“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
If you ask anyone what the purpose of life is, you’ll likely receive wildly different responses. The answer to this question is subjective and deeply personal. Different things are important to us throughout the course of our lives. Yet one thing stays with us no matter where we go: our experiences.
Finding ways to make the most of our experiences is a challenge that we face every day. As humans we ascribe value to the things we do, and it’s understandable. We like to feel that what we are doing has purpose. It’s important to find fulfillment in our relationships and careers. Cultivate your friendships and find company cultures that fulfill you. It's from those experiences in life that we learn and grow. In this process of pursuing what we love, we can learn valuable lessons about ourselves and the world around us.
Pursue what you love
There’s a maturity that comes with the experience of pursuing your dreams. Before you can do that, it’s important to take inventory of your priorities. What are you passionate about? What makes you feel alive? Where do your talents thrive? Not everyone values the same things or thinks the same way, and that’s OK.
The number one way to live a life free of regret is to pursue those interests after you’ve identified them. Passion and drive can wither and die without actions supporting them. Your time is precious. It’s common to struggle with feelings of futility of when you don’t make immediate progress. We can’t choose the outcome of our actions, but we can choose everyday to keep pursuing. Every day take an action, no matter how small, to achieve your goals. Write in your blog, do those push-ups, and practice your singing. Build upon your momentum. Each day is a step forward and none of it is wasted.
Make lots of mistakes
You’ll stumble and you’ll fall, and that’s okay. I’ve taken jobs I shouldn’t have and moved for the wrong reasons. Though that time spent may seem like a waste, I learned a lot from those experiences. It takes time to gain confidence in yourself. It takes time to learn how to stand on your own. Building connections and making friends is a process like anything else. You might fail sometimes, but you’ll learn new ways to achieve your goals in the process.
Guy Kawasaki discusses this in his book, “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.” He highlights how to pursue your goals, how to project your authentic self, and how to overcome opposition. All of these can be achieved through self-awareness and discovery. His business advice is widely applicable to the many challenges we face in life
If you want to change the world, you need to start by changing yourself. Making mistakes is the surest path to grow and mature as a person. The knowledge you gain will empower you to succeed in the future. Many of my strongest memories come from the times I’ve failed, and those lessons have stayed with me. There is virtue in failure. Time and perspective allows me to see the value of even the most painful situation.
Take care of yourself
Difficult and painful experiences shape our character but can also weigh us down. These frustrations burden and prevent us from moving forward. Much of our progress in life relies on willpower and a healthy emotional state. There is a strong connection between physical and mental health - and for these reasons it’s important to address mental health first. If you’re under immense stress and anxiety, your body and mind both require time to recover. It’s best to rest, recover, and slowly build back up your strength.
Too often when we are suffering, we will focus only on physical remedies and can ignore our emotional health. Stigma represents a powerful obstacle toward recognizing the need for help. Remember what you’re striving for and why it is important. It’s OK to go to family or friends for help. Find a friendly ear and share your frustrations. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself to recuperate.
For me, life is about experiences. We all have to dream, strive, and fail before we can achieve success. Maybe we’ll discover along the way that the journey is more important than the destination.
David Kirby is a screenwriter, editor, and columnist. You can find more of his work at McCauley's Columns.