Shannon is an addiction warrior. At age 15 she watched her mother lose her life to an overdose. Devastated, she promised herself then not to fall down the same path. She understood the consequences of addiction better than most. Yet, she still found herself lost to drugs and alcohol for years. Until out of sheer desperation, she reached out for help. After eight months in a rehab program surrounded by love and care, she was able to hit restart on her life. She found purpose in life and the strength to change the course of her life.
As the new year begins, talk of change is in the air. Every advertisement, and social media post is filled with mantras on how to create change in the upcoming year. Solutions, tricks, and tips on how to break habits are found everywhere. If only it were as easy as it seems. For most of us, once the new year fades, with it the resolutions disappear.
So, how does one turn their life around?
The Power of Purpose
Viktor Frankl, in his famous Holocaust memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote about the power of meaning in life. Finding a purpose to live for, was what allowed him to fight on through the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. His purpose, was to one day print his life’s work of research and the hope to be reunited with his wife. In his book, he expanded on Nietzsche’s idea “One who has a why to live can endure almost any how.”
Finding a purpose to fight for his life was what carried him through the depths of horror to survival.
The Need for Purpose Now
Still dealing with the upheaval of the Covid pandemic, the future may seem bleak and uncertain. The rise in addiction, unemployment, and mental health issues since the pandemic does not paint a hopeful picture for society. This can lead to a loss of purpose, or desire to try to live for something bigger than one’s circumstances. Surrounded by constant uncertainty and instability, it is imperative to find within oneself strength to go on.
Like Shannon, to find purpose in life. To find a way to rise above surrounding circumstances.
Purpose and Health
How to find meaning in life, is a question many philosophers have pondered. Some believed the answer was in religion, others in giving to others. Regardless of the purpose, all have agreed that without purpose life is not found to be worth living. Purpose dictates one’s sense of identity, responsibility and more recently discovered physical health as well. Scientists have linked having a sense of purpose with increased physical and mental health benefits. They found that those with a sense of purpose are 15% more likely to live longer than those without. Having a sense of purpose protects one against the harm of stress, which creates many health problems.
There is no overarching rule when it comes to finding purpose. There are those who appear to be at the pinnacle of success, yet their lack of purpose eats them up inside. For each person, meaning and purpose differs. The trick is not to search for purpose but to focus on bringing meaning and intention to life.
How You Can Add Purpose to Your Life
- Ask yourself, what qualities you value most in yourself and others. Do you admire compassion, creativity, or ingenuity? Pick a quality that you admire and focus on one actionable item to do today. If it is kindness you admire, you would choose one small act of kindness to do today. Focusing your attention on increasing these positive qualities can add fulfillment to your life.
- Find additional opportunities for a purpose that is already present in your life. When we grow into our routine lives, we often miss opportunities for finding purpose and meaning in what we are already doing. If we choose to pay attention to what we are already doing, we can train ourselves to find meaning in it.
- Take a small approach. We can get lost in an all-or-nothing approach but the key to finding purpose may be in learning to find meaning in the smaller things. If we look to improve in tiny baby steps today, it can add up to a radical change in the future.
The door to addiction is often opened from feelings of emptiness. In the last year alone, over one hundred thousand Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses. In the struggle to find purpose and meaning, it is common to turn to escape routes for relief. Quitting requires tremendous strength. Finding a sense of purpose, something bigger than oneself to live for may be the key to surviving and thriving.
Like Shannon, it is possible to take control of your life and change its course.
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