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Transcend: Finding Purpose In Life

Transcend: Finding Purpose In Life

Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman is an incredible read.  It distills Abraham Maslow’s work into a modern, simple framework. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the most efficient path towards self-development ever created.  Its five levels are an excellent visual depiction of what to strive towards in life.  The higher you are in the pyramid, the greater a sense of meaning and fulfillment that shows up in your day.

Perched on top is Self-Actualization.

Self-Actualization simply means achieving our full potential and being the best version of ourselves.  Reaching this level allows us to give our greatest gifts to the world and live with an immense sense of purpose and fulfillment.  

By working towards self-actualization, you are also making a positive impact on the lives of those around you.  At that point, you are impacting the world with your work, and also inspiring those around you by showing up as the best version of yourself.

The best way to achieve this state is to seek purpose, instead of happiness.  People who spend their time searching for happiness are, ironically, the least likely to find it.  Instead, create meaningful work that lends an increasing sense of purpose to your days.

The actualizing person is busy with the concerns to which he has chosen to commit his living and seldom stops to assess his happiness.  It seems only the neurotic and unhappy that expend their concern explicitly and directly on their happiness…Happiness is a state that is pushed away by the hand that would grasp it but that tends to accompany the person who is alive to his own being.” – Abraham Maslow

How To Create Meaningful Work

In order to create opportunities for meaningful work, you must have goals directed toward growth.  Most people aim for money and status.  That type of goal will not lead to fulfillment.  Instead, choosing a growth-oriented pursuit leads to an increased sense of purpose in your work.

Ideas for Growth-Oriented Goals:

  • Creating Art
  • Mastering Useful Skills
  • Building Something Tangible
  • Helping Others and Volunteering
  • Learning and Sharing Information
  • Self-Improvement

“Goals that are conducive to growth – mastery, self-improvement, creativity, connection and contribution to society – are likely to lead to greater well-being than goals concerned with status and driven by insecurity – attaining power, money, self-esteem, appearance or popularity.” – Scott Barry Kaufman

Where To Begin?

If you have no idea where to start looking for purpose, you’re not alone.  Self-Actualizing is a never-ending journey that begins with the smallest of steps.

Think of a skill you’d like to develop.  For example, writing is the skill I’m most passionate about learning.  Then start working on that skill in the smallest possible increments.  When my writing confidence is low, I simply focus on journaling for a few minutes a day.  That little bit of daily practice led to more improvement than I expected.

If that method doesn’t work for you, then just focus outside of yourself.  Helping others, even in small ways, will lead to a much greater sense of purpose.

“If you find yourself without purpose, don’t despair.  Instead, focus outside yourself.  See what you can do to positively affect those around you.  Striving to make a positive impact on the world often transforms into a sense of meaning in life.” – Scott Barry Kaufman

Instead of trying to ‘find your purpose in life’, do something that creates a sense of purpose at this moment.

Instead of searching for the ‘meaning of life’, take small, meaningful action right now.

These actions are often challenging, but doable.  I procrastinated writing this article for weeks.  Only once I sat down and wrote with no distractions was I able to achieve a sense of fulfillment from my writing.  

“Therefore, the wisest path in life is to deliberately commit to a goal that is expressed in your vision of your future self and is highly integrated with your other strivings.” – Abraham Maslow

To learn more about Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs, check out the recent book Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman.

Joel Smith

Author and writing coach at The Fit Writer.

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