Updated: Jan 12
Life is infinitely easier and more rewarding when pursuing purpose.
You can craft your own purpose, but it takes deliberate effort and continued attention to sustain its benefits.
Purpose influences the brain by increasing focus on information and behaviours that are productive.
Purpose lowers stress and increases resilience to pain, injury, and disease.
Purpose alligns what you want and what the world needs, this will leave you with sustained feelings of fulfillment and motivation.
Your life is full of potential.
This is equally amazing and confusing. A paradox we must learn to master.
At any moment we are faced with an infinite number of ways to direct our thoughts and attention.
Life is complex.
The multitude of possibilities we face can leave us stunned at key moments. We may find ourselves unable to make important decisions and commit to a single path with the necessary enthusiasm, conviction, and resolve. We can plan our days, direct our weeks, and set goals for our year, but to what end is all this ambition and action working towards?
In life we like to make short-term plans. However, if we plan in the short term without first giving deep consideration to our overall purpose and vision, we are working backwards. Operating like this not only leaves your life's final direction to chance, but it is also unsettling for our psychology; it creates underlying uncertainty and an abundance of associated negative emotions.
Doing things the other way around has the opposite effect. A deliberately crafted life purpose can act as a guide that continually informs our actions over our days, weeks, and years. The connection between our overarching vision and our present reality infuses our experience with a sense of meaning; the reward systems that relate to goal orientated behaviour is stimulated. The process of striving towards a purpose inspires us in a way that enriches all of life's pleasures and challenges. A life lived with purpose is one that perpetually generates resilience, motivatio, and moments of overwhelming fulfilment.
Finding purpose is essential.
Science has shown that people who live with purpose are healthier, live longer, and experience more positive emotion.
Negative states such as depression are associated with feelings of meaninglessness and unimportance in the world. Purpose connects us with a deep sense of personal value. There is a correlation between having a defined purpose and higher levels of dophamine, serotonin, energy and motivation. Purpose is like a magnet for positive emotion and drive.
We are designed to have a purpose. This is because purpose works in harmony with the motivational structures we have in our brain and body.
Many sources of satisfaction are transient. Short term pleasures such as money, fame, and power give our brains a short-term kick of dopamine but ultimately leave us feeling empty. External pursuits are not aligned with the way our mind works to produce a feeling of consistent satisfaction. They provide an unstable structure to our life. Once obtained we experience superficial benefits that fade quickly and leave us feeling deprived again; we receive a sharp kick dopamine for a moment, but quickly enter a state of craving. This cycle never ends.
On the other hand, if we focus on striving for a purpose larger than ourselves we experience long lasting satisfaction. Purpose provides a more solid structure for our lives. The structure detailed above is finite. Obtaining external goals provides motivation and incentives only around achieving X. After X is achieved you are emotionally back at square one. However, purpose does not have an end point; it is a target that continually evolves as we grow. The process of striving to serve a purpose releases dopamine and serotonin in a stable manner to sustain positive emotion. When we perform any behaviour that is connected with the fulfillment of our purpose, we are fuelled by an incentive system that rewards the progression towards rather than the attainment of goals. This makes the pursuit of purpose powerful as it sustains us over an infinite amount of time.
Furthermore, purpose remains valuable even in the face of hardship. When we face adversity and challenge our brain is deprived of the good feelings that come from instant gratification and achieving short-term goals. However, purpose is with us always. Regardless of whether the present moment is difficult, if it is connected to our purpose we are bolstered against negative emotion and remain content. Purpose is the force we need to delay gratification and push through periods of suffering. Science shows us that haivng purpose significantly increases resilience, aids recovery from psychological trauma, and even helps people heal faster from physical injury.
The benefits above are enhanced if your purpose involves service to others. Service gives an incredible boost to your self-worth every day. If you are striving to add value to people’s lives it will give you a sense of importance every single day. Beyond the amazing benefits this can have on others, service helps us as well. Negative moods are associated with an insular mindset. Serving others demands means we get out of our own heads and adopt an outward perspective; this can remove us from the negative mental chatter that our brains are often biased towards. Service is also good for our personal growth. We tend to have repetitive thought patterns that make it hard for us to learn from within our current mindset, we need to adopt the perspective of others to evolve.
Although it is essential, we are often not taught how to consciously develop a purpose. People tend to shy away from this kind of thinking as it can sound like a grandiose and strange concept. But ask yourself, are you not worthy of pursuing something grand even though it may be beyond mainstream narrative? Of course you are.
Purpose isn’t something that we can be given by others or just stumble upon. We can’t understand our life’s purpose unless we give it deliberate thought. Hours of deep consideration are needed to develop a truely personal and powerful purpose (it’s worth it, it's with you for your whole life after all).
So how do create purpose in our life?
1. Conduct the deepest introspective thinking you can, get to know your self:
a. What are your core values and beliefs? Your purpose needs an emotional charge. Emotive brain regions are responsible for many of the benefits of having purpose. The greater the level of personal emotion, the greater the sense of focus and drive you will feel.
b. What are your strengths? We all have skills that come to us more naturally. At ALIVE we firmly believe that with a growth mindset you can do or be anything. However, to gain initial momentum weight your purpose towards your personal strengths.
c. What are your passions? What gives you energy? In your free time, on your weekends what are you drawn to? Try and understand why you are choosing these pursuits, what stimulates your particular psychology the most? You will incorporate this into your pursuit of purpose.
2. Once you know yourself, have a look at the external landscape:
a. What common cause in the world aligns with your values and beliefs? If you were going to be involved in bringing others up in any way, how would you like to do this? What cause do you believe to be most poignant to our times? What form of progress for humanity would be worthwhile and inspiring in your eyes? Connect your purpose with an aspect of service that resonates with the values above.
b. What is already out there forwarding this cause? What are the related careers, volunteering, or hobbies out there and how could you be invovled? Keep your strenghts and passions in mind here.
c. How does this fit into your current life and your future? You don’t need to be directly involved in service. You are already connected to service through the second-order and even third-order consequences of your actions. Everyday you already have a small chance to leave people and the world 1% better. Ask yourself how you are going to make this a larger part of your day?
3. Write a statement that defines your life purpose incorporating all of your thinking above.
4. Work closley with the purpose you develop and reflect often:
The more we work with our purpose, the greater our progress and personal rewards will be. Let it be your guide to living an examined life. Stop and think about your purpose at the beginning of every phase of planning you conduct. Whether you write weekly, monthly, or yearly goals, ensure that the plans you create contribute to advancing your purpose in some way. Once you reach the end of your goal timeline remember that your mind loves to receive feedback and reflect on how you have been navigating towards your purpose.
5. Understand this is a lifelong process. We must strive throughout life to reshape our purpose in line with our own growth. Our purpose may expand, become refined, or shift entirely as we move through life; it is a moving target that constantly elevates our potential.
This may sound like a chore to some but keep in mind you have a long life to live, you may as well have something to focus on that makes you feel alive.
ALIVE wants to showcase ideas that continue to lift you up in the long term.
Purpose showcases how our philosophy can give us a continuous boost throughout life. With purpose, you become addicted to process and not the results. This form of mastery infuses you with passion and energy. As you strive onward you accumulate skills, your proficiency and effectiveness in the world increases. Your impact on the social world becomes increasingly significant and as a result the rewards you receive are multiplied at each stage of your journey. The more attention this process receives the greater the benefits.
Having purpose is a prime example of how your life philosophy can have incredible effects on your psychology and philosophy. Everything is connected.
Your Brain + Purpose
Experts define this process of goal setting (developing purpose) as "brain changing behaviour". Your brain is altered by the hierarchy of goals you have, so it is beneficial to have this hierarchy properly organised. Purpose gives us an effective overarching structure to rank smaller goals. As discussed before, in each moment of our lives an overwhelming mass of information reaches the brain; purpose helps focus our attention on what’s important for achieving goals. The emotional centres of the brain elevate the importance of goals above other information in the present moment. The frontal lobes then define what actions are most relevant for achieving the goal. Your attention and behaviour are focused on the tasks and situations that achieve your goals and other influences are ignored. Your brain is rewarded more frequently for on task behaviour, and punished less for pursuing harmful distractions 1.
Your Body + Purpose
Having a well constructed and defined purpose has an outstanding effect on your physiology.
The nervous system functions better and our regulation of stress is improved. Evidence shows that individuals who have a defined purpose experience lower levels of stress and experience deeper sleep. Further, a study of the elderly showed that those who had a purpose assisted optimal physiological conditions and had a 57% lower mortality rate than those who didn’t! The study attributes the biological benefits to improved cardiovascular health, lower chances of chronic disease, and lower stress.
YOUR NEW EXPERIENCE
If we develop a purpose for our lives this acts as an overarching narrative that guides the micro behaviours we perform daily. Daily goals build on those set for the week, weekly goals are connected to those made for the year, and yearly goals are formulated by thinking about what best fulfils us. Your purpose is continually informing your actions and energizing you with a sense of meaning; this creates a feeling of alignment with what you want and what the world needs. Having purpose enables you to live in a way that is optimal for serving others and yourself.
READ: Book: Victor E Frankil - Man's Search for Meaning
Demonstrates that we can and must find purpose in even the most desperate times.
LISTEN: Podcast: Jordan Peterson - Aim at a Star
Long discussion around the importance of having a properly defined aim.
WATCH: You tube: Jordan Peterson - Setting up goals hierarchically
Awesome short summary of the way our psychology is rewarded for pursuing goals similar to a purpose.