In French, the phrase raison d’être encapsulates a feeling of all-consuming purpose. It is very rare indeed that a person is lucky enough to encounter such a definite sense of their ultimate purpose, passion, or reason for being. In fact, many people search for this very feeling high and low, by means of religion, education and philanthropy, through writing, reading and creating, by becoming a parent or falling in love, or by cultivating meaningful friendships. Yet, it seems as though it is the rare person who sincerely attains a true and long lasting feeling of purpose.
Western culture often mandates that purpose is to be found by means of material gain, finding the perfect romantic partner, or by having a high-status title that commands respect. It seems, however, that in actuality these pursuits offer merely a façade of true purpose that lacks any deep or meaningful emotional tie.
Along the same lines, many often assume that happiness comes directly from the quality of their present circumstances, failing to see that each of us exert power on our environment that creates stability and lasting happiness. This happiness is controlled by our inner state, and therefore does not waver according to uncontrollable changes in environment.
So ultimately, instead of reaching outwards towards material gain, acceptance, or recognition, it is important to realize that much of the time happiness and purpose are to be found through an understanding and appreciation of one’s internal world. You cannot truly be happy or lead a purposeful life without first feeling that you are worthy of these things. This idea is widely explored and deeply ingrained in the practices and belief systems of many eastern religions. In fact, the Buddha himself is quoted as saying, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
As this quote points out, so often we place our focus and desire on finding meaning through the validation of others that we fail to see the beauty and power within ourselves. A recognition of one’s intrinsic value is essential to the search for purpose. Abandoning any outward search, this love for ourselves allows the planting of seeds of purpose and happiness that eventually grow into saplings that must be carefully nurtured throughout a lifetime.
Perhaps the ultimate purpose of the human experience is to understand that our power is within, and it can guide us to our raison d’être if only we let it.
Written by Allison Grossberg, WLLC 2015-2016