"The Purpose of Life is Action"
- Hubert Humphrey. This life we live is characterized by hardship and grief, but more importantly, this life is desired for the energized goal pursuit we all strive for. We all have a goal to chase, and a dream we want. Whether you're depressed and just want to be happy or you're happy and want to be happier. We all have wants and needs, but if we focus our energy and willpower on our strengths rather than strengthening our weaknesses, our wants will more than likely become what we have.
Obstacles in Developing Your Core Values
Dr. Vic Strecher, Founder of self-improvement app JOOL, states "the concepts of core values, purpose in life, energy, and willpower are relevant to nearly all age groups and situations". We all have motive dispositions, which are "learned or acquired orientations toward certain natural incentives in the environment"(Atkinson, 1982). However further research found that social learning and operant conditioning led people to rely on certain types of positive experiences disproportionately more than others to regulate their mood (Atkinson, 1982; McClelland, 1985). Additionally, we are worse off if we choose stimulating and distracting activities over active efforts to fix reoccurring failures. Worse even, people react defensively when they are faced with dilemmas like these where their positive self-image is threatened. They will go so far as to avoid, dismiss, or discredit their opposition rather than attempt to solve their problems (Velez & Hanus). This is truer in eastern societies that are collectivistic rather than western ones that are more individualistic that prefer competence while collectivistic societies value relatedness to one another through group identity (Triandis, 1995).
The Three Basic Psychological Needs
If we choose to be more individualistic in our core values, we can begin to connect what we really want with what we really need. Our three basic psychological needs are:
- autonomy: freedom from external control or influence; independence.
- competence: the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.
- Relatedness: allied by nature, origin, kinship, marriage, etc.
These needs became evolutionarily selected because these needs "correspond to the successful negotiation of important distinct categories of adaptive tasks." (Deci & Ryan, 2000). These are exhibited as producing something of a success, having close relationships or alliances, becoming more independent, and being able to self-regulate (Sheldon, Schüler, & King, 2011)
The Four Intrinsic Motivations
Motivations are what allow us to improve these three psychological needs. These motivations, if present, are what allow for behavioral change to begin:
- Intrinsic Motivation: "because it is enjoyable" An energizing of behavior that comes from within an individual, out of will and interest for the activity at hand
- Identified Motivation: "because I believe in it". Identified motivation is where a person knows that something needs doing but has not yet decided to do anything about it.
- Introjected Motivation: "because I should do it" Similar to intrinsic motivation in that it is internalized. The distinctive aspect of this is that if it is not done, then the person feels the tension of guilt.
- Extrinsic Motivation: "because I have to do it" Extrinsic motivation comes from outside us. We do it because we are impelled to, for example, because we are told to by someone who has power over us. Many employment motivation systems work on the principle of extrinsic reward, where people are 'bought' and then commanded. Whilst this is effective for simple activities, it is less useful when you want a person to be self-driven.
If we use self-concordant goal motivation (feeling more independent than controlled in the pursuit of your goals) then there is a higher likelihood that you will achieve your goal in the long run, which increases your need-satisfaction and feeling of well-being (Sheldon, Schüler, & King, 2011). The main emphasis in finding your life purpose is that is over the course of your life, it's not a short-term goal and it shouldn't be expected as such. This is called the transtheoretical model which is when we can recognize that there are many stages of change and we should focus on making small adaptations over a long period of time rather than a large adaptation over a short period of time. The latter is more akin to a traumatic event than that of a positive lifestyle change (See Kurbo Program).
Finding Your Life Purpose
By tying this all together, we can begin to see how these three psychological needs and four motivations can impact our lives. Our core values are the basis of this change. We must analyze our thoughts. By using Theory U, (Click here to learn about Theory U) we can start the process of change management and changing our behavior. We have to start focusing on the value of our competence (education), relatedness (relationships), and autonomy (independence). Once we begin to get closer to achieving higher levels of these needs, we can begin to understand our motivations better.
The system of improvement is a positive feedback loop, the more you put into it, the more you get out.
Now it won't be easy, in fact, it will be painful. However, this pain is much better than the alternative which is to live a life void of purpose or joy. We as humans need this energized goal pursuit in life to feel whole and complete. We need others to feel safe and connected. Don't think you'll be able to do more alone either. This will take time. The thing about finding your life purpose is that it's not a one size fits all solution that I can pass on to you. It is a categorical and systematic process of constantly being aware of your situation and making minor changes over a long period of time. We might have to put down our devices. Click here for a great youtube video by Thomas Frank on how to curb your social media addiction. We might have to avoid the activities that help us forget about our pain.
Don't beat yourself up, it will take weeks, months, and years to change your life.
A life purpose isn't found in a day, big adaptations to your life in the short-term are more akin to a traumatic experience than a positive lifestyle change. Dare to find out who you are, what you need, what you want and what you have. The good news is that the answer is within your inner self and you can use the simple tools I've supplied you. Continue to seek your core values and continue to think differently.
- Davis, R. (2016). Tenacity. American Journal Of Health Promotion, 30(8), 652-653.
- Sheldon, K., Schüler, J., & King, Laura. (2011). Wanting, Having, and Needing: Integrating Motive Disposition Theory and Self-Determination Theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(5), 1106-1123.
- Velez, J., & Hanus, M. (2016). Self-Affirmation Theory and Performance Feedback: When Scoring High Makes You Feel Low. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 19(12), 721-726.