last updated June 9, 2021

What Is a Sense of Purpose and How to Find Yours

by Rob Arthur

Finding a sense of purpose can improve your life in countless ways.

This article will explain what a sense of purpose is and how to start finding yours.

If you have any questions after reading, let me know in the comments section below 🙂

What is a sense of purpose?

Even when we’re eating, training, sleeping, and managing stress consistently, we often aren’t satisfied with our results.

We look and feel good, we’re getting stronger, and we have a clean bill of health, but we still feel like something’s off.

If you feel this way, a sense of purpose just might be what you’re missing.

A sense of purpose generally has three components – coherence, purpose, and significance (1)

Coherence is a feeling that life makes sense.

Purpose is having goals and a direction in life.

Significance is a sense that your life has inherent value and is worth living.

Cultivating a sense of purpose can improve your mental, emotional, and even physical health.

The benefits of finding your purpose

In a 2018 survey of over 15,000 people, purpose in life was linked to a broad range of positive health outcomes (2).

These include better self-rated health, fewer chronic diseases like stroke and heart attack, reduced pain, less disability, less dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and reduced mortality.

Those with a higher sense of purpose also made more consistent use of preventive services, had higher physical activity, engaged in more meaningful activities, and had fewer sleep problems.

Of course, these associations don’t necessarily demonstrate causation.

That is, we can’t conclude whether greater purpose in life was a cause or an effect of the observed health outcomes.

However, there’s evidence to suggest a sense of purpose may play a causal role.

A 2020 study explored the relationship between 32 health factors and how worthwhile participants rated their life efforts (3).

Similar to the 2018 study above, higher ratings of worthwhileness were connected to several improvements across physical, mental, emotional, and social health.

Furthermore, the study authors concluded that the relationship appeared to be bidirectional.

That is, positive health outcomes appear to promote feelings of living a meaningful life and vice versa.

So, if you’re putting in the work at the gym and in the kitchen, you might prioritize finding your purpose as another pillar of your health efforts.

How to find your sense of purpose

It’s not always obvious why we might not feel like we’re living lives of purpose.

Often, we’re too focused on helping, improving, or fixing ourselves.

That is, we’re always looking inward, ignoring our capacity for serving any greater good.

We’re overlooking our integration and interconnectedness with everything and everyone around us.

Self-improvement is a worthy pursuit, but when it’s our sole pursuit, it might lead to isolation or loneliness

Helping others through volunteering, mentoring, and donating are popular ways for fostering a sense of purpose (4).

That said, if none of these appeal to you, that’s totally cool.

You might not even have to start doing anything you’re not already doing.

Look for ways you’re already living a life of purpose, even if not intentionally.

You might find a sense of purpose in your career, your role in your family, or even your friendships.

A key factor will be finding something that you personally find meaningful.

What brings somebody else a sense of purpose might not do the same for you.

Your sense of purpose is yours, and nobody else’s.

Finding it might take some time, effort, and patience.

All you can do right now is get started.

What to do now

Here are some questions to help make finding your purpose a bit easier.

What do you see as a unique gift that only you can share with the world?

If money were no concern, what would you do with your life?

What is the one thing you want written in your obituary?

What’s going on in the world that breaks your heart?

Are there people or organizations that inspire you?

You might feel pressure to come up with some grand answer.

We see examples of people having massive impact left and right.

Don’t worry about what they’re doing.

Worry about what you’re doing.

You don’t have to change the world.

Start with the world around you.

Do what you can with what you have.

You’ve got this.


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