Yesterday, I came across a local radio station that had a psychologist on as a guest to address listener queries. The radio show was themed “I have one question,” and I was excited to hear the questions that were about to be posed.
So this listener, a male, asked a question that I assumed was solely mine. He identified himself as a 32-year-old man who was married with three children and went on to outline his life accomplishments, which included finishing higher education and supporting his family. He recounted how he used to believe it was what people were intended to attain in their lives, but now that he had it all, he still feels like something is missing: a life purpose to which he would devote his life.
Of course, his children and family are the most crucial reasons for him to live. But there is one thing he feels is missing: a higher-than-himself life purpose and his family—something to keep him going.
His quandary was that he had no idea what that higher purpose was. He simply understood that there was more to life than going to work, earning money, supporting his family, and carrying on with life as usual.
“How can I find that higher purpose, that passion to which I want to devote my life?” he wondered.
Many would argue that this is a spoilt man’s question. What else could he want than a good life with a loving family?
Personally, I find it comforting to know that there are others out there who are bothered by this man’s question. Was this question prompted by dissatisfaction with one’s living circumstances? Is it a genuine inquiry or concern?
When you hear about people discovering and pursuing their passions or purposes in life, the question that often arises is not, “How can I find that purpose in life?” Rather, it is “How do I reach that higher purpose?”
I find it much easier to answer the second question than to figure out what your life’s purpose is.
I believe that people should have a higher purpose of serving others and making genuine, beneficial improvements in the lives of others who are not their own.
We live in a country where even attaining the most fundamental functions is difficult. Having access to decent healthcare, eating enough food, having a proper place to live, sending your children to school, and even having peace and security in your surroundings that allow you to safely leave your home and return are all luxuries that some people cannot afford.
Some may marvel at how someone, particularly an Ethiopian, can pose this question. I agree that this man’s issue can be legitimately raised by someone who has accomplished the fundamentals of life and is able to afford a “good” life.
Have you ever observed how superstars in the Western world, who are prepared to spend millions of dollars on meaningless objects, frequently become hooked on drugs and even commit suicide? “Why hasn’t it occurred to them that maybe people in the developing world might need the money they spend on hundreds of expensive cars?” I often wonder.
My point is that more money does not equal more happiness. I always say that the happiness received from money may be defined by a bell-shaped curve, with happiness progressively falling when a certain maximum is attained.
For me, once that threshold is crossed, only those who begin to give to others, share, or otherwise contribute to improving the lives of others are better equipped to enjoy their own financial triumphs.
I feel that the ability to give to others is the higher purpose that gives significance to our existence. Giving encompasses not simply money, but also any other resources we may have been given, such as money, time, knowledge, love, and so on.