Starting your new year with a purpose

It is a tradition for many of us to set up a New Year resolution in January. These promises we made to ourselves guide us to commit to a better life in the year ahead. Common New Year resolutions include starting exercise regimes, quitting bad habits, or setting financial plans. Deep down inside, do we know why we set up these New Year resolutions? Do we have a clear sense of purpose in the goals we set for ourselves? What is the meaning of achieving our goals in the coming one year?

It is not easy to define purpose or meaning of life. Many people may mix up purpose or meaning with goals. In fact, our purpose or meaning of life should be the foundation of our goals. According to Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, the meaning of life differs from individual to individual, even from moment to moment. Frankl’s experience in the concentration camp was insightful to us. In his book, Man search for meaning, he stated that  “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us”.  A purpose or meaning for an individual is one’s life tasks as Frankl described. These life tasks are concrete and real. They form our destiny. For instance, the present life task of a mother of a newborn baby is to love and care for one’s child.  This is the foundation of her goals of fulfilling all the duties to be a nurturer and care taker of her baby.

In fact, our life tasks depend on situations and stages in our lives. Sometimes, our present situation may require us to shape our own destiny by actions. Other time, it is more beneficial for us to go with the flow and make use of the opportunity for us to contemplate our purpose or meaning of life. When we feel trapped in our present situation, it is better for us to contemplate what is expected from us in this circumstance.  According to Frankl, sometimes we are simply required to accept fate and to bear our cross. When we find a purpose or meaning in our suffering, we accept our suffering as our life task. We may find our uniqueness in our suffering, as everyone’s experience is different, no one can suffer for us or bear our burden. Furthermore, we may realise our suffering could be the hidden opportunity to new insights or growth. In this way, we are not trying to avoid suffering; we have to face it anyway.

Whether you are in a situation in which your life requires you to shape your own destiny or in which your suffering requires you to understand what is expected from you, it is easier for us to stick to our plans for achieving our goals if we have a purpose or meaning behind it. For instance, if the meaning behind my New Year resolution of a morning exercise regime is to stay healthy so that I can take good care of my loved ones, the determination to achieve my goal for staying physically fit is much stronger.

Although we are all facing different levels of difficulties or hardships in the face of the pandemic, we can still set up New Year resolution to improve our well-being. We all have different life tasks to achieve in 2021, such as finding a new job, staying healthy, or taking care of our loved ones. If we set up our New Year resolutions based on our life purpose or meaning, we will be more likely to achieve our goals and feel fulfilled and enriched. Let us stay hopeful and realistically optimistic in our life journey in 2021.

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