The second key to contented living is Purpose. Purpose is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. It provides a channel for passion. One might have multiple Purposes. Generally speaking, one can arrive at his or her Purpose(s) by thinking about goals and then zooming out to find the greater good being attempted. Some examples include: to help others, to work hard, to connect with others, to earn the respect of others, to create, to love passionately, to grow the healthy self, to be a good parent and/or spouse, to lead a spiritual life, to manage life's challenges with grace, etc. It's my belief that living with purpose(s) leads to a more content life. Let's look at how Purposes look different from Goals (goal-setting being highly touted in our society) and then examine why living with intention around your Purpose(s) works.
How living with Purpose differs from living to accomplish a Goal
Goals are tangible, measurable accomplishments we try to achieve at a given point in the future. As such, they become another distinct marker of success or failure. If not approached carefully, goals can get co-opted by our propensity for black and white thinking; meet a goal, you're a success...fail to meet a goal, you're a failure. This is a risk. The real issue here, in my opinion, is that goals are typically celebrated only after they are achieved, and then another goal is quickly set and the past accomplishment is forgotten. As a result, there is little opportunity left on a day-to-day basis to celebrate one's good work. For those with eating disorders or other mental health struggles, goal-setting is especially tricky, because disorders are excellent at coming up with goals that serve their own purposes. Remember that numbers, rigid thinking, and tangible markers of progress can be easily co-opted by one's disordered parts.
Purposes are something you wake up and work with every single morning. One can actualize purpose in many micro-moments throughout his or her day. For this reason, living with Purpose offers many more opportunities for celebration and positive reinforcement. Because this motivator is harder to quantify, it becomes less likely to be storied as a failure. There are numerous opportunities to get back on the horse. You can sleep soundly each night, knowing you lived that day with your purpose(s) in mind. What are some Purposes in your life?
Why living with Purpose works
Purpose gets us out of our heads and into relationship with the world. As such, we're less likely to spin around our critical thoughts and feel isolated from others or alone in the world. Living with purpose creates connections that help us feel more grounded and present. Because Purpose is more generalized than a specific goal, we can even connect with others around our common purposes.
Here's the cool part of it: Approaching each day with purpose will ultimately lead to accomplishing goals. By shifting our attention to the purposes in our lives, we focus on the process and not the end result. As a result, we not only feel more content, but I believe we set ourselves up for greater and more frequent achievements.