It’s easy to lose focus on what’s important in life. When I was young I wanted to be a doctor. At the time I knew this was because I loved helping people. However, as I became older I lost connection to my why and took a different path instead.
It took me 20 years before I remembered this important insight. Twenty years of countless dead ends with no direction or purpose in life. I was wandering through life hoping to find something that inspired me. I was waiting for a tap on the shoulder from someone who was going to change everything for me. Only, it never came.
As I look back now I can see how I was impacted by having no purpose. It made me apathetic, lazy and frustrated. I developed habits, beliefs and behaviours that meant I was only living to a fraction of my potential.
I didn’t realise at the time that what I was feeling was caused by a lack of purpose. It was just how I felt and assumed others felt the same. As obvious as it might seem, it took me years to understand the cause and finally do something about it.
Knowing this now, and having worked with many men who lack a sense of purpose, I’ve noticed the tell-tale signs that we need more purpose in life. It’s only from noticing these signs that we can put a name to it and begin to do something about it.
So here are 10 signs you need more purpose in life:
#1. You feel trapped
You feel stuck. There’s no way out and you don’t know what to do about it.
We all have the capacity to be and do so much in life but at some point we lose focus of what’s important. The distance between where we are and where we want to be is too big. This leads to us feeling overwhelmed. Our inability to realise our potential is painful and this makes us feel trapped.
We want to feel free and be able to express ourselves in a meaningful way that impacts others. We lose connection to our inner guide, and as a result, we feel like there’s no way out.
#2. You don’t want to live a day in the life of your friends
You’re not meeting new people. Your friendship group hasn’t changed in years. Your friends don’t inspire you.
When we’re younger we’re so open to new ideas and meeting new people. We’re like sponges, eager to learn and grow from those around us. However, there comes a time when we start to close up our circle of friends. We become afraid of what light new people might shine on our lives. We sense we’re not living a life of purpose and we don’t know what to do about it. So we avoid people and situations that remind us of the unfulfilled life we’re living.
#3. You feel as if something is missing in your life
You’ve started asking existential questions like “is this it?” and “what’s the meaning of life”. You feel unfulfilled because you know there’s something inside you and you don’t know what it is.
It’s a natural human desire that we want to find meaning to our lives. This helps to reassure us that our life is meaningful and that the world will be a better place for our small contribution to it. We start asking these questions when we sense that we aren’t making a difference and when people don’t notice our contribution. We feel in limbo and wonder what we’re going to be when we get older (even though we’re approaching middle age).
#4. You’re numbing your experience
You use vices to avoid your reality. You don’t feel fulfilled so you fill the gap in your life with anything you can find.
Our experience of life comes with many uncomfortable feelings. Those feelings are often a response to thoughts we have about our life. Thoughts that tell us deep truths we don’t want to hear. The feelings are difficult to take so we avoid and numb them. We avoid them by turning to social media, alcohol, porn, gadgets, cars, holidays, clothes. The list is endless as we seek a distraction to stop this feeling that something isn’t right.
#5. You’re not helping others
You’ve become too focused on yourself. If you didn’t get up in the morning no one is going to suffer.
It’s easy to get lost in life and disconnect from who we are and what we are here to do. A consequence of this is we focus too much on meeting our own needs instead of the needs of others. We are social creatures and grow most in connection, love and support of others. If you aren’t benefiting peoples lives then you’re not living a life with purpose.
#6. You’re bored and live for the weekends
You’re not growing or stretching yourself in life. You are always looking for escape routes from your predictable life because all you want is to feel alive again.
Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, we sometimes feel as if we’re on the hamster wheel of life. We promised that the job we took in our 20s was only a stop gap. Ten, 20 years later we’re still there. We get promoted, make a bit of money and then the lifestyle starts to look good.
Our job drains us, and life has become too comfortable. We know we’re destined for so much more and feel bored living a safe, risk-free life.
#7. You’re being passive and waiting for things to change
You’re waiting for your big break. Your life is happening to you. You’re waiting for the mythical stranger who will change everything for you.
We have two options for how we can perceive our life. We can be a creator of our life, always taking responsibility for our lives. Or we can be a victim, not taking responsibility and waiting for things to happen to us. The victim is waiting for a mythical stranger who will lead him out of his troubles.
The painful truth is that no one is coming to save you. Failure to accept this leads to you wondering how you ended up here and you blame everyone else as a result.
#8. You’re jealous of others
You often compare yourself to others. You think everyone else is having a far better life than you are.
Our sense of self-worth and validation for who we are comes within us. However, when we’re unfulfilled we start looking outside of ourselves for that validation. As long as I’m better than the next guy I can be sure that my life isn’t bad. That leads to comparison and jealousy as we measure our success in life relative to everyone else.
#9. You’re all talk
You always talk about doing it but never actually take action. You’re always asking how to do it. You’re known as the one who talks a good game.
Taking action is scary when we step out of our comfort zone. It’s much easier to say:
“Someday I’m going to……”
“This is only a stop gap before I…..”
“I’ve got this new idea….”
We have a choice to take action or we have a choice to not. Which one we take is down to us and the choices we make. If we don’t have a purpose and clear direction in life then we’ll become indecisive and live in our heads. Always talking about what we’re going to do; hedging our bets waiting for the perfect next step. This indecision and lack of clarity in our direction leads to procrastination and a lack of action.
#10. You’re never satisfied
You are the perpetual seeker: one more course, one more book. You’re scattered and leave things unfinished because you lack focus. You’re easily impressed with shiny new people and shiny new things.
We are always looking for the magic pill that will change everything. Therefore, we seek answers and inspiration outside of ourselves. The latest courses and books are great but the answers to your purpose don’t lie there. The answers lie within us but the seeker doesn’t believe this.
We’re not satisfied with the latest course in the same way we aren’t satisfied with ourselves. The course isn’t enough, just like we’re not enough. As a result, we believe the answer lies around the corner, not realising we’ve been carrying it with us all this time.
What next? Here are some resources to help you with your journey towards finding your purpose.
The Inspiring Men Programme is a six month deep dive into your purpose and what it means to be a man
Keep checking out the site for new content as I’ll be writing more about purpose soon.
I hope this post was helpful. Do you recognise any of these signs? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.
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To your success