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Do you lack a sense of purpose in your life? How does knowing your purpose lead to a more fulfilling life? And how does one discover their purpose?
Many people feel as though they’re simply existing in life, going through the motions without understanding the purpose of it all. If that sounds like you, a good starting point is to explore different perspectives by reading books on the subject.
With this in mind, here are our picks of the best books on finding your purpose.
Finding Your Purpose
Finding your purpose is crucial to living a fulfilled and meaningful life. If you have no purpose in life, you’ll feel empty, confused, and directionless, which can give rise to a host of psychological problems: depression, addictions, and sensation-seeking, to name a few.
But how does one find their purpose? The following books on finding your purpose offer perspectives worth exploring.
In Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, author and blogger Héctor García (author of A Geek in Japan) and novelist and self-help writer Francesc Miralles teach you to apply the Japanese concept of ikigai, or life purpose, to your own life. Drawing on lessons from the people of Okinawa, who live longer than anybody else on earth, as well as on insights from art, science, and psychology, they show you how to find and follow your own ikigai and cultivate a happy, healthy lifestyle to sustain it.
Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the best books on finding your purpose that you can read. It recounts Viktor Frankl’s experiences in the concentration camps of WWII and the school of therapy he invented to help us confront this very question. Frankl set out to write a book that analyzed the mindset of the average concentration camp prisoner and how it reflected, adapted to, and either succumbed to or transcended beyond the torments of the camps. He wanted the book to serve as concrete proof that humans can find meaning under any conditions, even the most horrific.
In The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren reveals the meaning of life from a Christian perspective—five purposes that you were created by God to fulfill: worship, unselfish fellowship, spiritual maturity, your ministry, and your mission. In living for your purposes, you’ll start to find meaning in every moment of your life. You’ll learn to see the glory of God everywhere, deepen your love for others, find the unique service you were made for, and prepare your character for the promise of eternal life.
Purpose-driven people and organizations are more successful and fulfilled, and they contribute more to the world around them, according to Simon Sinek, best-selling author, coach, and popular TED Talk speaker. Find Your Why distills Sinek’s theory and his experience working with organizations and individuals into a workbook you can follow to discover your own purpose and strengths, or those of your organization.
In Who Will Cry When You Die?, self-help guru Robin Sharma wants to know if you’ll feel happy with the life you’ve led when you’re on your deathbed. Sharma thinks that most people lead lives they’ll regret because they focus on the wrong things—success, money, fame—and none of the right things—family, community, love. If you think you might have end-of-life regrets, Sharma provides a collection of pithy life lessons and advice to help you seize control of your life and turn it into one you’ll look back on fondly.
The Seat of the Soul is Gary Zukav’s best-selling exploration into the soul’s purpose and how to align your life with it by developing your intuition and tapping into your heart’s knowledge.
Zukav argues that humans are primarily spiritual beings living in the material world. Our souls have incarnated in order to learn lessons and fulfill a mission, and ultimately to evolve. Therefore, Zukav says, our true life’s purpose is to become fully aligned with our souls in order to help them evolve. However, humans have become disconnected from our spiritual nature, and this causes much sorrow and suffering in the world. Zukav says we need to tune into our souls and to messages from the universe and our spirit guides, so we can fulfill our soul’s mission and aid in its evolution.
In How Will You Measure Your Life? Clay Christensen shows how economic theories that help businesses succeed can also help individuals make better life decisions. He presents theories and business case studies that show you pitfalls to avoid (such as marginal thinking and outsourcing your parenting), and also how to build a career that makes you happy, how to deepen your relationships with your spouse and children, and how to live with integrity. Together, they offer a philosophy for living a purposeful life.
Although we live longer today and have more material wealth than ever, many people feel anxious rather than happy. In Flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi offers an antidote. People are happiest when they feel in control of their inner thoughts and feelings and experience a “flow state”: a sense of enjoyment, purpose, and meaning.
Csikszentmihalyi explains: how controlling and ordering your consciousness brings flow and enjoyment, which personality characteristics produce flow, and how to find flow in your work and relationships.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s life imploded after she filed for divorce from her husband when she was 30 years old. She was still reeling from their contentious separation when she fell in love with someone else. But when this love ended, she fell into a deep depression. She knew something drastic needed to happen to save her life. She decided to embark on a year-long journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find pleasure, a higher purpose, and harmony in her soul. Eat Pray Love depicts Gilbert’s journey of survival and transformation. It is the story of her learning to move out of the darkness and into the light.
The Alchemist is a story of transformation. But rather than transforming lead into gold, Paulo Coelho teaches us, through the story of a shepherd boy who has the courage to follow his dreams, the power of transformation for our lives.
People are happiest when they have a sense of higher purpose for their lives. When a purpose is missing, people feel empty and conflicted inside. As a result, they get stuck in dysfunctional lifestyles that drive them further and further away from finding out what their purpose is. If you’re ready to discover what your purpose is, reading books on finding your purpose will help you get off to a good start.
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