Thursday 19 July 2018

Purpose of Life?

Why am I living? Why am I living the life that I am living? Is this all there is? Where am I headed? What is the purpose of my life?

I have often asked one, or all, of the above questions, and will take a guess that most people ask the same / similar questions. From time to time, either in short-bursts or over an extended period, I lose my focus and feel lost. Especially immediately after, either completing a major task or achieving a long-held goal. The feeling of, “what next” hits me, along with the feeling - "is this all there is to do, to work for, to achieve, to look forward to - is there more to life?".

Whether correctly, or incorrectly, we feel the need to define our purpose, and then work towards fulfilling the defined purpose. Well - we do live in a goal-oriented society, everyone around us seems to be chasing goals and many manage to achieve set goals. To live in this society and live in a manner where an individual lives a goalless life attracts negativity towards this individual from people around. This individual is labelled as lost (at best) or careless (usually), with a few other terms in between this spectrum of lost and careless (lazy, for example). 

This post is for all those who want to find the purpose of their life but have not been able to identify it yet. Most likely, such a person would be doing something in life - whether studying or working. Most likely, such a person is either dissatisfied with where she / he is or unsure about where her / his life is headed (or both). For those who seem to have identified and defined their purpose of life - continue on the path, but do think what will happen if you were to fulfil that purpose and you are still alive?

Fact is - we don't know our purpose...even the ones who claim to have figured it out. We don't know why we were born, why in the family that we were born in, why in the circumstances that we were born in, what our inherent talents are (I believe everyone is born with some inherent talents - and then some other talents can be developed over the course of life), and when are we going to die. When we don't know the why of our start and then when of our end, what tells us that we should know or define what are we supposed to achieve during this journey called life?

So - what is the purpose of life? Here is the answer to the question, in its simplest and most honest form: "to live" is the purpose of life!

Give it a moment, allow the above to sink in.

My view is philosophical on this entire question of purpose of life. It started with worrying about what am I supposed to do in this life - mostly worrying about my professional life, and not getting any answers for the same. Constant worrying and not getting answers only led me to believe that I was missing something from my life. It appeared as if I was wasting away my time, by not doing what I was supposed to be doing. The only problem, I didn't know what I was "supposed" to be doing, what was supposed to be my purpose.

In my search for my purpose, I read many books, consulted many people - including astrologers, and thought long & hard about this - only to realise the simple fact that my purpose of life was to live - period! Interestingly, the more I thought about it, the more I realised this fact is not only true for my life, but also for everyone else.

What does it mean to say that purpose of life is to live?

For this we need to broaden our perspective – probably a lot. Think of the yourself as an individual, then as part of a family, society, culture, country, world…and finally this entire cosmos. Does it strike you that you are a small (infinitesimally small) part of this cosmos, yet a significant part. Everything, and I mean every single thing, in this cosmos is there for a reason, in the manner that it is supposed to be and when & where it is supposed to be. This means – so are we. We are where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and that means – we are serving a purpose.

Just because either others can’t see the value we bring, or claim that we offer only a limited value, doesn’t mean that is the only value we have. By delivering value, we seem to convince ourselves that this must be our purpose. In this sense – what is the purpose for Sun to exist? If Sun is required for life on Earth, is that all there is to Sun’s purpose. Probably – probably not. We don’t know. It wouldn’t be a surprise for me if Sun doesn’t know its purpose as well. But that doesn’t stop Sun from doing what it does – tirelessly, endlessly. Sun is there because it has been put there. Sun neither limits its value by thinking it is life on Earth that is its purpose, nor worries about how this is not enough of a purpose for something of its size and stature.

With this example, I postulate that much like Sun continues to live, neither knowing its exact purpose nor worrying about its exact purpose, yet fulfilling the duty entrusted to its best, we humans have to do the same. And this would mean – live without worry and without doubt.

Is this it, then? Is there nothing more to life?

Yes, this is an acceptable question to follow the understanding that purpose of life is to live. And this is where I bring in the concept that we build and define our own purpose. Thus, we feel fulfilled or unfulfilled basis what we set as a purpose for ourselves.

Consider this: you are walking down the road when a stranger stops you to ask for time or directions, and you are able to help out that stranger. Unless something extraordinary happens during this interaction, you are highly likely to forget about it and move on. However, this is where I ask you to take a moment and stop to think – why were you stopped and asked for help, and realise in that very moment, during this seemingly small and insignificant interaction you were fulfilling your purpose. Every smile you cause, every little help that you offer to others – on its own might as well be insignificant and forgettable, but when summed up – the total of it is definitely significant.

It is in our control to define our world, our meaning, our purpose – all of which need not be validated or even agreed upon by anybody else. For as long as we continue to judge ourselves from other people’s eyes – we will live a false life, whether others see us as a success or a failure. Simply put, if we are alive and living as per the values that we believe in, then we are succeeding in life. Thus, purpose of life is to live.

If you cannot find purpose in your life, for yourself, try finding your purpose by what you do for others. You don’t know when, where and who might need you to help them with directions, to help them reach their destination, to make their life slightly easier and less worrisome, to add value by bringing a smile to their otherwise mundane moment. Live like the Sun – living its life without worry and doubt.

As my favourite author Richard Bach (as per me, a great philosopher) says in his book, Illusions: 

“This is a test to see if your mission in this life is complete, if you are alive, it isn't.”