A word of caution here. This post is going to mention God and the Universe. I want you to know that I have great respect for all religious beliefs and traditions, but I am not writing about your spiritual faith or mine, both of which may remain private. The idea I am putting forth here will serve you regardless of your faith—or your lack thereof.
One of the infections that one might pick up is nihilism, the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. More and more, I recognize a lot of people are infected with this belief, and particularly young people, who are still seeking and learning. This might be why so many people like Sinek’s Start with Why; it suggests that what one does has a purpose and instills meaning.
There is a reason your life has no meaning, no built-in purpose. You are born a blank slate, with one life, some longer, some shorter, in front of you. You have been given that life free and clear, and it is yours to do with what you will. Your story isn’t yet written because you get to write it yourself. It’s a bit of a “choose your own adventure story” where you make decisions and choices yourself. All faith and traditions believe that we are created in God’s image. If that is true, then it naturally follows that we would be creators, since God is the creator. For my friends who practice no faith, you can feel free to substitute Universe for the word God.
The purpose of there being no single purpose in life is not that your life is meaningless, but instead, it is that you have been given an opportunity to create your own life. The gift you have been given is to decide for yourself what your purpose is and what a meaningful life or meaningful work means to you.
Those who don’t know that the gift is that your purpose and meaning hasn’t been decided for you are susceptible to being infected with the belief that their life has no meaning or value. It can be hard to feel that you control your life when so much of what you see and hear and read are images and ideas about how out of control is the world around you. The negativity that comes to you through all the popular mediums can infect you with the kernel of negativity that later sprouts into pessimism, cynicism, and eventually, nihilism.
There is another reason that the idea that life has no meaning and no purpose is so alluring to some; it resolves them of the responsibility for deciding what their purpose is and what their life means. The obligation to determine for yourself who you are and why you are here is an awesome—and terrifying—responsibility. The question, “What do you do?” is a much easier question to answer than, “Why are you here?”
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” I would add that it is your job to find out why, no matter how old you are, and no matter how long it takes. The only clue I can offer you from the work I have done here is that I have yet to find someone whose purpose and meaning wasn’t based on service or contributing to others. The best leaders help other people grow. Right now, someone needs your leadership.
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