Purpose Anxiety is a Thing

Purpose anxiety is real. Studies have shown that identifying and actualising our purpose in life is good for our health. It reduces stress, fulfills basic human needs, stimulates economic success, and enhances physical, emotional, and mental health. Living our purpose adds meaning to life and delivers personal fulfillment. Identifying our purpose answers some of the big questions in life. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I meant to do with my life? Who is my ideal partner? What is my ideal career? The benefits overflow to society. Living our purpose enables us to contribute to the evolution of consciousness within the collective soul.

Is it any wonder that not knowing our purpose creates anxiety? Being unable to fulfil it produces anxiety. Searching for our purpose generates anxiety. Living without a purpose in life makes us miserable. Purpose anxiety.  

I propose that we turn our thinking on its head and reclassify life purpose as a lower order human need. If we were to identify our purpose today, then we could start living it, and heal this pandemic of purpose anxiety. We need to challenge the current definition of basic human needs.

Abraham Maslow developed a theory about human motivation. He proposed that motivation is the result of a person’s attempt at fulfilling at least five basic needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualisation.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places self-actualisation at the top of the pyramid. While it has been acknowledged that these needs do not necessarily occur in the order in which they are represented, it is unfortunate that self-actualisation appears to be the icing on the cake. Eat the cake and save the icing until last. In some ways, this seems to be a misrepresentation of an essential human need to find meaning in life. Yes, it makes sense to aim for self-actualisation as the pinnacle of success, but these days, to represent self-actualisation as the smallest of human needs can be misleading.

We can turn our thinking on its head and reclassify life purpose as a lower order human need
Eat the icing first

In modern, western society we see a more widespread fulfilment of basic needs. We tend to live longer. How we define our self has evolved. For example, we believe that if we suppress the expression of our true self, then we are not being authentic. This concept was almost unheard of 100 years ago. We say we want to be authentic and true to self, and yet, here we are, still putting off self-actualisation until after we feel better instead of before. Why not use the knowledge of our purpose as the panacea for purpose anxiety?

The path to self-actualisation begins when we identify our life purpose. Life purpose knowledge can fuel our spirit and feed our soul. Shouldn’t life purpose knowledge be defined as a lower order need, included alongside love and belonging? If knowing our purpose makes us feel better and live longer, and it can fuel economic success, then why should we wait until other needs have been met before we define our purpose in life? Wouldn’t knowing our purpose sooner rather than later generate the motivation, the drive and therefore the energy we need to build our lives on our terms?

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