The Coronavirus has disrupted our usual activities and attacked our future plans whatever they may have been – travel, business, studies, sporting events etc. So for some of us, what used to give meaning to our lives may have recently diminished. Having a sense of purpose is important for our wellbeing amongst other things. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’re feeling demotivated and disorientated at this time.

Yet this period of uncertainty could be a catalyst for reflecting on how we are currently living and how we want our futures to look. Times of crisis can cause us to question what makes our lives meaningful and what gives us a sense of purpose. Knowing this can help us stay motivated and provide direction in our lives despite any adversity we may be facing.

So rather than viewing this pandemic as shrinking your life, it may in fact be a life-changing crisis, that could help expand and enrich your life by finding meaning (Frankl, 1985; Wong, 2020).

What is a Purpose?

Your purpose is why, your reason for getting out of bed each day. Human beings yearn for a sense of meaning and to feel like we are contributing to something bigger than themselves and doing something of value. And what we find meaningful is different for everyone.

Your purpose describes the aspirations you have for your future. It can help you determine your short and longer-term goals, fuel your passions (despite any fear or insecurities you may have), and make decisions so your actions are consistent with what you value. Without a purpose, you might find yourself bored, regularly changing paths or moving through life aimlessly.

Your purpose can be applied to every aspect of your life, and shouldn’t change too much when disruptions like a global pandemic come about.

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose

Viktor Frankl

How to Discover Your Purpose

Whilst isolating at home, you might have the space and time to come up with or revisit your purpose. It is also a good opportunity to consider who you want to be on the ‘other side’ or “what is your purpose during this pandemic?”

As a way of finding out your purpose, ask yourself the following:

  • What is important to you?
  • What do you really want in your life and/or your career?
  • What interests you?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Who are you at your best?
  • What would give your life more meaning?

It will take time to answer these questions and to then define your purpose. Achieving meaning in your life is an ongoing process rather than a ‘tick in the box’ exercise. And don’t worry about determining how you are going to achieve what you envision as this can be worked out later…

Identifying what is most important to you and imagining reaching this outcome will also help you cope with suffering, and potentially change your mindset by instilling hope for the future – what we all need more of right now!

The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why

Mark Twain

Purpose at Work

Finding purpose doesn’t stop at the individual level. Some of the most successful companies have used their purpose to rise to the top (e.g. Tesla, Apple). Often employees know what and how they do their tasks but are not sure why. Yet one of the ways leaders can help their team members be motivated at work is by connecting their responsibilities back to the company’s purpose.

Having a sense of meaning at work, particularly, if you feel as though your work matters and you are positively contributing to others, can make you more happy, engaged, increase performance, and decrease feelings of depression, hostility and stress.

Given these outcomes, organisations should be finding opportunities to regularly communicate their purpose to their employees. Additionally, as you move through your own to-do list at work, try and find connections to your organisation’s purpose for all your tasks (no matter how big or small) so you are reminded of why you are doing something, which will give you the energy and focus you need to achieve your outcomes.

We have come to learn that life has the tendency to feel a bit purposeless during a pandemic. Yet the current crisis could be a life-changing opportunity for us by encouraging us to work out or reinvest in our purpose.