While practicing self-discipline can help you overcome challenges and resist temptation, it may not be the best course of action for those periods of self-doubt.
When you reach a point at which you question your every move, your self-discipline may help you remain afloat, but it will become progressively more challenging to stay the course because you have lost the bigger picture.
Therefore, it is important to understand your purpose. That way, you can discover your why – and stay the course!
What is Purpose?
Purpose is the reasoning for which something is done, and understanding it can increase your happiness, provide a sense of direction and boost your resiliency. Research demonstrates that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays an important role in happiness because it mediates the transfer of positive emotions throughout the body. Therefore, whether through helping another individual or achieving a personal goal , you become happier when you experience a sense of accomplishment. With an intention in mind, we plan more effectively and move in a confident direction instead of walking blindly through the desert. Also, difficult times will seem less overwhelming when you have a sense of guidance in the world. When faced with a setback, you are more likely to discover new ways to reach your destination because you know where you want to end up. However, when you wander purposelessly and encounter roadblocks, you are more likely to pick up your things and move on to something else.
From a physical standpoint, having a purpose has several benefits for your mental health. According to the Journal of Health Psychology, having an awareness of your purpose helps reduce stress, improves your coping abilities and provides health-promoting behaviors.
While having a purpose does not change the daily annoyances and difficulties of life, but you are able to cope with setbacks more effectively since you understand the bigger picture. By coping to adverse situations more effectively, you experience less stress. When you experience less stress, you are more likely to exhibit health-promoting behaviors such as exercising, eating healthier, and expressing positive emotions (i.e. laughing, smiling, etc.)
Individuals with purpose are more likely to have the approach of “one step backward, two steps forward.” When we understand our objective, we perform more positive health-related activities. Self-care is crucial in improving both your physical and mental state, and according to the Review of General Psychology, people who have a greater sense of meaning may be more likely to take care of themselves because they have this ultimate sense of purpose to achieve.
During my junior and senior years of high school, I was voted most inspirational member of the varsity basketball team. At the time, I consistently warmed the bench and took on the pessimistic, What am I doing wrong? Fittingly, I viewed this award as “The person who never plays but cheers a lot.” This marinated within me for the next eight years as I continued to hold a pessimistic view on life. I was not motivated; I was ready to quit school and felt I had no purpose in life.
In 2010, I had a conversation with my older sister, a psychology student at San Diego State University, and told her my feelings about education and that I was ready to move on. As you might imagine, she suggested otherwise, and I followed her guidance by taking a psychology course in the upcoming semester. This was a life-changing moment, as I used this class to fuel change in my perspective and to renew focus on my educational journey.
However, I still had no direction. It was not until I was standing at the podium of the graduation ceremony receiving my MA in Sport Psychology, when I felt a sense of purpose, and it led me back to those most inspirational awards. Those awards were not given to me because I cheered a lot but never played; rather, I received those awards because my purpose was to care for, motivate and inspire others to achieve their goals. Even to this day, I cannot explain the amount of relief I felt once I discovered my purpose, but I can explain how satisfying it is to be able to care for, motivate and inspire others each and every day.
To understand your purpose, you must ask yourself two important questions: What do I want, and why do I want it? The “What” question provides you with direction toward what you want to achieve, and the “Why” question provides meaning. Acknowledging what you want, and why, will make dreadful tasks feel more purposeful because they are a key piece toward completing the puzzle. The perfect example is losing weight as a new year’s resolution. At the beginning of the new year, we will make goals like “Go to the gym five days a week” or “eat healthy”. However, according to Forbes, studies show that less than 25 percent of people stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only eight percent accomplish them. Beyond utilizing ineffective goal-setting strategies, we generally do not understand why we are setting these resolutions, therefore, the purpose is missing.
Ask yourself: Why do I want this? If you begin a meal plan to lose weight because that is what society says you should do, then you will be less likely to stick with your goals – rather than developing that same meal plan to challenge yourself to live a healthier life and to prove to yourself that you can follow something and stick to it.
It is also essential to understand that not knowing your purpose does not make you worthless. However, there are plenty of benefits when you have that sense of purpose: improved motivation provides direction and helps you focus on what is important in your life. Therefore, I challenge you to discover your sense of purpose. What is it that you truly want? What is it that you truly enjoy? What impact do you want to make? What legacy do you want to leave? It may be difficult to answer all these at once, but over time, the more you think about them, the answers will become clear. Find your purpose and discover a new perspective on life.