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My 7 Keys to a Purposeful Life

In this article, I share my seven keys to a purposeful life the seven things I do that make me feel most alive and that my life is worth living.

Though the specifics vary from person to person, I think it’s crucial to work on these seven areas if you want to feel you have a purposeful life and be excited to live it.

Keys to a Purposeful Life #1: Have an Overarching Vision

It’s crucial for me to have an overarching vision for my life. This is a set of guiding principles and a big-picture view of life’s meaning and my role here. This acts as a strong foundation for all my actions and plans.

You can also call this your Life Purpose or your Ikigai, which is the Japanese term.

In my case, I see life as a journey of learning, enjoyment, advancement, and increasing spiritual knowledge. As such, my vision is to learn, grow and become spiritually wiser, while also remembering to enjoy and cherish the pleasures of life.

Everything else ties into this vision in one way or another. While I don’t neurotically check whether everything I do lines up with my overarching vision, I use it to guide my big decisions. If my relationships, work, hobbies or goals didn’t align with my Ikigai, I’d know it, and I’d feel myself withering on the vine.

This vision comes from extended study of philosophy, spirituality, science and psychology, and from my experience with what fulfills me most. It’s based on both objective and subjective facts.

Without this, life just passes me by, and I’m not really sure why I’m here. My purpose becomes vague and petty, and I lose verve. I don’t really feel alive.

Create the Vision

Here’s the thing: if you don’t have a conscious overarching vision for your life, you’ll likely end up with the tacit, uninspiring, generalised one that your family and friends live by. If you’re happy in life, no problem. But if you sense unrealised potential inside, you’re likely being stifled by this mundane vision. You need to live according to your own.

What is your raison d’etre? What is your life all about? Why are you alive?

If you don’t have clear, well-developed, authentic answers to these questions, or notice yourself resorting to platitudes, I doubt you have an Ikigai.

Don’t just choose any old vision for the sake of it. Look to your deepest yearnings and fascinations: these are the pillars of your vision, the beacons that guide your way.

Then you have to bring it down from the mind and into the concrete, 3D, nitty-gritty world by taking small actions over years and years.

This doesn’t mean you can only rest once you feel aligned: you’ll likely feel a deeper satisfaction and clarity the moment you realise your life calling.

Keys to a Purposeful Life #2: Passionate Career

Though many claim that passion is unimportant or even damaging in career, I beg to differ. I’ve known from a very young age that I had to make money by doing something that I loved, otherwise I wouldn’t lead a purposeful life. I lived for so long in an environment full of passionless adults that I dreaded getting older and having to work. I always knew it was crucial to have passion in career.

Yet in my teens I got swept away by the tide of external expectations and almost became an actuary. It was only at the end of my degree that I realised I didn’t want to spend my life as a white-collar slave.

Roll on 5-10 years, I can gladly say that though I’m yet to reach the age of 30, I’m certain about what my passion is, and I’m getting close to building a full-time career from it. I know that my path is to be an entrepreneur.

And looking back now, I think I’d be seriously miserable if I had indeed become an actuary.

If this interests you, here are a few tips to make it happen. And yes, you must make it happen: nobody is going to give you it.

How to do it

After going through this process and being self-employed since I left university, I’m now convinced it’s possible to monetise any passion and make a career from it.

Though my goal here isn’t to disprove career myths, I will say that:

  • If I amn’t making money from it, I either lack experience, knowledge of the market, or technical know-how;
  • If monetising my passion kills it, I either haven’t found the right way to monetise it, or amn’t passionate enough;
  • If I doubt my ability to monetise it or whether it’s possible at all, I’m being too short-sighted;
  • If I don’t enjoy my work, I don’t enjoy my life.

It might help you to keep this in mind.

As for how to find your passion and make a living from it, I could make an entire course on this subject and will be writing more articles on it in the future. I’ll leave you with a few key tips:

  • Passion doesn’t preclude competence, hard work, and practicality – it fuels them;
  • Dream and be idealistic when forming the vision, then get practical;
  • Your passion should form part of your Ikigai or life purpose;
  • If you haven’t monetised it yet, it’s not your career;
  • The main hurdle is matching your dream to the market, then monetising it, but nowadays this is easier than ever;
  • Take lots and lots of action;
  • Be prepared for a struggle;
  • Think at least five years ahead.

Keys to a Purposeful Life #3: Meditation

Meditation has a lot to do with my feeling of having a purposeful life, not only because it’s one of my main forms of income, but because it contributes to my happiness in a way that nothing else does.

To quickly summarise, it has:

  • given me my life back and shown me how I rob myself of joy and fulfillment moment by moment by moment,
  • shown me unequivocally that all of my fulfillment is ultimately within me: I can’t find it anywhere else,
  • shown me that the here and now is the only place is there is, that nothing in it is outside of me, that it’s inherently full, regardless of surface-level conditions, and that it’s in my power to contact this inherent fullness.

This feeds back into my overarching life vision: my meditative insight motivates me to help others discover these insights for themselves, which is a key part of my Ikigai.

#4: Strong Hobbies

I always have several stimulating hobbies on the go. I’ve been studying Chinese for over four years, playing guitar and meditating for nearly a decade, and love reading books about topics related to the content I publish on this site. Sure, I watch films and the odd documentary, but most of my spare time goes towards these pursuits.

As a fervent autodidact, I love learning, watching myself improve over time, and reaching unexpected levels in new pursuits. I also like remaining challenged and engaged when I take my mind off my work and my income streams.

I also find myself looking forward to my free time and being alone rather than dreading it, which I find is surprisingly common among the people I know. Lacking strong hobbies, they tend to spend their time bingeing on Netflix or scrolling through their phone. This becomes a habit, and to me is a sad waste of our precious time.

I don’t advocate becoming neurotic about your free time, planning out every minute of every day, or denying yourself passive entertainment, but I do advocate having at least one hobby that you stick with and cultivate for years. Choose something you enjoy for its own sake and that stimulates you. Examples include languages, musical instruments, art, sewing, baking and gardening, though the possibilities are endless.

Keys to a Purposeful Life #5: Cultivate Your Interests

I also find great pleasure in cultivating my interests, whether they’re nascent or long-standing. For example, I’ve recently been appreciating art more than ever, so recently I went to a John Craxton exhibition at my local gallery. I’ve also been dipping my feet into making kombucha, wild-garlic pesto and bread at home.

These little things might seem insignificant, but I’ve found they keep me engaged and awake. They show me how vast and multilayered life is, and how little I’ve explored. This whets my appetite for discovery, helps me tap into the deeper order and helps me feel I’m leading a purposeful life. This is like a slow, continual death and rebirth of my identity, ever-expanding and evermore appreciative of the complexity of life.

On a deep level, I see life as an endlessly creative, complex organism expressing itself in uncountable ways. And as a human being, I believe part of my job is to appreciate that beauty and multiplicity. We come wired for it, and we all tap into it in our unique way. The possibilities for exploration are as numerous as human minds themselves. If you find yourself bored and unstimulated, perhaps its because you’re not seeing the depth and breadth of life’s multiplicity.

If you have any interests, particularly those that are nascent or untapped, you might find great pleasure and fulfillment in pursuing them. Take new classes, go to art galleries, listen to new music, try new food. It’s simple but powerful.

#6: Fulfilling Friendships

Though I feel very comfortable in solitude and use it as a spiritual practice, I’ve noticed that when I spend time with people I lack connection with, or go a while without socialising, I start becoming plagued by feelings of hollowness, self-doubt, purposelessness and melancholy.

I’m predominantly introverted, so I thrive when I have a few close friends. We don’t have to do fancy activities together a walk, cup of coffee, or meal is all I need. So long as there’s a genuine connection between us, I find it deeply fulfilling.

Keys to a Purposeful Life #7: Let Go of Bad Habits

Let me define bad habits as things we do habitually that give temporary satisfaction and cause lasting damage to our health and wellbeing.

Bad habits create dependency: it seems that if I’m not indulging in the habit, I lack excitement. Therefore, I seek it in those habits. Yet after I satisfy the urge for them and get the quick hit of pleasure, I usually return to a lower emotional state than I was in before. I become stuck in a loop and slowly the bad habits suck the life out of me and tinge life with meaninglessness.

And since they damage the body and mind, over time they destroy my verve and vitality.

I’m not fully free of bad habits, and the more I clean them up, the more of them I discover. Yet I also see that kicking them makes me more present, in control, and able to consciously invest my time where I want rather than being run by my animal-like urges.

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