Finding purpose

What do you live for?

It’s a simple question. But it’s one of the most difficult to answer.

From my experience, many of us find meaning but few have purpose.

Purpose is the belief or reason we have for living. It’s different from meaning. Meaning is about the significance or feeling of significance for something or someone or belief.

For example, a purpose could be someone living to care for their family. Their meaning is sensed when they are able to help a sibling, daughter, or parent.

Usually I hear and read more about meaning but not so much purpose. But the latter gets down to the roots, into the guts of life, into our souls. It’s the foundation upon which we all stand.

Purpose is the reason for our existence.

What is more important than that?

And if we leave it undefined, we are setting ourselves on shaky ground.

In college, this question haunted me. I had no idea what my purpose was. And living without one caused me to fall into a depression. Motivation was wrested from me and all I wanted to do was watch Disney movies in my dorm room (which I did: there’s nothing like a college guy watching Little Mermaid on a Saturday night, alone in his room, crying and singing along with Ariel).

I was lonely, angsty, and angry. All my life I had dealt with the trauma of my dad’s death and other difficulties in my life.

And I felt rootless, restless (and sang Disney songs).

Soon thereafter, I became a Christian. Jesus became my purpose, my reason for living. And that belief has sustained me, and still does.

Now, I know that not all of you believe as I do. And my point isn’t to bludgeon you with my beliefs but to press you to consider your own purpose.

I think that many of us can go all our lives without knowing what we’re really living for.

And that robs us. It makes life emptier, less fulfilling. And I don’t want that for you. I know what it feels like.

But that needn’t be the case. There is purpose in the world for you.

Seek it. It’s there.

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Finding meaning when everything feels meaningless

Sometimes life feels…well—empty—devoid of purpose. It’s easy to feel like a hamster running on a stupid wheel. But that’s wrong.

Life’s not purposeless. And you’re not a hamster.

But I know the feeling of waking up and wondering why you’re even bothering. Why even open your eyes, get out of bed, get ready to go to work, eat, see a friend or two, then do it all over again? I’ve been there.

But, again, you’re not a hamster.

The very fact that you want meaning means something.

You see, desires have an object for that which is desired. If I’m hungry there’s food. If I’m thirsty there’s water. If I’m lustful there is sex.

Inherent in our desires is something that fulfills it.

The same is true with meaning.

All of us have a deep desire to know what we do matters. We want to feel it. We’re famished.

I believe that the greatest meaning is found in Jesus, serving and loving him because he loved me unto death to give me life. So I live to delight him, albeit imperfectly, but that’s my purpose.

But, I get that not all of you are there. That may be a far cry from your worldview. That’s fair. So do this.


Make that your meaning to look for it.

That’s what I did.

Searching isn’t a guarantee you’ll find it, but it’s a start.

Hunger doesn’t equate to eating. But it would be odd if food didn’t exist in a world where our bodies by nature need it as fuel. That would be absurd.

Meaninglessness is absurd.

Sometimes we hunger for it more than a hot meal. Don’t we?

So know this. Your life has meaning. You just haven’t found it yet.

Seek it out. It’s there to be found.

And it’s more satisfying than the most delicious of fare.

Books on meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning (affiliate) by Victor Frankl is one of the most amazing books I read on meaning. He was a holocaust survivor and wrote about how he found meaning in his suffering. I wrote a post on it.

If you’re interested in Jesus and the meaning he provides, check out C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity (affiliate). Lewis breaks down the major tenants of this faith and why he believes them.

Anthony de Mello’s Awareness (affiliate) is also an interesting and eye-opening read. His ideas and the way he conveys them are surprising and fresh. I came across it because it’s one of Tim Ferriss’s top recommended books.