If you know me well, you know that as much as I’d like to be I’m not much of a reader. In fact, I really don’t read very much at all, -unfortunately so. However, in efforts to improve my reading ability, I’ve recently started to read a new book: Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner. I was inspired to read this book after having read Buettner’s original Blue Zones, and even though I haven’t finished this second book yet, it has proven to be just as informative and inspiring as the first.
Although there is so much I could discuss in regards to the ideas presented in his novel and the correlation between one’s happiness and longevity, I’m going to focus one of three components proven to be essential to one’s happiness: purpose. I’m particularly interested in the idea of one’s purpose as it’s very applicable to my life right now, and hopefully my thoughts will provide a little insight for you as well.
In Japan they call it ikigai (as I learned in the Blue Zones of Happiness book); meaning your reason to wake up in the morning, but we’re just gonna refer to it as your purpose for now.
Having been in school for my entire life, (in exception of this year), I’ve never really questioned my purpose because the whole reason for being in school is to get an education for later employment and financial stability. So it’s safe to say that your purpose as a student is pretty clear, and it’s also easy not to question it because your educational quest can be quite a long journey (depending on the extent to which you wish to educate yourself, of course). But what happens when your life’s on pause? When you’re in the transition stage? Maybe this transition period will be before you start your post-secondary degree, before you start working after high school, in the years between completing your college or university degree, before or during your post-grad education, or even between career changes, the options are endless but the question remains the same. What is your purpose?
At first, I thought that this question was only relevant to me right now because I’m waiting to go back to school, and that once I do, my purpose will be clear again…But then I realized that everyone is going to ask themselves this question at one point in their lives, and perhaps I’ve only been presented with an earlier opportunity to do so because of my current absence in school. This is not to say I won’t have to answer this question at any other point in my life, but I can answer it now, now that I have time to think and explore my interests and passions without academic priorities.
Once I go back to school in the fall, my over-arching ‘purpose’ as a student will return. Although I use the term purpose lightly now because as a student, your purpose is rather temporary because once you get to your final destination, what will be your purpose then? And even as a student, it’s important to remember that being a student doesn’t have to be your only purpose, in fact it shouldn’t be and here’s why.
While reading the Blue Zones book, it was made very clear that the people whose purpose made a significant contribution to their happiness had a purpose that had very little to do with them and very much to do with everyone else. It was answering more to how they can help others rather than how they can help themselves. In the end and in the process of doing so, they really did end up helping themselves as they have proven to be some of the happiest people in the world.
Now at this point you’re probably wondering a few things, one being how can you find your purpose? And another asking yourself why I’m discussing this topic in the first place and what gives me the expertise to express such a perspective?
Well, to answer your first question, and based on what I’ve learned from my book, try and discover what you enjoy doing for others, volunteer and explore your passions to see how you can use them to bring something positive to your family, friends or community and maybe when you meet someone new, no matter who there are, ask yourself, how can I help? What can I learn from this person and what can they learn from me? These actions can be as big or as small as you would like them to be and a lot of it has to do with an optimistic outlook, but the important thing is that you’re doing something for others and ultimately discovering your own purpose.
Now, to answer your second question, I do not have any superior knowledge that would allow me to tell you what to do or what not to do and I’m not trying to convince you of anything. You can retain as much or as little as you’d like from this post; I just wanted to share with you something positively enlightening from my book, something that is of particular importance to me right now as I seek to find my own purpose, and maybe by sharing this with you, it will move me one step closer to doing just so.
Also published on Medium.