my own happiness. By looking back at my happiness journal, I can see what exactly made me happy and how much it influenced my life at the time. By doing this, I've experienced time and time again that living a purposeful life is highly correlated to living a happy life.
When I track the factors that align with my values of purpose and achievement, that's when I'm most happy.
And I believe you can do the same.
You can be happier. Discover how with my free template!
- Track your happiness every day
- Learn more about what makes you happy
- Receive my custom template for free
Living life with a purpose is an important and fundamental factor of happiness. Without a purpose, we live our lives less efficient and it's more difficult to find long-term happiness. You have to find your own purpose in life if you want to live it purposefully. Once you have, you are able to steer your life in the best direction possible. And that's the direction where long-term happiness can be found!
I'd love to hear from you now. What's your purpose in life? How do you live a purposeful life? Did I miss anything?
Let me know in the comments below, as I'd love to meet you!
Who runs Tracking Happiness?
My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.
I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking our happiness.
My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.
With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!
Let’s talk about life purposes! Not sure what your purpose in life is? I’ve asked around how others have discovered their purpose in life. These actual examples of others should help you discover your purpose!
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Ever since I started tracking my happiness, I have seen a lot of different scales being used. My method of tracking happiness uses a scale from 1 to 10. Over the years, I have received a lot of questions and comments about this happiness scale. There are many reports, platforms, surveys and apps that track happiness on a different scale! This article discusses why the Tracking Happiness method is based on a happiness scale from 1 to 10.