In ‘What’s your Why? The Quest for Meaning’ I talk about how important it is to discover your quest for meaning and purpose. Whatever that may be for you. It’s an individual quest, a journey into discovering what makes your life meaningful.
Purpose and it how it fits in with our quest for meaning
Purpose is the most important element in our quest for meaning, it’s the driving force. It’s the reason we do what we do. Purpose is all about our goals, values and aspirations.
Life without purpose is like a ship without a rudder. Purpose is the engine, the fuel and the steering wheel to creating a meaningful life because it ‘determines one’s life and direction and destiny’ (Grenville-Cleave 2016:61).
My ship was definitely one without a rudder, crashing aimlessly in the open waters against the waves, lost, without direction without…well, purpose.
But that was all about to change following my third and final burnout at the end of 2013.
Burnout brought about many changes. A huge part of this change was finally listening to my Self and enquiring within to the find answers. It was time to let go and forgive, so that I could also let go and forgive myself. Burnout was my life line. It forced me to listen. In doing so, it awakened me to my purpose and my quest for meaning that’s also reflected in the work I do through Lessons-in-Self.
An Adventure into Self-Discovery
Understanding your purpose or your quest for meaning is an exciting adventure. It takes you to new places you haven’t dared go to before such as making sense of your own identity, questioning how you fit into the world and making sense of what’s happening to you and how this informs what you’re experiencing in life.
It’s about self-discovery.
Indeed, discovering myself led me to discover my values which are faith, authenticity, making a difference, empowerment and helping others. And fact is, no matter how big or small my daily actions are, I ensure each day I live in accordance with my values because doing so means I’m living my meaningful life with purpose.
Finding meaning in Burnout
I always say how grateful I am for burnout (yes, I do and I am). I’m also grateful for my life’s struggles because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. In fact, you also wouldn’t be the person you are today without them too.
Yes, while a struggling life negatively correlates with happiness, it actually has ‘a significant positive relationship with meaningfulness’ (Wong, 2011:6). In other words, we don’t necessarily need to lead very pleasant lives to have a meaningful one. Interestingly, higher levels of worry, stress and anxiety are actually linked to higher sense of meaning!
As Boniwell (2012:95) points out, we encounter stresses daily and there are times in our lives we encounter particularly traumatic events which can change our lives forever.
What do we do in these circumstances? There are some people who come out of these life-changing experiences having learnt and gained something positive from it. A traumatic event such as burnout can lead to shattering long held limiting beliefs and as a result, we may find the goals we’ve set ourselves may no longer be significant or relevant. This process is referred to as post-traumatic growth. That is, an individual grows from the traumatic experience and rather than view it as the day their life ended, for many, me included, it’s the day their life began.
I believe that burnout happens for a reason. It helped me discover my why and it can help you discover yours.
“No one really enjoys suffering, but meaning in life depends on discovering the meaning of suffering.”
– Victor Frankl
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Bonniwell, I. (2012). Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The Science of Happiness. Maidenhead. England: Robinson. McGraw-Hill Education.
Frankl, V. (2004). Man’s Search for Meaning. The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust. England: Rider Books.
Image courtesy of Johannes Plenio on Unsplash