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What is the purpose of your life?

 

 

"Getting Started" page 3 of 3

What’s it all for anyway? Why this? Why that? What is our fundamental purpose, if it exists, for anything we do or anything we intend?

Ask Dwight How is all about "how to get the results or make the changes that we want." If, however, we are not clear about the ultimate purpose of our lives, "how" could take us in the wrong direction or may seem irrelevant to our concerns.

 

If you look deeply enough, you'll find that happiness is always at the end point of anything that we intend, anything that we want to move towards or move away from. I mean happiness in the broadest sense of the word, as described below.
 

Examples of happiness:

 

I am going to use the word “happiness” to denote this fundamental purpose. I mean happiness in the broadest sense of the word. It would include big things and small things. It would include moving away from unhappiness as well as moving towards happiness. Examples:

 

➩ The comfort in your right hand

➩ The pleasurable feeling from a massage

➩ The excitement about the possibilities of a project you are working on

➩ The delightful anticipation of meeting with a friend

➩ The feeling of adventure as you journey through your life

➩ The thought and feeling that you’re doing something important in the world, that you are making a difference in the world

➩ The memory of a beautiful romance you had

➩ The feeling of satisfaction when you did something that made someone else feel happy

➩ The feeling of appreciation for all the beauty in the world

➩ The feeling of loving another or feeling loved by another

➩ Not in pain

➩ Not suffering

➩ Not feeling depressed

➩ Not feeling resentment

➩ Not feeling guilty


 

The description of happiness

 

A most general description of happiness is:

 

➩ Feeling great in your body, in your mind, and in your spirit

 

➩ Loving and living the in-the-moment of your life with an excitement and anticipation for your future; feeling fulfilled both in the present and in the process and unfolding of your life; feeling gratitude for all that is and all that isn’t

 

➩ Loving and respecting yourself, others, and life just the way you are, just the way they are, and just the way life is...as well as just the way you and they and it are not.


 

What about non-happiness purposes?

 

You may also claim we have other purposes that don’t include just happiness. Of course we do. However, if you drill down on any given purpose, you will always find that the ultimate purpose is to feel happy now or to anticipate/intend/hope to feel happy in your future (which is just another aspect of feeling happy now).

 

Let’s take an example (even for someone who has some major issues):

 

John says, “My purpose is to provide a good future for my family.”

 

I ask, “Okay, John, and once you have provided a good future for your family, what will that give you?”

 

John: “Well, then I will have proven that I am a responsible head of my family.”

 

I ask, “And when you have proven that you are a responsible head of your family, what will that give you?”

 

John: “It will show that I am better than my father and my brother who abandoned their family responsibilities.”

I ask, “And once you have proven that you are better than your father and brother, what will that give you?”

 

John: “I can relax and feel that I’ve done my job in life.”

 

I ask, “And once you can relax and feel that you’ve done your job in life, what will that give you?”

 

John: “I will feel satisfied with myself.”

 

I ask, “And once you feel satisfied with yourself, what will that give you?”

 

John: “I will be happy.”

 

Now John is clear that his ultimate purpose is always happiness.

 

 

What about other possible life purposes? What have other thinkers suggested?

  • become acquainted with truth (Eliza Farnham)

    • Maybe nice if you were acquainted with the "truth," but if you were still unhappy, could that still be life's purpose?

  • to actually feel the rapture of being alive (Joseph Campbell)

    • Well, rapture of being alive is one big piece of happiness, but there are also other happinesses.​

  • to find out what kind of work he is to do in this universe (Thomas Carlyle)

    • Yes, this is another big happiness, but it's not the only one.​

  • to generate more love, peace and harmony in the world (Amit Ray)

    • Very nice and will likely result in happiness, and there are many other happinesses.​

  • to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously (Steve Maraboli)

    • "Greatest self"...not sure anybody can know what that means. ​I sure don't. Playing the game of making the future different is an important happiness in life, and being courageous helps to create happiness, but there are many other types of happiness.

  • directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom (Albert Einstein)

    • "Ennobling"? Not sure of the meaning. Animals are "mere physical" and we suffer much more than they do. A sense of freedom and power can be gratifying. His idea of life purpose is quite limited.​

  • true glory consists in doing what deserves to be written, in writing what deserves to be read, and in so living as to make the world happier and better for our living in it (Pliny the Elder)

    • "Deserves" can be an very ambiguous word and is often toxic. Contributing to others can be a deep source of happiness. This expression of our life purpose is muddy and limited.

  • to live, learn, and love (Christine Rice)

    • For the most part, we need to live to be happy (as far as I know dead people are not happy...or unhappy either). However, if life gets to a point where there is more overall pain than pleasure, to be happier, death would be the best choice. Learning and loving, of course, can stimulate much happiness.​

  • to raise men nearer to the likeness of God (John Widtsoe)

    • This statement of purpose is quite problematic, unless we provide a definition of God as being someone who is super happy. ​The God of the Old Testament might provide a good example of who NOT to be like. He was fickle, vindictive, and cruel.

  • to contribute in some way to making things better. (Robert Kennedy)

    • Contributing can be a lot of fun...but it is just one of many happinesses...very limiting as a life purpose.​

  • to obey Allah and to perform good deeds (Hazrat Ali Ibn Abu-Talib A.S)

    • Obeying Allah (assuming you knew what He was commanding you to do) may work against happiness in this lifetime (both for you and others)​; "good deeds" for others is just one of many things that can make us happy.

  • to think what is true, to sense what is beautiful and to want what is good, hereby the spirit finds purpose of a life in reason (Johann Herder)

    • "Think what is true" can be bring happiness, but it is even more helpful to think what cannot be known for sure (for example, that everything in life is a gift)​; a feeling of beauty will bring happiness; "want what is good" is problematic, especially since many of us have dysfunctional ideas of what is "good."

  • to know oneself (Mahatma Ghandhi)

    • "To know oneself" could be helpful, but how can one know that they do not already know themselves? And, if you "​knew yourself" and still were not happy, how could that possibly be a valid life purpose?

  • to cleanse and purify ourselves in order to achieve full enlightenment, to help others achieve freedom from suffering (Buddhism)

    • If "cleanse and purify" means to rid oneself of desires and wants, then Buddhism's aim is to rid us of some major joys of life, which is the enjoyment and nourishing of desires​ and their satisfactions. If Buddhist practices help us to be less attached to the fulfillment of any particular desire, then this can support an increase our happinesses. Contributing to others is also a source of happiness if it is done without self-sacrifice.

  • to live life, to taste it, to experience it to the utmost (Elenor Roosevelt)

    • ​Sounds pretty good, although it begs the question, "how would you know that you were doing that?​​", except by the metric of happiness. And some might interpret it to include "experiencing pain and depression to the utmost." That certainly is not a valid life purpose, unless it could be shown as a necessary road to happiness (which is rarely the case).

  • to find your gift and give it away (Pablo Picasso)

    • This is certainly a major source of happiness, but just one of many.​

  • to live a life of purpose (Robert Byrne)

    • To play the game of making the future different than it otherwise would be is an important part of loving life and creating happiness. But again, it is only half of the equation (or even less).​

  • to worship The One True God in everything that we do (Quran, Dr. Bilal Philips)

    • To the extent that we wear the ​glasses of gratitude our life will be happier. If "worshipping The One True God" is an expression of gratitude for everything that occurs in our life, then this could be a major source of happiness. However, this is often taken to mean "following the rules of The One True God." To the extent that those (often contradictory) rules create internal suffering, then this cannot be a valid life purpose. Just to cite one of the many contradictions, I share with you Ambrose Bierce's definition of selfishness: "devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others."

  • to do all to the glory of God (Bible)

    • Same as for the Quran.​

  • 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)

    • Yes, all of these could contribute to happiness, but not necessarily. These words are very fuzzy: useful for what (winning fights?), honorable according to whom (honor killings?), compassionate (but at what cost?), made a difference (in what?). Lived well (what does that mean?) Any of these could easily be interpreted in ways that lead away from happiness.

  • to just be alive (Alan Watts)

    • If you're in major suffering and there's little prospect of it ending, to be alive creates even more suffering...how could that be a valid life purpose? And, even if you're not suffering, to tell someone (or yourself) that their life purpose is to be alive, that provides no basis for making important distinctions or for directed actions.​

  • to feel it’s made some difference that you have lived at all (Leo Rosten)

    • Yes, feeling this​ can contribute to one's own happiness. But it's limiting as the expression of one's life purpose.

Aren’t there exceptions to happiness as our fundamental purpose?

Here are two instances that may appear as exceptions.

 

You might ask about masochism. How is masochism seeking for happiness? Masochists have developed a triggered association between certain types of physical pain and other types of psychological pleasure (“feeling loved” or “getting attention,” as two examples). They have found that they can get the psychological pleasure by way of the physical pain, most often when inflicted by another person.

 

Another questions is, “How is suicide an expression of moving towards happiness?” Moving towards happiness includes moving away from unhappiness (suffering). People kill themselves because their current level of pain/suffering is high and they are not present to any good chance of moving towards happiness (which includes lack of suffering). Given these circumstances, they feel that the option of feeling nothing (assuming that is their idea of what death entails) is better than what they currently have or think they could have. Some religious people, who believe they will go to hell if they kill themselves, may be more likely to not kill themselves because the idea of that future suffering looms larger than their current suffering. And, if they also believe they will go to heaven (a condition of happiness) if they don’t kill themselves, they may be further motivated to accept their current pain in exchange for that future chance of being happy. They too, are fundamentally motivated (within the circumstances of their belief system) to move away from unhappiness and towards happiness (if they also believe they will go to heaven). In the circumstances of the person intending to kill themselves, their ultimate purpose is also happiness.

 

This is the design of all human beings.


 

Just two fundamental issues

 

Ask a life and lifestyle coach for over thirty years, I have discovered that just two fundamental issues need to be understood and addressed in order to maximize our happiness and minimize our unhappiness. Just two!  Once you understand these two fundamental issues, as well as the new questions and approaches you will need to use to resolve these issues, applying these new questions and approaches to your daily life, each day will become a new opening for self-expression, self-inspiration, fulfillment, accomplishment, learning, growth, and great relationships with others.


 

#1) The my-now versus my-next issue

 

The first (and most) fundamental issue is the relationship between your my-now (the part of you that just wants to feel good now) and your my-next (the part of your that wants your future to feed good). Commonly, for the vast majority of people, these two parts are at war with each other. Using Ask Life How, you will learn how to end this war, creating peace and cooperation between your my-now and my-next.

 

#2) The my-me versus my-you issue

 

The second fundamental issue is the relationship between your my-me (the part of you that wants to take care of yourself, take care of what you need and want) and your my-you (the part of you that cares about others and wants others to like, love, and approve of you). For substantially all people, these two factions are at war within themselves, often on a daily basis. Again, with Ask Life How, you will know how to end this war, creating peace and cooperation between your my-me and your my-next.


 

"Ask Dwight How" is about creating a foundation of new understandings in your life, through a set of easily learnable tools and distinctions, to minimize your unhappiness and maximize your happiness, both short-term and long-term. Quickly!

 

"Ask Dwight How" (ADH) is easily accessible to solve one problem (click here if you want to go to that section) at a time or to learn to use the whole “toolbox,” as you are doing now, whichever way fits best for you.