Life is busy and often complicated. Not only is it a struggle to maintain balance between family, friends, work, and other responsibilities, sometimes it feels like we are stuck in a vicious cycle of busyness, with no sense of purpose.

Although money, power, and social influence may resonate with some people for periods in their lives, these things do not lead to long-term, sustainable satisfaction. To create a life worth living, we need to live our lives in line with our values. When people spend most of their time doing activities that match their values, they often feel a strong sense of purpose and, in turn, fulfillment and satisfaction.

The first step to increasing your sense of purpose and fulfillment in life is to determine what you value. When creating a list of what you value, give yourself some time, as this list will likely require multiple revisions before you feel it is truly reflective of your values. The following is a sample list of common values:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Relationships
  • Community
  • Generosity
  • Trust, honesty, and respect
  • Equality
  • Health/ fitness
  • Religion/ faith
  • Nature
  • Education/ learning
  • Self-Growth
  • Novelty/ exploration
  • Culture/ tradition
  • Art

Once you have generated a list of your values, generate a list of activities that reflect each of these values. Creating a life of purpose does not necessarily require you to make huge changes, even slight changes such as exploring how you use your free time could make a difference; think of leisure, volunteering, and family involvement. For example, if you value family, your list may include activities such as:

  • Sit-down dinners daily with your partner and kids
  • Playing with your kids (with 100% of your attention)
  • Sunday dinners with extended family
  • Family day-trips or vacations
  • Hosting family reunions or outings
  • Regular phone calls or texts to family members

Given that most people spend a great deal of time at work, it is important to apply this same approach to the workplace. Be sure to generate a list of work-related activities that reflect each of your values.

Whether at home or at work, it is important to note that you might not even need to make any observable changes; you might just need to change your perspective. Often connecting the mundane tasks of everyday life to the bigger picture can increase our sense of purpose if, by doing so, you are able to connect the activity to an important value. For example, think about making a meal for your family as nurturing their physical and emotional health, by meeting their body’s needs and providing an opportunity for social connection. In the workplace, any customer service task can be framed as an act of kindness and an opportunity to show respect for another human being.

Unfortunately, many people do not feel that their work gives them a sense of meaning or purpose, which has a significant impact on life satisfaction. If you are struggling to create or find satisfaction in your work, consider working with a career counselor. A career counselor will work with you to determine your values and interests, problem-solve ways in which to highlight aspects of your current job that are consistent with your values, and if necessary, work with you to consider possible alternative career options. The goal would be to guide you in a career direction that will connect you with a greater sense of purpose.