Humans are not like other earthly creatures. We cannot live for only the biological imperative to survive and procreate. Humans require purpose. Lack of purpose is the greatest disease against which all of humanity must daily fight. It is the one disease that will not and cannot be overcome by advances in medicine.
You can’t have purpose on accident
Our existence is couched in a series of accidents. That we were born, when, where, and to whom are accidents (they were not accidents to our progenitors, but from our own point of view). Our genetic structure is an accident. The first language we hear, and therefore learn, and the first beliefs to which we are exposed, and therefore predisposed to, are accidents. Purpose can not come from accidents. We do not discover or live with purpose naturally, the way we grow physically.
None of these accidents are good or bad. The simply are. In your exploration and creation of purpose you may find that a meaningful life demands radical differences from the norms and beliefs in which you were raised. You may find that it demands beliefs and norms almost identical to those in which you were raised. Whatever the end result, the one consistent demand is that you choose it. You cannot discover and live a purposeful life by simply following rules handed down to you, taking the path of least resistance, and sitting idly on the conveyor belt you were plopped on. It’s not where it takes you that matters as much as who decided to go there. If it was not your decision, you will never find fulfillment from it.
Suffering with and without purpose
Suffering is terrible. It can also be valuable, in the same way the physical sensation of pain is valuable. Without it we would soon die of unattended wounds. Because pain is valuable doesn’t mean it’s noble or to be sought. Psychological suffering is the same.
To suffer is no noble deed. If the suffering is avoidable it’s a worthless or even cowardly thing to suffer. If the suffering is unavoidable your response to it can be heroic. There is nothing heroic about the suffering itself, but heroism can be found in someone who chooses to respond by finding meaning in unavoidable suffering.
Do not mistake your suffering for heroism. If it’s at all avoidable, the heroic thing to do is to escape from it. If not, create purpose in it.
There is no right decision
There is no decision that will give you purpose. Your life is not a series of binary choices, with the door on the left leading to meaninglessness and the door on the right leading to purposefulness. What you choose at each juncture of your life matters little compared to the fact that you, not someone else, choose. You can’t find a perfect version of your purposeful life. You have to create it by the undivided, definite choices you make. Consciously choose to do things you value and find meaningful. Consciously exit those that aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you choose so much as that you choose. Complaining about a path someone else pushed you down and against which you did not resist will not do.
Purposeful living is a process of exploration, experimentation, feedback, adjustment, and joy in the midst of it. There is no pressure to get it right because there is no right. There is better and worse, as determined by you. It requires self-knowledge and self-honesty to find your own scale of better and worse. It requires courage to abide by it.
Are you the 2%?
At any given moment 98% of us will choose – or rather not choose – to live by default. It is only the 2% who decide with definite purpose to act according to their own wishes who are really living. How often are you among them?