Do We Need Purpose In Our Lives?
One day, a few months ago, I walked into the gym, and I showed my barcode to the girl at the front desk.
She had this dead, empty look on her face.
“How’s your day going?”
She stared back at me—with zero expression—and said,
“I don’t do anything here.”
She had a kind of desperation, like she wanted someone to rescue her, and I do kind of have a history of being a rescuer...
But there were six people behind me waiting to scan in.
So I walked away.
And I carried her energy with me.
It was heavy—because I knew that, when she said, “I don’t do anything here,” she was talking about being on this planet.
I wondered how many others feel this way.
And I realized—that was me, for too many years of my life.
I’ve only recently started thinking about what we’re here for. What this whole thing is about.
As a kid, I mainly thought life was about getting good grades.
My mom planted this thought in my head by saying things like,
“You’ll never get grades as good as Clifford Goodstein.
You’re just not at his level.”
So obviously I had a pretty distorted view of life and the world.
But then I got to college, and that radically changed.
I’d never been to a party as a kid, but—literally my first night away at college—I found myself sitting with a bunch of strangers who were passing around a bottle of Popov vodka and a bong with “Friday Night Videos” turned up super loud.
Starting that night—and for a long time after that—I thought the point of life was to have a really great time.
And I did.
My mission was to have as much adventure and stimulation as humanly possible.
I did have a career—creating TV campaigns for good causes—but I organized everything around this mission.
I went to South Africa a dozen times to film MTV campaigns.
These were to air here in the US, but I was able to justify the trips, because it was super cheap there, and they had awesome film crews.
We didn’t have to shoot there. In fact, we’d pay for American actors to fly with us, which sometimes cost as much as we were saving by going there. But it made it more of an adventure.
Tony Robbins talks about how we all have an animal side and a spirit side. Our animal side wants to be fed, but our spirit side wants to be free.
I spent those years feeding my animal side—with food and sex and occasionally drugs.
My animal was well-fed. But it wasn’t too many years before the writing on the wall appeared telling me that my train was headed for a dark and lonely place, and I’d better find some other tracks.
So I dove into finding every answer I could from every human being who’s ever talked or written about purpose in life.
The Japanese word “Ikigai” has no exact translation to English, but basically it means having a reason to wake up in the morning.
“Iki” means life, and “gai” means worth or value.
So, literally, it’s “life value.”
In Okinawa, which is one of the world’s seven blue zones—the places with the most people over 100—they did a study that found that people who say they have Ikigai in their lives are way healthier and live a lot longer than those who don’t.
There’s another study—here in the US—of 7,000 people, from 50 to 80 years old.
Now, check this out...
At the beginning, all of them took a test that measures how much they feel a sense of meaning in life.
The way the test works is that people rate a bunch of statements like this one:
“Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.”
People read a statement, and then they circle a number from 1 to 7 to say how much they agree with it.
They had everyone do the test in 2006, and then—in 2010—they looked at who was still alive. This is four years later.
The ones who scored the lowest on the test were two and a half times more likely to be dead than the ones who scored the highest.
So there’s no question lacking a purpose can take years off your life and—something that’s way more important:
It will take the life out of the years you do have left.
Now you might say,
“Look, my life is what it is. What am I gonna do?”
Well, the Japanese have an answer. They have a formula for creating Ikigai:
You look at the intersection of these four areas:
(1) what you love
(2) what you’re good at
(3) what the world needs
(4) what you can get paid for
What you’re meant to be doing in life is right there in the middle.
If you can fully dedicate yourself to that, then you will achieve Ikigai, which means you’ll wake up every morning excited, and you’ll feel that your life truly has a purpose.
Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll get to live a longer life.
So... you think this might be worth a try?
This article is an excerpt of the forthcoming book, Your Best Life: Tactics, Tools and Insights to Create a Life of Fulfillment, Joy and Abundance, by Mike X — to be released on March 14, 2023.
Originally published on Know Thyself, Heal Thyself.