Happiness Tools To Help You Define Your Purpose In Life

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Happiness Tools To Help You Define Your Purpose In Life

Posted 23 Nov 2017

Emotional Health

Pernille Kloeverpris

Happiness Tools To Help You Define Your Purpose In Life

“What is the meaning of life?” I guess most of us have given this question some serious thoughts, but the answer can seem illusive. The search for life's meaning and the significance of existence in general is not new, ancient Greek philosophers spent lifetimes contemplating this very question.

The reality is that there are a myriad of answers. Some find meaning through religion, some by creating a family, some by building a career - it all depends whom you are asking, when, and at which stage of life. With this post I hope to bring more clarity to your personal meaning of life and as always I wish to inspire you on how to lead a happier one.

Goals – are you pursuing the right purpose?

One of the things that happiness scientists have found is, that setting goals for ourselves and progressing towards them can help us feel more meaning. Goals give our lives purpose and direction and can also generate a true sense of accomplishment as well as hope, which are all drivers for increased happiness.

Goals can be divided into two categories:

Extrinsic goals - where the focus is on attaining rewards and/or praise from others. These goals are a means to an end and not rewarding in and of themselves. Extrinsic goals could be wealth, fame or popularity which all share the same tendencies in that they are often pursued under the assumption, that they will bring greater happiness. Evidence, however, suggests that they might contribute to the very opposite.

Intrinsic goals - these are inherently satisfying to pursue because they are more likely to satisfy our psychological needs such as autonomy, relatedness, competence, and growth. These goals don’t rely on the approval or judgement of others, but rather depend on satisfying our own basic psychological needs.

Now, think about your personal goals for a second and let me ask you: “which category do they belong to?”


The purpose of lifeSometimes our life goals can be difficult to determine, but research suggests that building optimism about the future can motivate people to work toward that desired future and make it more likely to happen. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.

I want to share an exercise with you called “The Best Possible Self”, developed and designed to cultivate Happiness:

Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Now imagine your future...focus on a brighter future and imagine it's going as well as possible - say five years out and write about it. Imagine the best possible circumstances in your family life, in your personal life, your physical life, and your career. Write for 15 minutes on your best possible self.

Try to be very specific, be imaginative and creative. The more specific you are, the more engaged you will be in this exercise, and the more you will get out of it. Through this exercise you will be “forced” to create goals that are both personal and meaningful, hence more likely to build both motivation and engagement. If you’re already living your best possible life with absolute meaning you don't have to create a new reality just for the sake for it. A goal can also be maintaining a current situation.

Make your goals SMART

As mentioned, the more specific you are when describing your future, the easier it'll be to create your goals. Try to define your goals to the following criteria:

Specific and significant – to change habits and routines there has to veritable reasons. Be detailed about where you want to go and what you want to achieve to stay focused, hence consider questions like: who, what, where, when, which, and why.

Measurable – if possible, try to make your goals measurable (how much, how many). In this way you are more likely to stay on track and keep motivated right to the finish line.

Attainable – by identifying goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways to make them come true. You develop attitudes, abilities, skills, and even financial capacity to reach them. Goals that may have seemed out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.

Realistic – this doesn't mean you can't set high goals. As long as your goals represent an objective towards which you are willing and able to work, you can set Everest goals for yourself! You are the only one who can decide just how high your goals should be.

Time-based – try to incorporate a time frame in your goals. Without a time frame there’s no sense of urgency, and you’re more likely to keep doing what you are doing.

With these happiness tools I encourage you to go and find your meaning in life. Enjoy the journey(!), you might discover things about yourself, that you never even dreamed of.



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Khadija says:

3 months 2 weeks ago
Hello Pep I'm curious whether you believe that all 7 billion people on this planet have a specific purpose for their life? Is everyone on the one journey to achieve one big goal or do each of us have a different reason with a different goal we are here to conquer?

Pernille says:

3 months 2 weeks ago
Dear Khadija, Thank you so much for showing your interest. Personally, I do not believe in “the one big goal" per se. To me, 'meaning' is personal in the sense that we all will have to define and chose the right direction for ourselves in order to make life fulfilling or meaningful. And perhaps the question is not so much about the meaning of life, but rather about finding out what is important on a personal level and from there define what we want to pursue. If you want more, I could recommend you to dive a bit deeper into the philosophical discussions about 'meaning of life', it's quite interesting to read the different perspectives: from Existentialists thinking life has no meaning, over religious Naturalists saying that the question itself is meaningless to Darwinians, of course, thinking that the real meaning of life is to produce more life. Enjoy! Warm regards Pep

Paul says:

3 months 3 weeks ago
What do you recommend for people that already have goals for their life but still can't find that spark of happiness, or reason to get out of bed each morning and face the day? Cheers, Paul

Pernille says:

3 months 3 weeks ago
Dear Paul, Thank you for your question. There can be many reasons why we loose motivation in our lives: we can be going through difficult times – professionally or in private life, or perhaps we spend too much time with people who drain us rather than energize us, maybe we find our work life unsatisfying etc. etc. The list of possible reasons is long! Bottom line is, we need to take symptoms as de-motivation seriously and do a reality check to find out what need to be fixed or changed. If a person have goals already, you could do a check on them also – asking: Are the goals according to this person's values? If not, then he/she don't waste energy pursuing them and therefore they need to be reformulated according to this person's ethics and moral principles. Are the goals means to an end and not rewarding in themselves? (As problematised in my blog post). Are we talking 'Everest goals' that need to be broken down into smaller steps/sub-goals, in order to motivate? (Referring to the SMART-goal section). Or maybe the goals need to be more challenging? Goals that are too easy for us to pursue are not satisfying either, nor rewarding to achieve. I will definitely recommend a 360 degree life check-up to find reasons for this lack of energy and motivation. Warm regards Pernille

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