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The Time for Meaning is Now-Is Finding Purpose the Most Pressing Need of Our Time?

The Time for Meaning is Now-Is Finding Purpose the Most Pressing Need of Our Time?

Things have changed over the past few  generations. Conversation has turned from making a living to living a meaningful life. Consciousness experts like Deepak Chopra, Jean Houston, and Martha Beck have all noted that more than ever before people are waking up.

Waking up to a higher level of living where life’s greatest questions are:

Who am I?


Why am I here?

Despite this awakening, most people have occasional moments of wondering or even actively searching for their purpose yet the majority of us never spend specific time focused on discovering purpose.

For many, the search for purpose starts like this:

  • You recognize something is wrong but you can’t quite put a finger on it
  • You identify that you want more  (but don’t always know more of what?)
  • You crave making a difference and living a life of impact
  • You get hints about what that would be like, sparks of inspiration & recognition
  • You become paralyzed and don’t act out of fear

We were taught to make a living but not about making a life. People ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and we begin at a young age to equate purpose with a job. But purpose isn’t about how you pay the bills. It’s about passion.

It can seem that everyone is passionate about something and either yours is missing, hidden or you have piled it beneath a to-do list that might keep it buried for good.

Or perhaps you are surrounded by people who don’t dream, don’t follow their passion and who try to keep you from going after yours. this can lead you to a state positive psychologists call purpose anxiety.


Purpose anxiety happens when looking for your purpose actually increases anxiety. Research says up to age 23 looking for a purpose is fun but older than that it actually causes unhappiness and depression. This means many people looking for their purpose are looking from a negative place.

Carin Rockland, purpose researcher, gives this advice:

  1. Purpose is not a noun.
  2. Purpose is a verb
  3. Starts with the word to_____________. (as in to write, to teach, to inspire)
  4.  Goals, Meaning, Passion are not purpose. You will have many goals on the way to purpose but these goals are not the purpose. Meaning is the comprehension of the world around us. This is not the same. Meaning is greater context purpose is an active life aim. Passions change. Passion is a strong inclination toward something. Passion is a clue to purpose but isn’t the same as purpose.

Three aspects of purpose

  • BE
  • DO

Finding purpose

Some people are naturally lucky. They know what their purpose is from a young age. Social modeling can influence children or a trauma happens that sparks a realization. Spirituality plays a role for some. But what about those of us who don’t?

  1. Replace the word find with the word uncover. Let’s not imply that our purpose is lost.
  2. Have more positive emotions. They help us see connections that we might not otherwise see. You have to be in a positive mindset before you begin.
  3. Be curious.
  4. What are your strengths and when have you used them in a way that felt like you made a difference.
  5. Tell people about your joy. Sharing our joy increases joy. When you share a story about a happy or joyful experience it has far greater benefits than just remembering it or writing it down for ourselves.

Purpose can hit you over the head like a sledgehammer or it can land on your shoulder like a butterfly. My personal experience was like bringing a camera into focus. I had the picture right there in the frame but it took awhile to decide where the focus should be and what was in the background.

Do you have a purpose? I’d love to know how old you were when you discovered it and what it is.







Can You Be Happy Without a Purpose?

Can You Be Happy Without a Purpose?


Those who felt their life to be meaningful were less depressed and felt greater satisfaction with their lives.-Stager et al 2006

Simon Sinek taught us to start with why. In his groundbreaking TED talk he explained that people with a purpose love going to work and they’re more productive and creative. They go home happier and have stronger relationships. They treat their colleagues, clients, and customers better too. Inspired employees make for stronger companies. And if that isn’t enough, purposelessness, the opposite of living with purpose, is a risk factor for both depression and poor relationships. It’s obvious that having a sense of purpose and meaning underlying day to day actions is good for you. This doesn’t help at all if you don’t have a clue what yours is!

We can get so caught up in looking for our why that sometimes we cannot see what’s right in front of us.

How you live your life including your choice of activities, your values, and your passions are all deeply connected to your bigger purpose. Purpose doesn’t have to be lofty or altruistic (although it might be). Knowing what feels important to you can be useful in clarifying. You can begin by looking for your smaller purpose, your intention behind every action.

When you are driving to work think of your intention- to get there safely and on time.

When eating your lunch what’s your intention- to fuel your body with healthy foods.

When you yelled at your partner what was your intention- you wanted them to know that you felt frustrated. (this may not have been the strongest method but at least you can identify what you were going for, right?)

When you binge-watched Santa Clarita Diet for 4 episodes what was your intention- okay, maybe sometimes there isn’t a strong intention behind every action but noting that is progress in and of itself.

Over time, as you check-in regularly on your intention you will become more familiar with how and why you make choices. This is an exercise in learning about YOU. The successful outcome will have you knowing more about yourself.

Next, see if there are areas of your life where purpose has more clarity. Sometimes there is clarity in some areas but not others. Try thinking of your purpose as:

  • a consumer- how do like to spend (or save) your money?
  • a traveler- do you enjoy new places or prefer familiar ones?
  • when exercising- do you like the gym, yoga, or running?
  • when eating- do you love long lingering meals or grab and go?
  • for entertainment- do you like movies or live theater?
  • when reading- do you like magazines, novels, or biographies?

Your purpose doesn’t lie in these answers but as you practice you may notice that purpose is clear about how you parent but not how you spend leisure time.You know you enjoy volunteering but you don’t love the job that pays the bills.

I have a little questionnaire I use with clients who want to get clearer on their purpose. If you want a copy, I’m happy to send you a download. Email me- tamara@posminds.com with “Purpose Worksheet” in the subject line and I’ll send one your way.

To answer the question in the title, of course you can be happy without a clear purpose but science and history both show that purpose increases happiness.

If you get clearer, I’d love to hear your purpose. I’m posting mine in the happiness trajectory facebook group. Feel free to join! Remember, purpose is fluid, it changes as you change. Purpose is also one of seven happiness boosting habits- stay tuned for the other six.



Making Tough Choices


Every day we are faced with choice; what to wear, what to eat, who to lunch with, when to work out. We have practiced making choices our entire lives. Nothing else we do requires such constant effort with such varying results. Sometimes choices are simple, sometimes they aren’t.  What is the difference and how can you make every decision with as much ease as possible?

Tools for making any Decisions

 – Your choice must fit in with your most positive emotions and avoid negative ones.

EGO – Your decision must match who you are as a person.

HEAD – Your decision must accord with your long-term goals.

SURROUNDINGS – Your decision must be compatible with the situation you find yourself in.

When 1 or more of the tools are at odds, then what?

Every gut instinct comes with a physical sensation. Our challenge is correctly interpreting the sensation; knowing whether that butterfly in your stomach is telling you to back off from something truly scary or telling you that something exciting is about to happen.
Good decisions feel expansive and optimistic. They’re not based in fear, anger, or greed.

Successful choicemaking depends much more on who you are than what you do so if your decision is compromising who you are it’s ultimately not going to be the right choice. This can become a challenge is when someone else is involved.
What can you do when your decision involves others whose opinion is different or even opposing?
And when that difference comes down to a core belief belief about love self-worth safety and feeling a whole conflict resolution can become difficult.
If one partner is prioritizing money where another is prioritizing lifestyle or  one person needs adventure where another prefers stability, who gets their way?

Listen, list make, leave it


Have a conversation when you have plenty of time in a place that is free of distractions.

  1. Each partner takes a turn to explain why their choice is best for themselves. (E.g. I want to live in the suburbs because we can have a bigger house for less money and the schools are better.)
  2. Each partner takes a turn to explain why they think their choice is best for their partner.  (E.gOur mortgage would be smaller so you could work less overtime and we would be in the same place financially. You wOuld see the kids more)
  3. Each partner suggests a compromise. (We could live in a townhouse close to your office and get rid of one car or we could move midway between your work and the suburbs)

Make a pro and con list together. Tally up your pluses and minuses.
The rule- things can only make the list that you both agree on.
Example- Choosing between public school and private school.

Private School Pros
small class size
cutting edge facility
strong preparation for college
Private School Cons
not in our neighborhood

Things That Get Left Off The List
feels elitist (only to one partner)
better sports teams (debatable by one partner)
better University Counselling (debatable by one partner)

If you have the luxury of time, let your emotions settle for a few days. Allowing emotions to settle can help you to discuss your options with less of an emotional charge.

Take Turns

If after all the debate, you have to agree to disagree, setting up a system where one partner gets their way this time but that means the other partner automatically gets their way the next time can be an option.
I choose to live in the country over the city but you get to choose our house.

A thought from Brene Brown…

When emotions flare, Brene advises her readers to ask what is the story I am telling myself.
Write down what you imagine will happen if you don’t get your way. Quite often this can help to uncover fear that is lurking below our rational thinking and hijacking our ability to see the other person’s perspective.

If you just can’t choose?

Flip a coin. At the moment right before it lands, you will wish for an outcome- that’s what you truly want- so go for it!
I’d love to hear what choices you find most challenging. Comment below, email me or weigh in on my Facebook page.