Is a happy life distinct from one that is purposeful and meaningful?

The relationship between these ideas and how they relate to leading a good life has been the subject of scientific debate. The debate is not brand-new. Philosophers, scientists, and spiritual authorities have all argued about what makes life worthwhile. Is it a life full of happiness or a life full of meaning and purpose? Even so, is there a distinction?

Imagine the human rights activist who strives for justice but is imprisoned to be happy. Or the gregarious person who spends his nights (and occasionally days) hopping from party to party—does it matter and add to the good life?

These are not merely scholarly inquiries. They can assist us in deciding where to focus our time and effort to live the lives we want.

Definitions

For most people, the terms “happiness” and “subjective well-being” are interchangeable. Subjective well-being is typically assessed by asking individuals about their level of life satisfaction (evaluative), their tendency to experience positive and negative emotions (affective), and their sense of meaning and purpose (eudaimonic). Happiness is defined as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, linked with a sense that one’s life is good, significant, and valuable” by positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky in her 2007 book The How of Happiness.

“A sense of importance or purpose” is the definition of meaning. Questions like “Why are we here? ” “What is life all about?,” or “What is the purpose of existence?” can be included as they relate to the relevance of living or existence in general.

“Having established goals and a direction for one’s life” is a definition of having a purpose in life. Although they are somewhat similar, many of us mistakenly believe that life’s purpose and meaning are the same things. More specifically, it’s believed that having a purpose in life or adopting habits that are motivated by a purpose are only a few factors that go into leading a meaningful life.

But just like other people, researchers have debated on what constitutes “happy” and how to evaluate it.

While some have asked participants to rate their overall happiness or life satisfaction, some have associated happiness with fleeting emotional sensations or even spikes in brain activity in the pleasure centres. Some researchers have attempted to group these components of happiness under the umbrella term “subjective well-being,” which includes evaluations of both positive and negative emotions as well as overall life satisfaction. One such researcher is Ed Diener of the University of Illinois, a pioneer in the field of positive psychology. These variations in how happiness is defined have occasionally produced outcomes that are unclear or even conflicting.

There are five distinctions between a pleasant life and a purposeful or meaningful one.

According to Roy Baumeister, a Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, “a happy life and a meaningful life have certain differences.” This assertion is supported by a report he co-authored with scientists from Stanford and the University of Minnesota and was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

In a study of 397 adults, Baumeister and his colleagues looked for connections between respondents’ degrees of pleasure and meaning in life and a variety of other elements of their lives, including their behavior, moods, relationships, health, stress levels, professional lives, and other activities.

They discovered that having a purpose in life and being happy don’t necessarily go hand in hand. They also wanted to know more about the variations between the two. Their statistical research sought to distinguish between factors that made life meaningful but not happy and factors that made life happy but not meaningful.

According to their research, happiness (as opposed to meaning) is related to one’s health, financial security, and level of comfort in life, whereas meaning is not. The researchers narrowed down the distinction between a happy life and a meaningful one to five key elements:

  • Contented people satisfy their wants and needs, but that doesn’t appear to matter much in terms of living a meaningful life. Therefore, the pleasure was related to health, prosperity, and ease of living, but not to meaning.
  • While meaningfulness entails thinking more about the past, present, and future—and how they relate to one another—happiness involves concentrating on the here and now. Furthermore, it was believed that meaningfulness lasted longer than happiness and was more lasting.
  • Happiness comes from what other people offer to you; meaning comes from what you give to them. Even though social ties were associated with both happiness and meaning, happiness was more closely tied to the advantages of social connections, particularly friendships, and meaningfulness was associated with what one offers to others, such as caring for children. Accordingly, people who identified as “takers” were happier than people who identified as “givers,” and spending time with friends was more closely associated with happiness than with meaning, but spending more time with loved ones was associated with meaning but not with happiness.
  • Stress and difficulties are a part of meaningful lives. Higher degrees of concern, tension, and anxiety were associated with greater meaningfulness but lower happiness, suggesting that tackling challenging issues that go beyond one’s own or one’s pleasures encourages meaningfulness but not happiness.
  • Happiness is not a prerequisite for meaning, but self-expression is. A meaningful life was associated with self-expression and concern for cultural and personal identity, but not a joyful one. For instance, having a sense of wisdom or creativity was linked to meaning but not enjoyment.

One of the study’s more unexpected findings was that taking from others was related to happiness and not meaning, whereas giving to others was associated with meaning rather than happiness. Even though many researchers have discovered a link between giving and happiness, Baumeister contends that this association is the result of the meaning one gives to the act of giving.

According to Baumeister, the straightforward result of helping others is that they are happier. However, he claims that if you take away the links between meaning and happiness, “helping makes people less happy, thus all the effect of helping on happiness comes by way of boosting meaningfulness.”

The research in positive psychology that connects helpful, pro-social behaviour to happiness and well-being is called into doubt by Baumeister’s study. However, a discussion regarding what psychologists and the general public mean when we talk about happiness has been sparked by his research.

However, Baumeister makes it clear that he thinks it is important to distinguish between happiness and purpose, in part to inspire more people to pursue worthwhile endeavours in life whether or not doing so makes them feel happy. He is aware that they are connected, though.

According to him, “living a meaningful life adds to happiness, and happiness may also contribute to finding life more meaningful.” “I believe there is proof for both of those,”

One word of caution, though, he says: You might not be on the right path to happiness if your only goal in life is to experience a hedonic pleasure. Traditional wisdom has held for millennia that pursuing pleasure alone for its own sake won’t ultimately make you happy, he claims.

According to Baumeister, pursuing happiness without a purpose would likely be a stressful, irritating, and annoying prospect. Instead, it might make more sense when aiming for a well-lived life to look for things you find meaningful—for instance, meaningful connections, selflessness, and self-expression with a purpose—than to only looking for enjoyment. even if pleasure enhances one’s sense of significance.

“Aim for long-term objectives; carry out deeds that society values highly—for accomplishment or moral reasons,” he advises. You need to look outside of yourself to discover the meaning behind what you’re doing since meaning comes from a bigger context. There’s a good chance that you’ll experience joy and happiness along the journey as well.

Recent research suggests that having a sense of purpose extends your life and improves your health, even when examining individuals from different cultural backgrounds and adjusting for known longevity predictors like smoking. But the same limitation applied to all of these studies: They concentrated on people over 60.

Researchers like Robin Simon of Wake Forest University, who examined 1,400 persons’ happiness levels and discovered that parents typically experienced less happy emotion and more negative emotion than people without kids, lend support to this result. She concluded that although parents may see more significance and purpose than nonparents, they are typically less content than their friends who are childless.

The University of California, Riverside’s Sonja Lyubormirsky, a researcher who studies happiness, disagrees with this finding. She objects to studies that “try too hard to exclude out anything associated with happiness” from their study but still come to conclusions regarding happiness.

According to Lyubomirsky, “imagine everything that you believe would be terrific about parenting or about becoming a parent.” “Parents are going to seem a lot less joyful if you adjust for that—if you take it out of the equation.”

She and her coworkers recently measured parents’ levels of happiness and purpose in life both “globally” (having them rate their overall happiness and life satisfaction) and while going about their everyday business. The findings indicated that parents, on average, were happier with their life than non-parents and that parents found both joy and significance in childcare activities, even during the actual childcare duties themselves.

Being a parent brings about all of these positive outcomes, according to Lyubomirsky: “It gives you purpose in life, it offers you objectives to work for, and it can make you feel more connected in your relationships.” “You really can’t talk about happiness without bringing them all up.”

According to Lyubomirsky, since meaning and happiness are inextricably linked, academics who attempt to separate them may be on the wrong track. When you remove the meaning from your happiness, she claims, it ceases to be happiness.  Accordingly, Lyubomirsky speculates that although the study focused on “happiness,” it may have examined something more like “hedonic pleasure”—the aspect of happiness that focuses more on feeling good than on deeper life fulfilment.

 Is Happiness Possible Without Enjoyment?

But does separating meaning from pleasure ever serve a purpose?

To do this, some academics examine what they refer to as “eudaimonic happiness,” or the happiness that results from worthwhile endeavours, and “hedonic happiness,” or the happiness that results from pleasure or the accomplishment of objectives.

According to a recent study by Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, those who reported higher levels of eudaimonic happiness had healthier immune systems than those who reported higher levels of hedonic (pleasure) happiness. This finding raises the possibility that leading a meaningful life rather than one filled with pleasure is better for our health.

Similar to this, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies by Elizabeth Dunn found that eudaimonic happiness has several positive health effects, including reduced stress reactivity, decreased insulin resistance (which means a lower risk of developing diabetes), higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, better sleep, and brain activity patterns that have been associated with lower levels of depression.

But according to Dunn, a researcher on pleasure, the line between eudaimonic and hedonic enjoyment is blurr

Intuitively, this distinction seems to make a lot of sense, but Dunn believes that it doesn’t stand up. Numerous studies by Dunn have demonstrated the link between giving to others and pleasure, both in the here and now, as indicated by the presence of only pleasant feelings, and in terms of total life satisfaction. She and her coworkers recently published a paper in which they examined data from several nations and discovered evidence to support this association, including results showing that people who were given the option to purchase items for charity reported higher levels of positive emotion (a gauge of hedonic happiness) than people who were given the option to purchase the same items for themselves, even when the spending did not create or strengthen social ties.

The theory that eudaimonic and hedonic well-being are surprisingly comparable and aren’t as distinct as one might imagine is one that Dunn believes is well supported by his research. It is erroneous to assert that there is only one route to meaning and that it is distinct from the route to pleasure.

She maintains, like Lyubomirsky, that enjoyment and significance go hand in hand. She cites the research of psychologist Laura King of the University of Missouri, who discovered that experiencing positive emotions helps people see the “big picture” and notice patterns, which can help one aim for more meaningful pursuits and interpret one’s experience as meaningful.

Many people contend that deepening social ties is the most meaningful aspect of life.

She also claims that the metrics used to separate eudaimonic from hedonic happiness are too closely associated to do so; statistically speaking, doing so can lead to inaccurate results.

James Coyne, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and, in Dunn’s words, a “hardhead” when it comes to statistics, wrote in a blog post from 2013 that trying to distinguish eudaimonic well-being by controlling for hedonic well-being and other factors results in something that isn’t eudaimonia at all. He offers the analogy that it would be like taking a picture of siblings that resemble one another, taking away everything that makes them seem alike, and then still claiming that the picture is indicative of the siblings. If we were discussing actual persons, we probably wouldn’t be able to tell that the two are related. In other words, simply because it is statistically feasible to eliminate the impact of one variable on another, it does not imply that the result is inherently different. The happiness aspect can disappear if you separate meaning from happiness, according to Dunn. “But is it true that people have to choose between happiness and meaning in their daily lives? I don’t believe so.

Other Research

A recent book asserts that finding meaning in life is essential for our health and well-being.

In 2010, Victor Strecher, a behavioural scientist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, lost his daughter, age 19, who had been battling a rare heart ailment for years, to an unexpected heart attack. His ideas about what life should be about and how to live it was upended by her vulnerability and eventual death, which inspired him to write a book titled Life on Purpose.

The book is a contemplative, occasionally inspirational, investigation of the nature of purpose; it both takes into account how philosophers have long discussed the connection between happiness and meaning and also presents inspiring tales of people who have found their mission. It incorporates Strecher’s insights as well as those of other people who have discovered their calling and altered the course of their life.

The book also provides a survey of the recently-emerging field of purpose science. Strecher claims that the strength of one’s life purpose, which entails living by one’s values and goals and making an effort to have a positive impact on the world, can be measured and strongly correlates with psychological wellness and even indicators of physical health and longevity.

For instance, research has shown that persons with heart disease have a 27 percent lower risk of suffering a heart attack over two years for every one-point rise on a six-point scale evaluating purpose in life. A one-point difference in purpose can result in a 22 percent lower risk of stroke in older persons.

Although it’s unclear how having a purpose in life would have these effects, there is likely some sort of relationship with stress, which has already been demonstrated to influence our cells. Researchers examinedhow meditation might affect the gene health of mothers who are under a lot of stress in one study. Before and during some of the mothers’ attendance at a retreat for mindful meditation, the length of their telomeres—the end caps on genes that typically shorten with aging—was evaluated.

Women who had received the meditation instruction did have longer telomeres after the retreat as compared to a control group, indicating greater health. However, contrary to expectations, the researchers discovered that this impact was instead explained by increases in a sense of life purpose that the meditation inspired, rather than by increases in mindfulness.

Studies like these demonstrate the potential benefits of purpose, which, according to Strecher, should motivate us to think about promoting it in our companies and educational institutions. Students are more inclined to try harder in classes that seem uninteresting or difficult, such as science and math classes, if they are encouraged to see education as important to their life’s work. Additionally, companies that prioritizepurpose often have happier workplaces overall and outperform those that just focus on profit in the long run.

According to one study, hospital staff were 45 percent more likely to practice excellent hand hygiene if they were told that doing so helped keep patients from contracting infections rather than if they were told that doing so helped themselves. The link between their behaviours and a mission-driven goal encouraged better conduct. Inspiring employees to consider how their activities influence other people can lead to transcendent behaviours and even save lives, according to Strecher.

The Human Flourishing Program, a research initiative run by Harvard University, was launched in 2016 to elaborate on the idea of how to flourish as human beings. This can be interpreted as something greater than one’s well-being. Above all, it is the capacity to bounce back from setbacks and be resilient, employing psychological techniques that let us deal with any situation in life and find satisfaction. Since this study programme has been going on for a while, it is already abundantly evident that working toward these objectives is one of the key elements to success.

Viktor Frankl once said that finding significance in our lives has a direct impact on our mental health. Complementary research, like the one published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2019, supports this. A purpose has a direct impact on physical health, psychological equilibrium, self-esteem, and emotional processing, according to this study led by doctors Ying Chen and Erik Kim. These objectives, along with the significance they each contribute to individuals’ lives, serve as an internal support system that lifts burdens, sifts through fears, and restores equilibrium and optimism.

What Exactly Does it Mean to be Purposeful?

Now that you are aware of the need of having a purpose to enhance your quality of life, the question of what purpose exactly arises.

We must realize that a purpose is more than just a goal. It isn’t, for instance, about desiring a bigger house. Not getting a better job is the goal. It’s also not about reaching your ideal weight or going to the gym regularly.

It goes much beyond that. The goals of life go beyond simple desires. They offer you hope in your heart, goals to strive for, and the drive to motivate yourself. They also help you discover your place in life.

In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states that having a purpose is having a set desire in your mind that leads you toward something meaningful to you, something that even goes beyond yourself.

Giving someone else a hand would be an illustration of this. A book, music, or work of art are examples of things you could make to inspire others. It might have to do with gaining more knowledge about a particular subject or field. Bringing joy to your family or caring for those you love would be terrific goals as well.

If the benefits of having a purpose in life also apply to younger adults, it was the subject of a study published in the journal Psychological Science. The United States sample was analyzed by researchers Patrick Hill and Nicholas Turiano. This national study of health and happiness began tracking more than 7000 participants in 1994. Participants in the study, whose ages ranged from 20 to 75, were periodically checked in to see how they were doing and felt.

Hill and Turiano examined research participants’ answers to the Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being, which includes inquiries like “Some people wander through life, but I am not one of them,” to gauge participants’ sense of purpose in life.

The researchers compared their responses to other elements, such as having good relationships with others or general feelings and then looked at their mortality statistics from the National Death Index.

In reality, 569 participants, or roughly 9% of the sample, passed away during the course of the 14-year study. After examining the data, the researchers discovered that having a sense of purpose was a crucial factor in predicting who lived and for how long. All other things being equal, the researchers concluded that stronger purpose continued to predict greater longevity in adulthood.

Before retirement, it was unclear whether having a purpose in life had benefits for longevity, as previous priorities like starting a family and advancing in your job were abandoned. However, Hill and Turiano discovered that retirement status is not a prerequisite for the advantages of purpose.

What’s more, they discovered that having a clear purpose can be just as crucial for young people as it is for seniors. These results point to the significance of choosing a life course as soon as feasible, they write. Additionally, studies have shown that increasing goal commitment while in college might impact well-being throughout middle life.

Although the study’s findings are encouraging, Hill and Turiano cautioned that further research is required to fully understand the processes by which mortality is influenced by life’s purpose and whether these pathways differ in early adulthood and late age.

The new study “should provide researchers with a direction in which to travel rather than a final endpoint or conclusion,” they write. “As a purpose would.”

According to a 2010 study in the journal Applied Psychology, those who experience high levels of eudemonic well-being, which includes having a sense of control, a sense of purpose, and a sense that what you do is meaningful, tend to live longer. Other researchers discovered that happiness may be advantageous for maintaining health. In that study, those with the highest levels of well-being had a 30% lower chance of passing away throughout the study’s 8.5-year follow-up period.

Additionally, studies show a connection between having a sense of purpose and good health outcomes, including fewer heart attacks and strokes, improved sleep, and a lower incidence of dementia and impairments.

According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Research and Personality, those who have a feeling of purpose earn more money than those who believe their jobs are meaningless. The good news is that you are not forced to choose between a wealthy lifestyle and a fulfilling existence. You might discover that the greater your sense of purpose, the more money you’ll make.

Given all of these advantages, it is obvious that finding meaning and purpose in your life is crucial. However, determining a person’s purpose and significance takes time.

Time magazine claims that living with a purpose is associated with a lower risk of disease, improved sleep, and other beneficial activities. And research published in JAMA Psychiatry found that having a goal in life aids elderly persons in maintaining their independence and function. The study found that those who felt they had a purpose in life were less likely to have weak grip strength and sluggish walking speeds, both of which are indicators of deteriorating physical ability and disability risk factors. Additionally, they observed that those who have a purpose are more diligent about looking after their health. Further research revealed that those with a sense of purpose experience less inflammation.

Finding a purpose in life is associated with living longer and in better health, according to research presented in the journal JAMA Network Open. The Health and Retirement Survey, or HRS, which has been given to over 20,000 people over 50 every two years since 1996, provided the data for the study. The survey’s life purpose measurement questions were essential. The study focused on the 7,000 individuals who took the modified HRS, and the researchers created a life purpose score based on participant responses. Participants were then followed up with five years later. After completing the statistical analysis, the researchers discovered that people with poor life purpose scores had a greater than twofold increased risk of passing away throughout the five-year study period.

Living with purpose is important for overall well-being, and studies have shown that greater well-being is associated with lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and with reduced expression of genes that code for inflammation. Additionally, there is proof that higher levels of inflammatory proteins are linked to a higher death rate. Chronically elevated levels of inflammation may be caused by a lack of meaning in one’s life. Numerous major illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and coronary artery disease, are thought by researchers to be caused by chronic inflammation.

Your Purpose: Discovering It and Developing It for a Meaningful Life

Varied people have different ideas of what their life’s work is. According to one study, there are four different categories of purpose according to Patrick L. Hill in his research study published in Psychological Science. These kinds include

  • Defined as a tendency to assist others and have an impact on social structures
  • Described as having aesthetic objectives and a flair for creativity
  • Described as objectives for achieving administrative and financial success
  • Individual recognition. Described as a person’s yearning for approval and respect from peers

The degree to which each of these forms of aim is pursued varies among people. But the wisest course of action is to concentrate our efforts on prosocial purposes if our objective is to improve happiness and well-being. Get involved in initiatives that benefit others, in particular, and make an effort to “give back” in ways that matter to you.

Choosing a Meaningful Life

Although having a purpose in life and having meaning in life is not nearly the same, discussing meaning in life here also seems to be beneficial. It is believed that values, ideals, purpose, accomplishment, and enthusiasm all contribute to a meaningful life:

  • Appreciating life’s inherent worth.
  • Living by principles: Adopting a personal guiding philosophy.
  • Purpose: Having specific intents and goals.
  • Achievement: Making and achieving individual goals.
  • Life excitement: A feeling that life is intriguing, exciting, or engaging.
  • A sense of community. It’s a terrific strategy to strengthen life purpose while also improving health and happiness to forge meaningful connections with other people.
  • Self-expression. It serves the purpose to express our thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
  • Our sense of purpose is strengthened when we make a good difference in the lives of others.
  • Personal development We can strengthen our feeling of purpose when we seek to better ourselves in ways that matter to us.
  • Admiration can make us feel important and as though our lives have meaning.

Ikigai

To live the realization that one aspires for or to experience that which makes life worthwhile is roughly how the Japanese phrase is translated into English. What you enjoy, what you are good at, what the world needs from you, and what you can get compensated for all come together in one idea. It is, in essence, what one’s life’s purpose is. analyses the concept of purpose in life in their book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor Garcia and Francesc Miralles. To be worthwhile and the word “life” are combined to form the Japanese word “ikigai,” which roughly translates as “the delight of always being busy in the sense of having a complete life vs. a busy life.” Our ikigai is unique to each of us, yet the authors contend that we all share the need to find significance. We live more completely when we spend our days feeling linked to the things that are important to us; when that connection is lost, we experience hopelessness. Each of us has our ikigai, which must be found only after a thorough search.

Putting Purpose into Action

What then is your life’s purpose, if any? First of all, it’s crucial to remember that you might have multiple goals. There are plenty available, and the more the better. Consider these inquiries as you begin to discover your purposes:

  1. What suffering, injustice, or issue do you sincerely wish could be resolved? You can use this question to determine what is most important to you. Once you are aware of this, start making plans and goals for how you will contribute to the solution of this issue. This need not be a major undertaking. For instance, if you genuinely want to make the world a better place, you can start by committing random acts of kindness throughout your day.
  2. What activities give you energy? When you are in alignment with your life purpose, you feel energized and may even enter a state of flow, which is a state of being so absorbed in what you’re doing that you become fully present and may even lose track of time. Your response to this question can therefore further point to your life purpose.
  3. For what are you prepared to make sacrifices? Typically, the things that give us meaning in life are those that are so important to us that we are willing to put aside less important things like leisure time or money. What are the causes, people, or things that you are prepared to make sacrifices for?
  4. Whom are you hoping to assist? The thing about happiness is that when we put too much emphasis on our pleasure, we end up being less happy. For this reason, it’s crucial to briefly disengage from your search for your purpose. Change your attention to how you can assist others. Think about whom you can help, how you can help, and whom you want to help. If necessary, start small. Offer to assist a buddy, compliment someone, make cookies for your workplace, or express gratitude to the store clerk. The secret to discovering your life’s purpose is figuring out how you can serve others in ways that are significant to you.

Lip service to having a purpose in life is insufficient. It must be sincere and accurately reflect your objectives and core principles. Finding your mission and acting on it are two different things, according to Strecher. To progress forward and avoid being blown off course, he adds, “the dynamic process of aligning yourself with your life purpose demands energy and willpower: wind in your sails to carry you forward, and a powerful rudder to resist being blown off course.”

How, therefore, do we go from conceiving our mission to realizing it? According to Strecher, healthy lifestyle decisions like getting more sleep and eating better, exercising, and being more present in your daily life might help you have more energy and willpower (e.g., through meditation or tai chi or other practises that increase your presence). He claims that the connections between healthy living decisions, energy, willpower, and purpose are all reciprocal—that is, they impact one another. To have the energy and willpower to follow your mission, it makes sense to both identify your purpose and engage in more healthful practices. His book spends a lot of time outlining how to go about doing that.

A Life Purpose/Meaning Assessment

A 20-item evaluation tool, the PIL (Purpose in Life) Test was created by Gena Davies, Derrick Klaassen, and Alfried Langle and published in the Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. You respond to its inquiries using a Likert scale with a range of 1 to 7 (in descending order).

The test examines:

  • Meaning perception. This gauges how much importance a person spends on life. It makes an effort to gauge how firmly people believe that there are good reasons to live.
  • Understanding of the meaning. This gauges whether the subject believes life to be a positive experience.
  • Tasks and goals. Here, the evaluation probes the subject’s objectives and sense of ownership over them.
  • The discussion of freedom and fate. This element looks into the test belief-takers that death is an uncontrollable force that people should be afraid of.

PIL test questions 1 through 10

  1. My usual range is from 1 (totally bored) to 7. (enthusiastic).
  2. Life always appears to me to be: 1 (totally routine) to 7 (always exciting).
  3. I have between 1 (no purpose or desire) and 7 in my life (many well-defined goals and desires).
  4. The scale of my existence ranges from 1 (meaningless) to 7 (full of meaning and purpose).
  5. From 1 (which is the same every day) through 7 (always new and different).
  6. If I had the option, I would pick from 1 (never to have been born) through 7. (to have nine more lives just like this one).
  7. I’ll do anything from 1 (laze around for the rest of my life) to 7 (do the thrilling things I’ve always wanted to do) after I retire.
  8. In terms of achieving my life goals, I’ve gone from 1 (haven’t advanced) to 7 (have achieved all of them completely).
  9. My life ranges from 1 (empty and desperate) to 7 (a collection of good and exciting things).
  10. If I were to pass away right now, I would say that my life has been: from 1 (total garbage) to 7 (very valuable).

PIL test questions 11 through 20

  1. When I consider my own life: 1 (I frequently wonder myself, “Why am I here? “) to 7 (I always find reasons to live).
  2. In terms of my own life, the world ranges from 1 (which baffles me) to 7 (which significantly adapts to my life).
  3. My self-assessment ranges from 1 (an irresponsible person) to 7 (a very responsible person).
  4. In terms of the freedom people have to make their own decisions, I think that people range from 1 (total slaves of the constraints of their natural habitats and situations) to 7 (fully free) (absolutely free to make all of their life choices).
  5. In terms of death, I range from 1 (terrified and prepared) to 7 (prepared and unafraid of it).
  6. In terms of suicide, the range is from 1 (I’ve seriously considered it as a way out of my circumstance) to 7 (I’ve never given it a second consideration).
  7. My ability to discover a sense of direction and meaning in life, in my opinion, ranges from 1 (almost nonexistent) to 7. (very great).
  8. I have no control over my life, and external events dictate everything from 1 to 7. (in my hands and under my control).
  9. Dealing with my everyday activities ranges from 1—a tedious and painful experience—to 7 (a source of pleasure and satisfaction).
  10. I’ve learned that: from 1 (I have no life’s purpose or mission) to 7 (clear goals and a satisfactory purpose for my life).

Interpretation of the PIL Test Scores

Remember that the maximum score you can receive on this exam is 140. People who receive scores below 90 may be drifting aimlessly through life. On the other hand, people who score between 90 and 105 points do have a purpose in life, although a vague one. Finally, according to the test’s developer, people who score higher than 105 have distinct goals and a strong sense of purpose in life.

Everyone finds meaning in life in a different and personal way. Additionally, it evolves during the course of a person’s life. It is everyone’s responsibility to find that source of inspiration that will drive them throughout the day.

Final Thoughts

You can have an overarching (inner) purpose that you share with all of humanity and a specific ( outer) purpose. Finding your life’s purpose is not something you pick, but you can choose what you do with it (creation) (creating).

Your personal hero’s quest never ends (even when one ends, another begins). Before attempting to change the world, start with yourself. These paths can converge. All levels of purpose exist, and all are interconnected: the purpose of the cosmos is connected to the purpose of mankind, which is connected to the purpose of each human.

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