A number of readers have written to ask how they should go about finding their Purpose in life.
This question has several implicit assumptions. Firstly, it is assumed that each person DOES have a Purpose in life.
Secondly, it is assumed that the Purpose ought to be discoverable now or in the near future, as opposed to, say, at a much later stage in life.
Thirdly, it is assumed that each person only has ONE purpose.
Of course, none of these assumptions are necessarily true. For example, it may well be that the Universe hasn’t assigned a specific Purpose to you that you are supposed to discover – instead you'll have to choose your own Purpose and stick to it.
Or it may well be that you do have a Purpose assigned to you by a Higher Power, but this Purpose will unfold itself to you not now, not tomorrow, but 5, 10, 15 or 20 years later, when the time is right.
Or it may well be that you could have several different Purposes at any given time, or alternatively you could have a Purpose at a particular time, and another Purpose at another time in your life.
Now let’s look at all this in a practical way, by revisiting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
People wondering about their Purpose in life are actually wondering what they should be doing at Level 5, when they get there.
But maybe they should get there first, that is, climb right up into Level 5, and then their Purpose (or Purposes) will become clear to them.
In other words, take care of your Level 1 – 4 needs first, and then (and only then) may your Level 5 needs become crystal clear to you.
Remember, Maslow’s needs are hierarchical. A person facing big challenges at Level 1 would be unclear about Levels 2 or 3. A person who is facing big challenges at Levels 2 or 3 would be unclear about Level 4.
And to be clear what you want at Level 5, perhaps what you need to do is to fully address your Level 1 to 4 needs.
Consider for example, Gautama Buddha, who was once a prince. As a prince, he had power, respect, authority, riches, royal luxuries, palaces, guards, servants and furthermore, parents who loved him so much that they did not want to know him to know that pain, suffering or death existed.
In other words, Gautama Buddha had just about everything that anyone could want, at Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4.
And that, perhaps, was why he was eventually able to launch into such a determined, inspired effrt into satisfying his Level 5 need (in his case, the need to understand the ultimate meanings of life).
And eventually he attained Enlightenment – but that is not the point of my post. The point of my point is – perhaps you can discover your Purpose only after satisfying your every other lesser purpose, goal, desire or ambition first.
And then your Purpose – the one with the capital P – may finally unfold itself to you.