Here are some tips and thoughts from my favorite authors on how to find meaning and purpose in life. These tips are specifically for those who are currently in an existential crisis.
Are you stuck in an existential crisis where the only thing you can think about all day is questions such as “What is the meaning of life? What is the point of it all?”. I was just recently there. I’ve felt tortured by such questions for the past few months.
But I have since then read some ideas and guidelines that have helped me a lot. I haven’t entirely moved past my existential crisis yet, but these have helped me focus my energy elsewhere from my day-to-day life. And it makes me much happier and want to live life more than I wanted when I was instead moving towards pure nihilism.
Hopefully, by sharing these authors and their recommendations, they can help you as well.
Mark Manson: Find meaning by helping others
One of my favorite writers to read is Mark Manson, who writes articles and books that are motivating and inspiring to finding a direction in life. The thing that stuck with me, from my last time reading his work, was his opinion that:
- The purpose of life can be found in helping others
So, according to Mark; to dedicate one’s life to helping others (in a freely chosen way), is a good way to have a purposeful life.
And since reading that, I did an experiment on myself where I tried this out. From morning to night, I chose to dedicate my time and energy to doing things that can help others, instead of sitting and thinking about existential questions all day.
And yes, this did help me a lot. Since then, I have thought less about the meaningless of life than I have during any other time of the past 6 months. I feel much happier already, and I feel like I’m more alive and excited for the future than I’ve been for months. So this method I definitely recommend!
Timothy Ferriss: Enjoy life & help others
In his book “The 4-Hour Work Week”, Timothy Ferris shares a lot of helpful advice for people who have become financially independent or in other ways have made a life for themselves where they suddenly have a lot of free time. According to him, having a lot of free time is a common reason for people to become existential.
According to Timothy Ferris, too much free time is not good for us. Instead, the goal should be to live more, not less. Yes, go nuts and live all your dreams if you can, but when you’re done with that: existential crisis and social isolation will still hit. Timothy also says to not be afraid of it, but treat this experience as if it’s a new sport.
He also says that it’s very normal among high-performers and goal-oriented individuals to experience growing pains such as an existential crisis; when suddenly given “too much” free time.
When you have too much free time, you be asking questions such as:
- What does it all mean?
- What should I do with my life?
- What is the meaning of life?
- What is the point of it all?
And what’s the solution according to him? To fill the void. This can be done by being in the zone, being 100% focused on something external, and not being distracted while engaging in something or someone else.
According to him, it’s when the brain isn’t focusing on something external that it turns inwards and creates problems to solve. And these problems are often undefined and unimportant such as the big questions of life where there is no answer.
So, to summarize: The solution is to find something external to focus on, such as an ambitious goal that seems impossible to achieve. This will force you to grow and focus your energy, and in turn, doubts will disappear.
The solution to the existential crisis questions is therefore to not answer them. According to Mark, it’s a complete waste of time to spend your life trying to answer questions that cannot be answered. And he also means that it’s liberating to let those questions go and keep philosophical distress out of your life.
Mark also gives some practical things that you can focus on such as:
- Enjoy life (travel, gain new experiences, slow down and enjoy the small things)
- Continue learning new things (languages, skills, knowledge)
- Help others/Give service
- Pursue something that seems fun or rewarding. It doesn’t have to be for life, but it’s a stepping stone to the next new adventure or exciting event
I hope this could help you get direction on how to find meaning and purpose in life!
What I took away from these authors is that I should stop rolling around in existential questions that have no possible answer, and instead focus my energy on helping others, while enjoying life. This will help me find meaning and purpose with living.