When I ask people what they want out of life, almost everyone says, “I just want to be happy.” It sounds so simple.
The trouble is most people don’t get nearly as much happiness as they would like. They may spend their entire lives trying to acquire certain things, thinking that will bring them happiness. But it never seems to last.
1. Happiness is not connected to things.
My friend and fellow author Dick Leider learned that. In his book, Unpacking Your Bags, Dick described an African trek with a Masai guide who had nothing more than a staff and a loin cloth. Dick, on the other hand, had his new, fancy Eddie Bauer backpack, complete with zippers, pockets, and pouches filled with all kinds of goodies.
The Masai guide kept staring at his pack, day after day, until on the third day, Dick asked, “Do you want to see what’s inside?” The guide said, “Yes.”
Dick showed him his precious content, including his Swiss army knife with all the gadgets. Of course, Dick was thinking that the Masai guide must be saying “Wow” to himself, dazzled by all the neat things he had.
Finally, the guide asked, “Do these things make you happy?” The question stunned him. He’d never thought about that before. He’d only thought about getting more things, newer things, or better things.
The question changed Dick’s life. Forever after, he asked himself that same question. Before he added anything to his life, he asked himself if that thing would truly make him happy. If not, he wouldn’t get it. Likewise, if something in his life wasn’t giving him happiness, he got rid of it.
Dick learned that lasting happiness comes from something much deeper and much more important than things. It comes with purpose. That’s why I spend one-third of my new book on discovering your purpose and then living it out.
(To get your copy of my book and accompanying workbook on The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets for Getting What You Want Out of Life and Work, click here.)
2. Lasting happiness is grounded in a meaningful purpose.
Consult almost any spiritual philosophy or ask almost any happy, healthy, balanced, and successful individual, and you’ll find them saying that lasting happiness comes from purpose. It doesn’t come with things, even super nice things.
Troyal learned that. He went to Oklahoma State University on a javelin-throwing scholarship, but athletics did not feel like his real calling. So he asked himself a crucial question: “If God came to earth with a box containing the purpose for my life inside of it, what words would I find in that box?”
It didn’t take long for Troyal to know that the box would contain the word “music.” He could pick a little guitar, his voice wasn’t too bad, and he had written some songs. So he set off for Nashville.
Troyal did not find instant success in Nashville. He returned to Oklahoma, but two years later he was back in Nashville working at a boot shop. One night he showed up for auditions at the Bluebird Cafe where a Columbia Records scout caught his act. The scout liked what he heard, offered a recording contract, and the rest is history.
Today Troyal is known as Garth Brooks, the best-selling country artist of all time. He’s sold more records than Michael Jackson or Madonna. And it all started when he found his purpose.
What about you? Have you found your purpose? I hope so. Without a clear purpose, you will have some happiness, but never real joy. You will have some energy, but never real passion.
Of course, I know that the discovery of your purpose can be a real challenge. That’s why I give you a step-by-step process for discovering your purpose in my Journey to the Extraordinary program.
To start you on your own journey to the discovery of your purpose, however, you need to ask yourself some questions.
3. Your purpose will be found in your answers to a few key questions.
You should spend a several minutes, or even a few hours, writing down your answers to questions such as these.
What are your dreams? What did you dream of doing when you were a child? What were your dreams when you graduated from high school or college? What are your dreams today?
What are your ideals? What do you believe in? What makes life worth living? What would you die for?
What are your gifts? What blessings do you have? What gifts do you possess? How do you want to share them with others?
And once you’ve got some preliminary answers, ask yourself if your answers are worth living by and dying for. If so, great. If not, dig a little deeper and keep on writing until you’re truly content with your answers and the purpose they suggest for your life. After all, the purpose of life is a life of purpose.
Finally, once you’ve discovered your purpose,
4. Make sure your goals are aligned with your purpose.
The reason is simple. People have been fed a lie. Some misguided “motivational speakers” have told them that if they’ll just write down their goals and achieve them, they’ll be happy.
But it doesn’t work that way. All too many people have worked hard to achieve their goals, expecting a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, only to find disappointment or fleeting joy.
Take, for example, the person who has the goal of getting a new, beautiful boat. He works hard, saves money for a long time, does his research, picks out the best boat, and eventually buys it. He expects a great sense of accomplishment, pride, and happiness to wash over him, and perhaps it does for a short while. But ask that same man six months later, “How’s the boat?” and he may say, “Yeah, well, its okay, I guess.” In other words, the good feelings didn’t last all that long.
The problem is no one ever told him that GOALS AND PURPOSE HAVE TO BE UNITED. If they’re not, he can work hard, achieve a lot, and feel little or nothing.
But take that same man and boat. If he has a goal that is bigger than merely getting the boat, if he has a purpose, it makes all the difference in the world. If he knows his family can relax on a boat, play games, spend time talking, build memories, and refer back to those memories for years to come, such a purpose has lasting power. He’ll find happiness in the process of getting the boat, happiness in the process of using the boat, and happiness for a long time to come.
If you’re like everybody else, you want to be happy. You want to be successful. And the only sure way to get both of those things is to discover your purpose and line up all your goals with your purpose.
Final Thought: There are many definitions of “success,” but the only “true” definition is living your life on purpose, instead of by accident.