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Purpose of life, or the lack of it?

Yesterday we were having a goals discussion at Niswey and I raised the point of a “purposeful life

Later in the day I was discussing this with a friend and he told me how most of his friends are now lost in life and do not know what to do. Read the write up he sent, you will know what I mean. BTW, he’s aged 40+

There’s a trend that I have noticed this year. I probably have seen signs of it over the past years, but this year the trend is sharper.

A whole lot of my friends are dealing with emptiness or boredom or depression. Some of them are touching 40, or have crossed 40.

All of them are financially well off. They have lovely spouses, and lovely kids. They have lovely homes and lovelier vacations. They party a lot. But once in a while they come across this feeling that they don’t know what to do about.

All of them are great at what they do….great teachers, business development ninjas, even a couple of entrepreneurs.

‘I am bored, I swear I am going to quit my job and work for an NGO,’ says my super saleswoman friend.

‘I am so unhappy man…feel like going and having an affair,’ says a one-woman man. ‘Money and family isn’t everything, is it?’ he wonders.

‘I don’t know, I have been thinking of meaning a lot these past few days. What does this all mean?,’ says a super smart guy that others would gladly exchange places with.

‘I like my life, I have nothing to complain about. My students adore me. I am the life of every party. My son thinks I am the best mom in the world. But there are days like today, when I am so low, I don’t know what hit me,’ one 43-year whatsapps me.

One close friend group has been having discussions on anti-depressants, and people in the group have run up research on ‘not having a purpose in life’ as a cause of depression.

Call it mid-life crisis, call it boredom, call it what you will.

But I really think, all these wonderful, happy, competent, brilliant friends of mine didn’t spend much time to think how would they live their meaningfully. They got excellent at their careers, made money, married the right people, and so on. But they stare at emptiness, maybe not all the time. But I suspect the frequency of it is more than before.

Which is why I hear of it from them, a lot more now.

Upto you to decide whether you want to do what you love or tell your friends at 40 that you are depressed. Your call!


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  1. This is a very short note about the problem but I am happy it is raised on such a forum which is about aspirations and success.

    While keenly reading the post, I was expecting a thoughtful end but it took me to the question itself.

    My view to the post – “Emptyness is nothing specific to age but about lack of decision on what needs to be done”. 

    The answer to the question is always in front of you but you do not have a courage to choose the way to the answer.

  2. all these guys need to meditate

  3. I do not deny the power of meditation but do you really think just meditating is the solution to it?

  4. Ashish my objective while writing this post here was to raise the question itself.

    Me and my colleagues have been talking/sharing about the goals discussion with a lot of friends and you would be surprised to know, almost nobody has thought about this question. 

  5. i believe we truly understand our purpose in life when we move away from the I, me & myself thoughts… when its not about me, my family, my job, my success, my failures, my positives, my negatives etc…

    Do go through this link whenever you get time, I’m sure it’ll help – Purpose of Life

  6. Personally i think the topic should be dissected into Personal, Career and Family life and aspirations. I would suggest people to have aspirations than a serious “purpose” and this dynamics and needs of this topic will dramatically vary in each of these type of life.

    However i think what i learn from my life is that, Enjoy what you do, don’t regret on past, Keep walking, Have high morals and ethics since they might give you positive returns also easy to handle.

  7. The answer lies in the fact that all of them travelled the usual beaten path.

    Std Xth – Opt for Science

    Std XIIth – Get into Engineering / Medicine

    Graduation – Go for MBA / PG

    Post Graduation – Join the rat-race

    Career – Only rat-race

    Job1 – Get the bike loan

    Job2 – Get the car loan

    Job 3 – Marry

    Job4 – Get the house loan

    Job 5 – Have kids

    Job 6 – Start wondering, what else to do? More kids? Some go for it.

    Job 7 – ????

    No risk taken. Nothing ventured. 

    They did not do what they wanted to do, they did what rest of the people wanted them to do…

    But it is never too late, to start following your heart…

    Guess, all of them are scared to do so and hence the emptiness…



  8. Abhishek, I had exactly that in mind when I posted this, but didn’t want to color anyone’s vision by writing that. Looks like that’s exactly what it is

  9. Exactly, we need to look beyond what you mentioned, much beyond…and that’s when we’ll find that!

  10. Sometimes, practicing gratefulness for the position they are in – while making any required changes is the key. I always wonder, that finding purpose in life or passion has little to do with leaving everything behind and going on an expedition – Life is all about finding meaning in day to day activities. Meditation would help you do that 🙂

    If someones goes to a state where they want to take anti-depressants, then something is wrong with their life surely – they need medical help, not purpose in life.

    My 2 cents.

  11. This reply is a little late… But I think I figured out the answer to this one.

    One day I was having a discussion with some college seniors. All of them had got great jobs via campus placements, and were really excited about their jobs, before they started working. A few months later all of them hated their jobs. They loved the money, but apparently every once in a while, they would vow to themselves to quit the next day. Then the next paycheck comes and they go shopping or partying and forget about quitting for a while. This circle continues.

    Then it hit me- everything they were/are doing is because of the money, the appearance of material wealth, and generally they are keeping in tune with what society (and their parents) expect of them. So I asked them- if they had a lot of money (say from an inheritance), what would they want to do? One would like to become a writer, another wanted to pursue a PhD, and a third had absolutely no clue.

    All our lives we’ve been told that “You need to get a good job”. Most of the things we had ever done were to ensure that that goal was achieved. So the endless studying, first for school exams, then for board exams, then for entrance exams, then for college, and finally for placements had finally paid off. But by that time, we had so taken for granted that money would make us happy that we forgot to actually stop and question what would make us happy.

    Whenever I have doubts about major decisions, I ask myself- What do I want to be doing 10 years from now, and will this help me get there? It really helps to clear things up and make difficult decisions much easier

  12. I am very thankful that i do not have this problem.

    But i came across this link once –

    This might help someone looking for answers .

    Meditation will definately help as it allows to be calm , conscious and this helps you to understand clearly .

    I think bigger problem is when people assume that ‘X’ is the purpose and refuse to try to find out their actual purpose at all .

  13. Imo, one must have multiple goals. For different spheres, for different times in one’s life. And, one must keep reviewing, revising, adding goals as time progresses.

    Money, family, career goals are for one’s own good, and, growth. What we do to give something back to the society is also important. And, there is time for it. One must be conscious of that social responsibility. And, work towards it. We all have some likes, some strengths, and somethings we are passionate about. Dedicating some time, resources towards them could help us remain stress free, and continue to progress on our career path without feeling ’empty’.

  14. The purpose of life (within the context of this thread) is to recognise that there is no such thing as ‘purpose of life’.  🙂

    The arrival at emptiness is normal and is the natural progression for any sane, intelligent human being.  But it is a blow to the ego (which results in the concomittant depression or its opposite – wild partying and dissolute living) which has hooked itself into the illusion that there is something to achieve, and that “you” are “doing the acheiving”.   And then you put yourself through all sorts of misery and striving to stand “tall” on the great mountain of “success”.

    A friend told me about a couple who were friends of his.  Both of them super brilliant who “achieved” everything.  Came up the hard way, raked in their millions, and then finally they saw it was all for nothing.  Guess what they did?  They settled all their affairs down to paying the milkman, and then committed suicide together, and left behind a note about the reason for their actions.  

    This glimpse of emptiness is only going to get more acute as we roll into this century where everyone has everything and striving and struggling for materialistic/emotional/and even spiritual goodies won’t be so hard.  As long as it is hard to do something you can lean on the ‘meaningful life’ shtick.  But at some point in time (in this life or subsequent ones) you will run out of subject-object dramas to lust after…


    a) recognition that you are empty, you’ve always been empty and will always be empty.  you’ve just filled yourself up with crap and then you struggle to either remove it or get on top of it.  

    b) recognition that your normal state (as a human) is “insane” bust your gut irrational 24×7 happiness (look at any child playing if you have doubts), you’ve just invented stories for yourself to justify the sadness and self torture and then more stories of the things you need to do to reach “happiness”

    c) recognition that there is absolutely frickin nothing you can do to add to life or take away from it.  That is, there is really no you to enjoy or regret your actions.  And then you go ahead and do it anyway coz the happiness is busting outta you and you need some form of expression…. that the only “real reason” that should power any doing…

    The easy route to digest all this recognition is meditation.  Well, relatively easy.  

    The people that will have the most trouble with facing emptiness are the ones who are the “achhe log”.  Who sincerely believe in the subject object dramas and strive to honor their commitments to the social order.   

    Our gurus had already mapped all this shit 1000s of years ago.  Lekin… we’re smarter than them.. or so we like to think….

    If you do insist on the illuison though any kind of “i will do xyz, achieve abc, become 123, and then I will have “reached” happiness”, is a recipe for disaster if you get it all done by 40.  Make sure xyz and abc consume a major part of your life.  Then when you enter into the “I am 123” drama you can enjoy it for a few years and die happy in the illusion.  



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