It probably goes without saying that people who are clear about their life's meaning and purpose are more positive. Of course it can be difficult to know which came first. Whether having clear ideas about our life's meaning and purpose helps us to feel more positive or whether being more positive helps us to be clear about meaning and purpose.
So let's consider what life's meaning and purpose is. For some people this is closely related to spirituality, the sense of our life being bigger than ourselves as individuals, being part of something greater. Our life's meaning can be attached to our identity. We describe ourselves in what we do or how we do it. It can also be connected to our hopes and dreams for the future. We may not be there yet but we are working towards a purpose or doing something that's important to us.
Our life's meaning may come from our connections with others. Being there for our family, being part of a family unit, being needed by children or ageing parents can become a focus for many of us. This can be purposeful and help us to feel valued and key to the lives of others. It may or may not be what we expected our lives to be and may or may not be meaning giving. The busy-ness that comes from caring and being there for others could also sap the meaning from our lives.
Our paid or volunteer work can give our life meaning. Indeed, we can often define ourselves by the work we do. Our work often takes up so much time and determines how we spend our time that it's hard sometimes to separate ourselves from the work we do. Sometimes of course we don't want to separate it out because our work is fulfilling and is actually how our life meaning or purpose is playing itself out. Sometimes when our work feels meaningless or routine it can be due to it no longer fitting in to our views of what our life's meaning or purpose is about. We might also have periods in our life where our work serves the function of enabling the meaning and purpose of our life to be lived. So doing what we do outside of work is what gives us meaning but we need work to support our ability to do this.
How we think about our life's meaning and purpose can be influenced by people around us. What others value can make a difference to what we think is most important, what we want to be seen to be doing and what we share with others. So our public persona might match what we see our life's meaning and purpose or it may not. Positivity may come from making sure it does, so that there is a congruence to ourselves, an integrated self that is known by ourselves and seen by others.
Discovering what it is and then living in ways that are consistent with our life's meaning and purpose is probably a life long task. As we grow and learn, the things that are meaning making or purposeful will possibly change. Perhaps our lives will become simpler as we sort through what's most important or more complex as we broaden our horizons. Over time we might see themes emerging as we reflect back. Perhaps we will see that there was a general direction we were heading in even though it may not have been clear at the time.
Positivity then may best come from clarity and congruence when we know what our life is about and we are able to live it that way. Probably not as easy as it sounds, so it may be enough to keep the hope alive that we are on the journey.