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December/January 2016

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Editor’s letter

Purpose of life

As another year comes to an end, you might find yourself thinking about your life’s purpose – and everything you still want to do, but haven’t had time to do.

Self-help books usually offer predictable steps to finding your life’s purpose: consider your dreams, clarify your values, set some goals, figure out what you’re good at. Aim high. Go for it! Be disciplined. Believe you can achieve your goals. Involve others. Never give up.

Of course these recommendations often lead to great success. You usually succeed in reaching a goal if you put your mind to it. But being successful and fulfilling your life purpose are not the same.

You could reach all your personal goals and become a raving success by the world’s standards, and still not realise your life purpose.

Contrary to what many popular books, movies, and seminars tell you, you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself. You have probably tried that already.

For thousands of years, philosophers have discussed and speculated about the meaning of life. A philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University once wrote to 250 of the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals in the world, asking them, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ He then published their responses in a book. Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose, and others were honest enough to say they’re clueless.

That makes you think, doesn’t it? How do you find the meaning of life, then? Maybe the purpose of our lives shouldn’t start with us, but with others. The moment you try to make a change to someone’s life, impacting them positively, you’ll find meaning in your life. The Dalai Lama says that our purpose in life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. He said that he has found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our sense of well-being. If you cultivate a close, warm-hearted feeling for others, it will automatically have the same effect on you – and that gives us strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter.

When I met Wesley Smith – our cover profile of this month – earlier this year, he told me about a great saying: that your purpose in life is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. The meaningful impact he has on those less fortunate is inspiring, and his story will hopefully change the way you look at your purpose in life.

Gerinda Jooste

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