I have chosen to reflect on purposefulness as my most sacred value because it influences my everyday actions and thoughts while also, I think, representing a considerable part of who I am. While there are undoubtedly other values which, if lacking, would be more repulsive to me than a lack of purpose (e.g. tolerance, kindness), it is the idea of acting in pursuit of a purpose or an objective throughout the days, weeks, months and years of my life that is most often at the forefront of my mind.
I’ll start by way of a couple of small scale examples of purposefulness to explain the importance of this value to me. Firstly, I love ‘to-do’ lists: in setting out a plan for the day, I am immediately more focused, and I also get a sense of satisfaction and achievement when I’m then able to tick things off the list. In making an active choice about how I use my time, I feel more autonomous and in control of my life. Secondly, I am now at the end of a six-month break between graduating and starting working adult life and one of my main findings, having spent a lot of time at home, is that ‘being at a loose end’ is not a feeling I enjoy very much. During the days I haven’t been working part-time, I have written down the things I have done with my time off, even if this has only consisted in exercising, doing chores or meeting up with a friend. While having time to rest is vital for a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, having something to ‘achieve’ during the day has been important to my well-being and feeling of fulfilment.
In this way, I have found that purposefulness is sacred to me because it fosters personal fulfilment and a sense of self-worth. In carrying out meaningful, creative or practical acts we remind ourselves that we are valuable and capable individuals. While having purpose may therefore be seen as self-serving and associated with self-centred ambition, I think that having satisfaction and confidence in our actions ultimately makes us more prepared and able to serve others. In my opinion, having purpose in our lives is something which exalts and improves us all.
The benefits of purposefulness are not only in the everyday but also in the more long-term. Setting ourselves challenges gives us the chance to grow, and being able to look back on the achievements of pursuing a particular purpose is empowering. And, while the most rewarding tasks are usually those we are able to complete and be successful in, overcoming disappointment in the face of a failed endeavour and adapting to find new purpose can be equally self-affirming as we constructively process that experience.
While I personally don’t derive purpose from religion or faith, I highly value anything which gives individuals purpose and meaning to their lives, whether this be a specific goal of opening a business or pursuing an interest; an altruistic desire to do good in a community; or indeed a religious or spiritual mission. I hope everyone who reads this will use the coming New Year as an opportunity to reflect on what gives them purpose, and to identify what they wish for their 2019 that will bring a greater sense of purposefulness to their life.