What Does Sense of Purpose Mean

A sense of purpose in life is something that more Americans are realizing is important. Look at the wild popularity of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life. Knowing why we do something is, for many people, just as important as the fact that they're doing it.

A sense of purpose can have several meanings. On the "big picture" level, it means discovering what your purpose is in this life. What have you come here to do? Why do you exist? And if you're not living your life with purpose, how can you begin to?

Is your sense of purpose the same as someone else's? It appears that if you can discover your own sense of purpose, it's likely to have much more of an impact on you than if you mimic someone else's.

It may be that the addictions of our time-whether drug, alcohol, or Internet-are actually misguided searches for finding a sense of purpose in life. Boredom and feelings of restlessness can drive us to staying overly busy to drown out the void of not having a sense of purpose.

Does God have to play a role in finding a sense of purpose? Not necessarily. There are different types of meaning to be discovered and lived.

A psychology of sense of purpose and meaning

There is an entire branch of psychology based on the importance of a sense of purpose in our lives. It's called logotherapy. It's based on the work of Viktor Frankl (1905-1997). He was an Austrian psychiatrist and a survivor of the Holocaust. He wrote an influential book called Man's Search for Meaning (1959). The first half of the book is about his experiences in a concentration camp. In the second half, he writes about the philosophy of logotherapy, or what he calls the "will to meaning."

According to Frankl, life is full of meaning in each moment. He believes that if you don't have meaning in your life, it can lead to a crisis. He believes that life never stops having meaning, even with suffering and death. But it's something that we have to actively look for.

Today, with the advent of positive psychology that seeks to help individuals flourish and avoid negative experiences, there is a school of thought called meaning-centered therapy. It's rooted in Frankl's logotherapy and also utilizes other branches of psychotherapy to help people live more meaningful lives.

Some tips for finding a sense of purpose

Here are some tips for finding a sense of purpose.

  1. Look at your current commitments and choices. What do they say about what's important to you and what you value?
  2. If you feel a pull toward some type of activity or goal, pursue it more intently.
  3. If you're overwhelming yourself, slow down. Live in the moment as much as you're able. Find meaning in what's in front of you.
  4. Talk to others who know you well. Often they can give you insights and a point of view that's fresh and stimulating.
  5. Look at your activities. Are there any that you get meaning from? If so, can you do them more often?
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