Why Long-Term Purpose is More Important Than Short-Term Happiness
I’m 26 years old. Which means I certainly don’t know everything, and have a lot left to learn. But I do know some things. And what I’ve found to be true so far is that finding purpose is more important than finding happiness when it comes to living a good life.
Having something worthwhile and meaningful to aim at is what gets you out of bed. And this can often lead to happiness but it doesn’t have to. It’s this purpose which is so difficult to find, and it’s a lack of purpose which results in us looking for distraction in destructive behaviours.
When we don’t have a purpose we distract ourselves with drugs and alcohol and celebrity news and influencers and TV. Because it is easier to be distracted than it is to admit that we are lost.
We need purpose far more than we need happiness. Happiness is a fleeting emotion, whereas purpose is a steady and consistent drive. It keeps us within arm’s reach of life satisfaction, and it helps us to be more content with our lives. If we spend our time chasing short-term happiness in non-important distractions we end up with a sense of having done nothing with out lives, because we never did anything that felt meaningful to us.
Purpose can be a tricky thing to pin down because we’re all different. The definition of purpose to you will be different to what it is for me. What I do know for sure however, is that you can’t find true purpose if you’re only serving yourself. Purpose emerges when you give yourself to something bigger than just you alone. Purpose comes from helping others, and from acting for the greater good, rather than for your own personal gain.
I know this to be true because my deepest sense of life satisfaction has only ever come from doing things to help others. And these things can be silence, and anonymous and thankless – it does not matter. The sense of correct purpose still comes about, and the anxieties of the ego dissipate when this happens.
Whether we like to admit it or not, most of our stresses and anxieties emerge because of some self-absorbed desire. Most of my stresses come from my writing and how it may not be as successful as I want it to be etc. My ego is the source of this stress. It’s not a pretty thing to admit but it is important to be honest with yourself.
So the antidote to this modern era of self-absorption is to stop servicing your ego. Serve other people. Do the right thing, not because you want the clout or attention that comes with it. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
When is the last time you did a good thing for someone else without wanting praise for it? When’s the last time you did something selfless without posting it on social media?
These are important questions to ask. We’ve normalised being ruled by our egos, and it’s having a negative impact on our collective wellbeing.