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What is Life Purpose?

Updated: Nov 12

What Is Life Purpose?

Life purpose is defined as having set goals and a direction for one's life. Many of us think of life purpose and meaning in life as the same thing, but they are slightly different. More specifically, it's thought that life purpose, or engaging in purpose-driven behaviours, is just one thing that contributes to a meaningful life. When you have purpose in your life, you likely feel good about the way you are living your life. You might feel that there is some ultimate reason for your actions and that you are contributing to the world in some important way. This gives you a sense of satisfaction and connectedness which can help you reach higher levels of well-being.


How Do You Define Life Purpose?

Life purpose means different things to different people. One study suggests that there are four different types of purpose. These types are:

  • Prosocial. Defined as a propensity to help others and influence the societal structure

  • Creative. Defined as artistic goals and a propensity for originality

  • Financial. Defined as goals of financial well-being and administrative success

  • Personal recognition. Defined as one's desire for recognition and respect from colleagues

People vary on how much they pursue each of these types of purpose. But if our goal is to increase happiness and well-being, then focusing our efforts on the prosocial type of purpose is the best strategy. Specifically, get involved in projects that help others in some way and try to “give back” in ways that matter to you.


Finding Meaning in Life

Although life purpose and life meaning are not quite the same things, it seems helpful to talk about meaning in life here as well. ​The factors that are thought to make up a meaningful life include values, principles, purpose, accomplishment, and excitement.

  • Valuing life: Seeing life’s inherent value

  • Living by principles: Having a personal philosophy that guides your life

  • Purpose: Having clear goals and intentions

  • Accomplishment: Setting and reaching personal goals

  • Excitement in life: A sense that life is exciting, interesting, or engaging

Each of these things individually contributes to a greater sense of meaning in life. So ask yourself, how strong do you feel in each of these areas and what could you do to focus more on each of these things?


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