Having a purpose in life is one of the most fundamental human needs. However, for most people, finding their purpose in life is not obvious. Modern life has a way of distracting people from their true goals and many people find it hard to define their purpose in life. Especially at younger ages, people are searching for meaning in life, but this has been found to be unrelated to actually finding meaning. Oftentimes, people experience pressure to have a “perfect” life and show the world how well they are doing, instead of following up on their deep-felt values and passions. Consequently, people may need a more structured way of finding meaning, e.g., via an intervention. In this paper, we discuss evidence-based ways of finding purpose, via a process that we call “life crafting.” This process fits within positive psychology and the salutogenesis framework – an approach focusing on factors that support human health and well-being, instead of factors that cause disease. This process ideally starts with an intervention that entails a combination of reflecting on one’s values, passions and goals, best possible self, goal attainment plans, and other positive psychology intervention techniques. Important elements of such an intervention are: (1) discovering values and passion, (2) reflecting on current and desired competencies and habits, (3) reflecting on present and future social life, (4) reflecting on a possible future career, (5) writing about the ideal future, (6) writing down specific goal attainment and “if-then” plans, and (7) making public commitments to the goals set. Prior research has shown that personal goal setting and goal attainment plans help people gain a direction or a sense of purpose in life. Research findings from the field of positive psychology, such as salutogenesis, implementation intentions, value congruence, broaden-and-build, and goal-setting literature, can help in building a comprehensive evidence-based life-crafting intervention. This intervention can aid individuals to find a purpose in life, while at the same time ensuring that they make concrete plans to work toward this purpose. The idea is that life crafting enables individuals to take control of their life in order to optimize performance and happiness.
The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.
Whether you love him or hate him, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an example of a person who has been planning his life and setting goals throughout. Given that he came from a small town in Austria, the chances of him becoming the person he is today were very slim. Although even his parents thought that his ideas of becoming a great body builder were outrageous and his fellow cadets made fun of him when he put in extra hours of training while he was in the military, holding on to his vision and dreams paid off in the end (see Schwarzenegger and Hall, 2012). So even though it was not obvious that he would achieve the goals he had set for himself, he made a plan and stuck to his plan to achieve his goals.
Now consider this story: Brian is CEO of a large bank, and seems by all standards to be living a fulfilling live. Although he is overseeing 1,200 employees, earns a good salary, has a nice house at the beach, and a wife and kids, he feels very unhappy with his current life. One day he decides that he does not want to live this life anymore and quits his job. He becomes a consultant (and his wife divorces him) but still struggles to find his passion. As he knows that the job he is doing is not his passion, he starts exploring what he would like to do. Unfortunately, having done things for so long that have not brought him satisfaction, only status and money, he seems to have trouble connecting to his “inner self.” In his search for why he has ended up this way, he realizes that he has been living the life his father had in mind for him. This leads him to think that, if it had not been for his father, he would probably have studied psychology instead of management.