Purpose in Life + The Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being

Purpose in Life The Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being

Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you felt like you weren’t quite sure exactly what the point of it all was? Where you felt a little aimless, weren’t sure of where you were headed or even where you wanted to head. Where it was difficult to connect to any substantial meaning, purpose, or feeling of interconnectedness to something greater than yourself?

If so, you may have been experiencing challenges in Ryff’s fifth factor of psychological well-being—purpose in life.

We know that a sense of purposelessness can keep us stuck, stagnant, and just pretty unhappy. In fact, poor markers in this category can leave us feeling like we’re just going through the motions, checking off boxes with no end in sight, and lacking any real direction in life. We punch the clock twice a day, eat, sleep, and repeat; not much else.

On the flip side, positive markers in this purpose category result in us feeling a deep sense of connectedness to the larger things in life. Whether that’s connection to actual, tangible social movements and ideas, or just a sense of knowing there’s more to life than the boxes we check daily, this can have a direct impact on our overall sense of happiness. This can also include having strong goal setting habits; looking to the future and knowing what you would like to accomplish.

So what exactly does this look like in practice? Perhaps it looks like having a job you don’t love right now, but knowing in your heart that you’re destined for a fulfilling and rewarding career ahead of you. Or it may look like feeling your fullest potential is well expressed through being a stay-at-home parent. Or maybe you find deep joy in connecting with the earth and spending time outside on your downtime. Perhaps you’ve felt this at a protest march or a loud concert or in the quiet library stacks.

This doesn’t have to be all about high-powered careers and folks who win Nobel Peace Prizes—there is fulfillment available to us in simple, purpose-driven lives. A sense of connection, alignment, and contentment, even in the mundane. Of knowing that our lives are important, vast, and meaningful, even if they’re quiet. Of knowing that one person can change the world, and that one person might even be us.

But where do we even start to do the work if we feel like we’re lacking in this category of psychological well being? It can be hard to get a grasp on the feeling of purpose and “something greater” when it’s so outside of ourselves. Instead, we can begin honing in on our values—what we value in this life—and go from there.

Take a look at this list and see if anything stands out to you. Take note of the words that catch your attention—though they may not be exactly the direction you need to go to discover purpose and connection in your life, they’re a good starting point.