Most of us will probably feel a lack of purpose at some point in our lives. Whether you’re between jobs and unsure what to do with yourself, or you’re unhappy with your personal or social life; a feeling of purposelessness can leave you feeling empty, hopeless, or like life is meaningless.
While it can seem like there’s no end to this feeling in the moment, this isn’t the case. There are things that can be done to help you regain your purpose and begin to find the joy in life again. The first place to look when you feel like you’re lacking purpose is inward. While there are a number of external factors that contribute to this feeling, often the main causes can be identified within.
- A General Dissatisfaction
A primary reason for a lack of purpose is a general feeling that you are not satisfied with life. But what does it mean to be satisfied with life? In general, one can measure their level of satisfaction with their life by answering a few simple questions. These include comparing your real life with what you would deem your ideal life, and asking yourself whether you would change anything if you could redo your whole life. If you believe you lack purpose, chances are that your level of satisfaction with life will be quite low.
However, there are things that you can do to change this. The main places we find satisfaction in our lives are from our work, from our hobbies, and from our relationships. Think about your work; are you doing something that you feel is worthwhile? Do you feel like you are making a positive contribution to the world? If not, you may be unsatisfied with your work and this may be the source of your feeling of purposelessness.
2. Feeling stuck or trapped
Unfortunately, for a large number of us, finding a job you love is not all that realistic. But don’t despair; a drastic shift in career may not be necessary. First, try looking at the other possible sources of satisfaction in your life. Look at what you enjoy doing in your free time. If you ask yourself the same questions as before about your hobbies and still find the answers to be ‘no’, it may be time to look for a new pastime. Try something different, something you’ve always wanted to do yet found excuses not to. You may be able to find satisfaction in your life this way. Just because it isn’t making you money, doesn’t mean it isn’t beneficial to you and your sense of fulfilment in life.
3. Bad relationships
Some may argue that the best way to find satisfaction in life is through our social relationships. Friendship and romantic relationships can fulfil us emotionally and physically, which contributes massively to our overall life satisfaction. If you’re not finding satisfaction in your existing relationships, you should try to branch out and meet new people. This doesn’t mean completely abandoning all of your old relationships; that isn’t necessary unless you’re finding them to be toxic and harmful. It just means trying to find your tribe; this is a group of people with whom you can connect over mutual interests, feel a true sense of belonging, and form satisfying, fulfilling relationships.
4. Under pressure
Despite all of this advice, maybe you find the idea of needing a purpose to be a lot of pressure. And you’re right; the thought that you won’t find happiness if you don’t find the one thing you’re meant to dedicate your life to is pretty scary. If this is how you feel, try simply following your curiosities. You don’t have to find a purpose straight away. Why not try to enjoy the ride? You could discover a lot about yourself and may just accidentally find your purpose along the way.
5. Poor mental health factors
Bear in mind that a prolonged feeling of purposelessness can be an indicator of depression. You can identify this if it has become difficult to find enjoyment in things that you used to love doing. This may mean that you have given up on your hobbies all together. Another sign is that you feel the need to isolate yourself and cut ties with important people in your life.
If you find that this advice is unhelpful to you and that your attempts to remedy your lack of purpose are consistently unsuccessful, you should see your GP for an assessment. Whether depression is the source of your lack of purpose, the best way to combat this is through professional help.
After assessing all of these possible causes for your feeling of purposelessness, — and you still haven’t identified the root of your problems — it may be time to look at external factors, such as social circumstance or even bereavement. The main thing to remember is that this feeling isn’t permanent and it can be overcome.
Written by Adena Dewar
Adena is a Modern Languages graduate with a background in literature and creative writing. Through her writing she aims to promote healthy conversations about mental health and wellbeing and give readers the tools with which to improve their own quality of life.