Have you ever watched a leaf floating aimlessly in a river or a stream? While that may seem peaceful, imagine if you were that leaf. You'd be carried away by the current with no direction and sometimes you'd get stuck somewhere or even smashed into a rock. This is what it's like when you have no purpose. You move through your days with no zest or meaning.
The Importance of Purpose
Purpose is especially important in midlife. At a time when the body is changing and the metabolism is slowing down, purpose actually gives you a physical boost. A study conducted at the University of Michigan, found that people with higher levels of purpose have better physical agility than those who report less purpose. And those people with a sense of purpose were 14 percent less likely to experience physical declines in grip strength and walking speed.
Another study at the University of Cambridge found that women who find purpose and meaning in life are less likely to have anxiety. Perhaps that's because no matter what life throws your way, you'll weather stresses better because you have something else to focus on.
Searching for Meaning
Sometimes it can feel like grasping at the clouds. Or it can feel like a life-long marathon with meandering paths that lead nowhere. In midlife however, it feels urgent. The need to find your true purpose becomes an obsession that pervades almost every decision you make, even what to wear to the grocery store. You're trying to find it before you run out of time. But there is this overriding sense that you still have something to do before you leave this planet, and that's what drives you to continue searching.
The Answer is Not What You Think
There is no personality test you can take, no book you can read, or no weekend retreat that will give you the answer. I know because I've tried them all and the answer is not what I thought it would be. In fact, the answer is the question. Stay with me, I know this is getting a little like "The Matrix" but hear me out:
The question you Google incessantly is "How do I find my purpose in life?" The fact that you are even asking the question means you are on the path. You are aware. Being aware is part of your purpose but there's more...
When you are more aware, you are more likely to see things that need your help. The trick is to stay in that awareness WITHOUT the anxiety of not knowing exactly what comes next.
Be Aware of What Needs Your Attention
Follow the things you feel need your attention. Those are usually the things that you're good at, and when you take action toward those things you begin to feel your purpose. Here's an example from my own life:
A friend of mine was experiencing a major upheaval in her career. This caused serious anxiety so much that she needed to take a leave of absence. When I found out, I reached out to her to ask if she wanted to have lunch. I shared with her a time in my life when the same thing happened to me. I had such bad panic attacks that I couldn't leave my house for weeks. We talked and laughed about how bad the anxiety got for both of us. As we were saying goodbye after lunch she asked me when we could meet again because she felt so much better after talking to me. We met for lunch regularly after that. And I felt so good about helping her.
Purpose doesn't have to be earth shattering or on a grand scale. It can simply be moments when you feel that you are needed. But you have to get quiet and listen because you could miss it if you don't pay attention.
May I suggest trying a short 5-minute meditation? Here's a guided meditation I created. See how you feel after and let me know. I'd love to hear from you!