Finding purpose and meaning in life comes from, and feeds, your inner joy. How being in Flow can be
What does it mean to have a sense of purpose? Why have I put up a video of a doctor who now rollerskates? Because doing what you love can be at the heart of the purpose in your life.
This does not mean things that you have become addicted to, addiction is not meaningful or purposeful. Being in Flow, doing what you love so that time disappears, is doing or being what is natural to you. Your purpose is when being 'you' is easy, fulfilling and has direction and meaning. It is the why and the how in marriage.
Having purpose and meaning that includes being able to be in Flow, is an inner joy that holds an energy that fuels itself. Being a homemaker, writing or making music, gardening, swimming, connecting people, being in nature, designing, teamwork, fun, caring, giving, craftsmanship, learning, facing danger, sport, performing.......
Being in flow is an optimal expression of doing something that holds both challenge and skill in balance. 'Slowmo' (as the doctor is called) finds meaning in perfecting and honing his skating technique. He is in flow when he skates -and when he skates his purpose is to perfect his technique. He has a goal, a why - he is not skating mindlessly but very mind-fully. His skating holds purpose. He is in flow while skating and his purpose is to perfect the skill and to demonstrate how to live joyfully into old age.
Having a sense of purpose is to know where you are going and why. It encourages you to move towards fulfilling goals and in doing so enables you to experience longer lasting happiness. Having a sense of purpose that incorporates doing what you love, equals living joyfully with meaning and direction.
Having meaning in your life gives you the ‘why’ you do what you do. Knowing that your life has meaning helps you face up to difficulties and overcome hardship. The meaning, ‘your story’, defines your role and makes you who you are and what you do matter to you.
‘Lack of meaning and purpose accounts for much of the rise in depression in America’
Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, remarks in his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning that lack of meaning and boredom in people’s lives cause more mental health problems than
A sense of purpose doesn't have to be a grand world changing ideal, it is a way of holding who you are in harmony with what you do. Living a purposeful life has direction; you know the path you are on and equally importantly 'who' you are (e.g. the 'doctor who skates'). You are the path you walk: when your path is more important than the destination, life becomes vibrant and exciting; you know where you are headed and why. Your path is not so much about goals and work but the quality you bring to the process of living – your purpose, your uniqueness and joy.
Where you feel most autonomy and freedom, when time zooms by, is a good place to find where you experience flow and from there you can discover a sense of purpose however slight. Just to muddle it up even more - what you value plays a role here too. The values at the heart of slowmo's skating could be many things; freedom, joy, learning, action, .... Knowing what you value, and living to those values, gives the meaning and purpose to what you do.
We have multiple sources of meaning, our values and needs change as we change and grow, and what we value in one area of our life can be different from another. Unpicking what you value can be a big task, especially if you are living values you inherited or reflect a way of being that was once important and necessary but is now redundant. Living to your values means being/doing what gives meaning to 'you'- and energises rather than depletes you.
When we are young we often inherit our parents’ values and many people continue for years living a life someone else has given them. Our experiences also shape our needs; for example, if you grew up in an environment where you were afraid, you might well need safety above everything. Finding meaning and purpose in what you do requires that you are able to differentiate emotional needs that are a consequence of past experience, from needs that fulfil your potential and give you meaning and joy. However because values help us prioritise our needs and often give us the reason 'why’ we do things, they can have cultural and linguistic meaning and importance that can override inner joy. True purpose is found only as a part of doing what you love.
We can be multifaceted and authentic: we can integrate ourselves to our lives in a coherent way. Having a sense of purpose that offers the opportunity to be in flow can be one most powerful ways we can do this.
Inside we all have a personal calling, there are some needs that consistently resonate with us most strongly and we always respond to and there are characteristics in our behaviour that we are most comfortable and happy exhibiting. Our purpose can be seen when we are behaving in a way that is natural to us.
When have you felt most able to be yourself?
When have you felt real freedom of action?
When do you jump at the chance to do or be this?
Have you ever noticed the respect you command when you speak with your own voice and what were you saying?
What are you doing when you feel you have autonomy; what activities do you enjoy for their own sake?
Do you know what your purpose is at the moment? What are you aiming for?
What holds most meaning for you?