This is a really interesting question. Most people think of finding meaning and purpose in life by looking toward religious and spiritual understandings of the world and thinking of that which is sacred in life in terms of “God”. In my counseling practice over time, however, I have also seen this question asked with great passion by those who do not have a religious or spiritual orientation to life.

Asking this question implies that you already believe that there is more to the world than you can easily see or understand. Your question suggests that our lives can have a larger purpose than simply survival or “getting through life.” The cycle of life is a mystery: why do we experience birth, living, illness, aging, and death? What is being human about? What is the world about and how do we understand our human experience? Even more important, can we make a difference in the larger scheme of things through our individual lives and actions?

People find a greater purpose in their lives in many different ways. Some find a sense of purpose by advancing knowledge. They set out to learn about some aspect of the world and then research new information and share this knowledge with others. It doesn’t matter whether you study varieties of plant life, how the human body functions, ways to overcome disease, or how to run businesses in ethical and ecologically sound ways. You can invent or discover healthy and delicious ways to prepare food, teach in a school, or volunteer to help illiterate kids and adults learn how to read.

Many people find meaning in reducing human suffering and increasing human joy through whatever means might be available to them. Maybe the most straightforward way to find a greater purpose in your life is to pay attention to what you love, what makes you sad, and what you care about. Whatever that is, by choosing to get involved in this area sharing your passion with others, you make a contribution to the world and to humankind as a whole. It’s hard to imagine a greater purpose in living.