“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here’s the truth, my heart used to pop right out of its sac whenever someone would tap me on the shoulder and ask
“ What is it that you want to do with your life? “
If you think that this question is as simple as it’s complex — you are not wrong.
Life is very complex.
We, the humans are also very complex.
So, before you think that out of the 7 billion people in the whole world, you are the only one looking to grasp what you are supposed to do with your life — just stop.
The truth is, every Tom, Dick and Harry is facing the same problem — they’re all trying to find their purpose in this world.
Just like you, they question if they‘re doing the right thing, if they’re on the right path, if they’re truly happy with the decisions they’ve made in their life.
Trust me on this, you will never again crave to be in the shoes of that young CEO, of that successful medical doctor and that your friend that became rich out of the blues — if you understand that all of us are in this maze of life together with no clarity of what’s going to happen.
Even though that life is a rollercoaster ride, a maze full of endless possibilities — it’s highly important that everyone understands why we are here in the first place.
What is the purpose of life? Unlike life itself, it’s not complex. But before we get to that, it’s of great necessity that we understand what the purpose of life isn’t.
Let’s take a deep dive into it.
Why the Achievement of Goals is NOT the Purpose of Life (And Why It May Destroy You).Once upon a time, there lived a wise man. He was the head of a small village. Everyone respected him and his views and opinions were well regarded.
Many people came to him seeking for advice.His son, however, was very lazy and wasted his time sleeping and spending time with his friends. No amount of advice or threat made any difference to him. He wouldn’t change at all.
The years passed, and with time faded the youth of the wise man. As he grew older, he began to worry about his son’s future.
He recognized the need to give something to his son so that he can take care of himself and his family to be.
One day, he called his son to his room and said-“My son, you are no more a kid now. You must learn to take responsibilities and understand life.”I want you to find the real purpose of your life and when you find it remember it always and you will lead a life full of happiness and joy.”
Then he handed his son a bag. When the son opened the bag, he was surprised to see 4 pair of clothes, one for each season. There also were some raw food, grains, lentils, little money and a map.
His father continued-“I want you to go find a treasure. I have drawn a map of the place where the treasure is hidden, you need to go and find it.”
The son loved this idea. The next day, he eagerly set out on a journey to find the treasure.
He had to travel really far across borders, forests, plateaus and mountains.Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months.
Along the way, he met a lot of people. He was helped by some with food and by some with shelter. He also came across robbers who tried to rob him.
Slowly the season changed and so did the landscapes along with it. When the weather was unpleasant, he halted for the day and continued his journey when the weather cleared.
Finally, after a long year, he reached his destination. It was a cliff. The map showed the treasure being placed below the cliff under the tree. Upon spotting the tree, he began to dig the ground. He searched and searched- around it, under it, on it- but found nothing. He spent two days looking and digging for the treasure.
By the third day, he was so exhausted that he decided to leave.Disappointed over his father’s lie, he headed back to his home.
On his way back, he experienced the same changing landscapes and seasons.
This time, however, he halted to enjoy the blooming flowers in spring and the dancing birds in monsoon.
He stayed in places only to watch the sun set in paradise or to enjoy pleasant summer evenings.Since, the supplies he carried were over by then, he learned to hunt and make arrangement for his meals.
He also learned how to sew his clothes and shelter himself. He was now able to determine the hour of the day by the position of the sun and plan his journey accordingly.
He also learned how to protect himself from wild animals.He met the same people who had helped him earlier.
This time he stayed a few days with them and helped them in some or the other way to repay them.
He realized how nice they were to an ordinary passerby who had nothing to offer to them in return.
When he reached home, he realized it had been two years since he left the place. He walked straight into his father’s room. “Father”, – He said.
The father immediately jumped to his feet and hugged his son.
"So how was your journey my son, did you find the treasure” he asked.
"The journey was fascinating father. But forgive me for I wasn’t able to find the treasure. Maybe somebody took it before I reached.”
He surprised himself by what he just said. He wasn’t angry at his father. Instead, he was asking for forgiveness.
"There wasn’t’ any treasure in the very first place my son”-father answered smiling.
"But why did you send me to find it then”, he asked.
"I will surely tell you why, but first you tell me, how was your journey to the place? Did you enjoy it?”
"Of course not father! I had no time. I was worried someone else would find the treasure before I did. I was in a hurry to reach the cliff.” He continued-“but I did enjoy the journey on my way back home. I made many friends and witnessed miracles every day. I learned so many different skills and the art of survival. There was so much I learnt that it made me forget the pain of not finding the treasure.”
The father said to him- “Exactly my son. Want you to lead your life with a goal. But if you remain too focused on the goal, then you will miss out the real treasures of life. The truth is, life has no goal at all, other than to just experience it and grow with it every single day.”
Goals. Are. Awesome.
Or are they?
In a way, setting the right goals can help to make your dreams come true.
And that’s why goal setting is hailed as the golden step to success.
But no matter how shiny, good, and glorious your goals may be, they should never be your primary purpose or aim in life.
Did you know that goals work with the psychological principle known as hedonistic adaptation?
In simplest terms, this involves a condition where one has an unsatisfied desire, works to satisfy the desire and experiences pleasant but temporary feelings of desire-satisfaction as a byproduct when one reaches the goal.What follows is a void.
And the vicious cycle continues again.
It doesn’t require the investigative super powers of Sherlock Holmes to decipher that goals place a verdict of eternal condemnation of chasing after desires — just like the Greek gods of Olympus did to Tantalus.
The Elusive Nature of Happiness And Why it’s NOT the Purpose of Life
There once lived a King who, despite a life filled with luxuries, was neither happy nor content.
One day, the King came upon a common pleasant who was singing happily while he worked.
The happiness of a common man fascinated the King.Why was the ruler of the land with all the luxuries, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly peasant had so much joy in his life?
The King asked the man, “Why are you so happy?”
The man replied, “Your Majesty, I am a common man, but my family and I don’t need much, just warm food to fill us and a roof over our heads .”
The king was not satisfied with the man’s answer so, later in the day, he sought the advice from one of his most trusted advisers.
After listening to the King’s woes, the adviser said,
“Your Majesty, I believe that the man, you saw, has not yet been made part of The 99 Club.”
"The 99 Club? What is that?” inquired the King.
The adviser replied, “Your Majesty, to understand The 99 Club is, you first need to place 99 Gold coins in a bag and leave it on the man’s doorstep.”
After tiring day working in the fields, the man was returning back to his house when the man saw a bag on his doorstep.
He took the bag into his house and opened it. He let out a great shout of joy when he discovered that the bag was filled with gold coins. He began to count all the gold coins.
After several counts, he was convinced that there were 99 coins. He wondered, “What could’ve happened to that last gold coin? No one would leave just 99 coins!”
He looked everywhere he could, but he did not find the 100th coin. After a while, he was exhausted and decided that he was going to work harder than ever to earn that gold coin and complete his collection with the 100th coin.
From that day, the man’s life was changed. He overworked and turned horribly grumpy. He castigated his family for not helping him achieve his goal to earn the 100th gold coin. He stopped singing while he worked and only thought about getting the 100th coin to complete his collection.
The king witnessed the drastic transformation in the man and was puzzled. The king asked the advisor why the man wasn’t happy and satisfied anymore. The advisor replied, “Your Majesty, the man is now a member of The 99 Club.”He continued, “The 99 Club contains those people who have enough to be happy, but are not content, because they’re always striving for the extra one telling to themselves: “ will be happy if I get that one final thing in my life.”
They told me that when I become successful my life will be filled with happiness.
Others whispered in my ear like Lord Varys’ sneaky birds in Game of Thrones that the purpose of life is all about happiness and enjoyment.
I disagree with both.
In fact, you can still feel very sad, depressed and hollow even after you’ve been tagged “The Best Achiever" by the whole world.
And of course, it’s more than possible that being in the Forbes “Top 10 Richest Men in the World “ won’t save you from that hollow feeling born from the deepest parts of Hades.
If you want to be happy — you have to stop chasing happiness. When you chase it, it will always elude you.That is the paradox of happiness.
This is because the very principle of chasing happiness is all about attaching it to a particular event, object or achievement. Since you will always see better versions of what you have, you will never be happy until you get it.
And that is bad enough.
Therefore, if your purpose in life is to be happy — please stop right now.
Happiness is a byproduct of the main purpose of life which is the ACT being useful.
The Ultimate Purpose of Life: The Life Changing Magic of Being Useful
A group of people gathered in a room attending a seminar about life and happiness to learn to find happiness in their lives.
They were being taught various skills and lessons about life.
Suddenly, the speaker stopped and started giving each person a balloon.
He asked everyone to write one’s name on it using a pen.
All the balloons were then collected and taken to an another room.
Now, these delegates were let in that room and asked to find the balloon which had their name written, within 5 minutes.
Everyone was frantically searching for their name, pushing, colliding with each other, and there was utter chaos.
No one could find their balloons within the given five minute time and they all had to return to the other room empty handed.
Then they were told to go to the other room and randomly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it.
Within five minutes everyone was carrying the balloon with their name on it.
The speaker began: This is exactly happening in our lives. No one is interested in being exactly USEFUL to another. Everyone is looking out just for their own benefits — caring less about others.
But that is wrong.
The purpose of life is to be USEFUL to others.
This in concordance with the words of JohnMichael Okwuolia when he viewed the purpose of life as the impact which you make in the world — the reason why God created you.
Always be useful.
Everyone is frantically looking for happiness, wealth and success all around, not knowing where it is.
Our happiness lies in the happiness, our wealth lies in the wealth of others and our success lies in the success of other people.
And all these originate from being useful to others.
Being useful can magically transform your life and make you to become who you never imagined that you would be.
Remember the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson at the beginning of this article, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
To sign off, I will reecho the words of Darius Foroux “Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t overthink it. Just DO something that’s useful. Anything.”
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