Live a Purposeful Life
How can you live purposefully day to day? In his essay “A Year of Living Purposefully,” Richard Leider suggests two core practices: contemplation and activation.
Contemplation is seeking answers to questions about who you are, how you should live, and where you belong. Reflective practices such as journaling, meditation, and guided imagery enable you to relax the mind and focus on the present moment, letting go of preconceived notions of who you think you are and instead becoming open and curious about what will arise. Here are some contemplative practices that you can try:
- Reflection. Review the day's events each evening for five or ten minutes to determine which experiences were life-giving and which were life-draining. Were there any times when you felt particularly alive or experienced “flow”?
- Meditation. A study by researchers at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain found that meditation is an effective practice for increasing one’s sense of life purpose, and it has numerous other health benefits.
- Journaling. Keeping a journal can be a helpful way to reflect and express yourself honestly. You might write about some basic questions: What experiences give me life? What experiences drain life? Allow yourself to write freely, without stopping to edit or worry about spelling and grammar.
- Dreams. Dreams are a way for the unconscious mind to work on issues that people may or may not yet consciously acknowledge. While very few dreams are prophetic, they can provide precise insights into personal needs, desires, and concerns. They are also compensatory and healing.
- Writing a “life scheme.” Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky recommends writing (or telling another person, if you prefer) your own life story. Reflect upon where you have been, the events that have shaped who you are today, and the future you imagine for yourself. What obstacles do you see ahead? How will you overcome them? The process of finding the answers to these questions will illuminate your values and where you find meaning and purpose in your life.
Activation is living your truth. By acting upon what you realize about yourself, you are consciously creating an authentic life for yourself. Think of this process as gently syncing your outer life to match your inner life. When you learn to align your everyday life with moments that fulfill you and utilize your gifts, you are better able to create an authentic, purposeful life —and the more benefits you will see.