In their book, The Good Life, professors Waldinger and Schulz make an unassailable argument that to be happy in life humans need healthy, intimate relationships. I affirm that, but I would add at least one more factor: To be happy in life, humans need purpose. We need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
We know what purpose is so I’ll not spend time on that topic. A more difficult, puzzling topic is: Why do some people have purpose in life and some don’t? While some people have enough vision, purpose and drive for three lifetimes, many people don’t. Is it a rare gene? Why do some people constantly need a push from behind—-they need to be “motivated”—-while others bemoan not having enough hours in the day to get it all done? Are some people born with a predisposition toward purpose and motivation while others will never have it?
The older I get, the more I’m convinced that some people have it and some don’t, and the ones that don’t probably never will. It truly saddens me to come to this conclusion and I’m happy for you to push back and argue that I’m wrong.
I don’t think it’s a matter of childhood environment, training, or coaching. Two siblings, born into the same family and raised in the same environment, can be treated the same and have similar opportunities and challenges, but one finds purpose and is driven toward it and the other one doesn’t.
Through the years I’ve tried training and coaching people relative to developing vision, but if the seed is not there, it does no good to water and cultivate the soil. But, if the seed is there, it responds well to water and cultivation.
I think purposelessness can contribute to depression, whereas being excited about the future and being engaged in meaningful planning and activity is an antidote.
I want to end this post with a hint of optimism and hope. If you don’t have purpose in life, keep searching. Stories abound of people who found purpose later in life. If it still doesn’t come, just commit to living a steady and useful life. Even if you never sense a unique purpose for your life, carry on.