Since the beginning of time people have been wondering what the meaning of life is: Why are we here? What is our purpose? Are we ever supposed to find out what this is all about? Those of us who love Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy know that the answer is 42 (duh!) but really… What is it all for?
People on Quora were asked: “How would you summarize the purpose of life in one sentence?” These are some of the most insightful answers.
Even if life gave you at one time everything you wanted — wealth, power, friends — after a while you would again become dissatisfied and need something more. But there is one thing that can never become stale to you — joy itself.
So instead of living for someone else’s life, live for yourself. We all know life has to go on….There’s much more meaning in life once you know your purpose.
For example, consider a hammer. It’s designed to hit nails. That’s what it was created to do. Now imagine that the hammer never gets used. It just sits in the toolbox. The hammer doesn’t care.
But now imagine that same hammer with a soul, a self-consciousness. Days and days go by with him remaining in the toolbox. He feels funny inside, but he’s not sure exactly why. Something is missing, but he doesn’t know what it is.
Then one day someone pulls him out of the toolbox and uses him to break some branches for the fireplace. The hammer is exhilarated. Being held, being wielded, hitting the branches — the hammer loves it. At the end of the day, though, he is still unfulfilled. Hitting the branches was fun, but it wasn’t enough. Something is still missing.
In the days that follow, he’s used often. He reshapes a hubcap, blasts through some sheet rock, knocks a table leg back into place. Still, he’s left unfulfilled. So he longs for more action. He wants to be used as much as possible to knock things around, to break things, to blast things, to dent things. He figures that he just hasn’t had enough of these events to satisfy him. More of the same, he believes, is the solution to his lack of fulfillment.
Then one day someone uses him on a nail. Suddenly, the lights come on in his hammer soul. He now understands what he was truly designed for. He was meant to hit nails. All the other things he hit pale in comparison. Now he knows what his hammer soul was searching for all along.
So what I conclude is to live your life for your satisfaction and happiness, don’t run behind making others happy.
Answering this question has been the focus of way too many of my waking hours. And probably all of the ones Ive slept. As a curious kitten, Ive studied it wearing many different cat hats.
I have several pale gray, ethereal ones with Philosophical delicately scrolled across the brims. These are niceties and practically useless.
There is a growing pile of bad azz ones with lights and transformer-style tricks emblazoned with ever-evolving fonts spelling out Scientific. The quantum physics and cellular biology ones are my current favs — though Im still learning how to use em.
Stacks and stacks of woven golden ones cover my shelves without words. These are the spirituality caps. They are nearly indistinguishable in function, but they all fit a little differently. When sitting under their protective shade, there are no answers, only quiet. Its kind of nice.
Hung lovingly and worn on doorknobs throughout the house in bunny-numbers are stretchy, silver-infused hats, some with feathers, others with sharp edges, all strikingly marked Artistic. These seem to be the most useful, although environmentally and mood-dependent.
But if you put one of each kind on at the same time (I often do stuff like that), something magical happens. The most beautifully complex symphony disguised as a graceful, simple melody beats down on your soul like afternoon sunshine.
And for one moment, you get it. The big picture swells until it whites out reality around you. You see. Really see. That the ups and downs arent happening TO you, they are happening FOR you.
You are safe. Loved. And there is nothing to fix. And nowhere to go.
Then, with the untimely, abruptness only a sibling can yield, there is a pound on the door and paradise falls away into the rumblings of the metro ride home.
No matter. You know now. There is more. And this life? Well, its all gravy, baby.
The purpose of life is to keep on living. Thats why organisms engage in mechanisms as homeostasis. Death only occurs when life is no longer possible.
Once life has started, it pursues to stay alive.
To improve the society you were born into
This may vary from person to person or country to country. Why I believe this is ’cause I belong to a society that actually needs improvement, in fact a lot. I reside from Gaya which is a part of Bihar state, India. Improving the society from my views means alleviating the standard of living, eradicating differentiation on grounds of caste and creed, eliminate poverty, child labour, etc. which all are very prevalent in this area.
People who might have visited this place as travellers would have surely faced the level of corruption and unscrupulousness.
And this is prevalent in almost every part of India. Yes disappointing but very true. So what I believe is that every individual should come forward and do at least a small effort from their side which will surely make about a change in long run ’cause there is no magical way to do this.
Play the games you want to play before the game that is your life, comes to an end.
Life is a game, filled tons of mini games. Theres the survival game – where the only objective is to stay alive. There are career games, Im playing the comedian game. Others are playing the doctor game. Some are playing the McDonald game.
If you dont like the career game youre playing, spend time getting good at another game in your free time and when you get good enough to turn pro, quit and start playing somewhere else.
When we are tourist we play the How many landmarks can we take pictures next to before our plane takes off game. When we are in a boring, stale, relationship, we play the How many movies can we watch together before we realize were incompatible game.
Like games, the games we play require skill and luck. Some games require more skill than luck – careers like coding and engineering. Other careers are almost all luck, like Hollywood actors and actresses. But in the end – your life is game.
You can learn the rules to stay alive, you strategize and thrive, but always remember that youre a featherless two legged creature born between urine and feces that will one day be the culinary delight of terrestrial worms.
To be yourself 100% of the time, all the time, in every situation, every time.
Being your true self at home, in your relationship, at work, with friends, in familiar places, in different places, during conflicts and during celebrations. If you can be yourself in every situation, no matter the circumstances, youll succeed in life and realize YOUR purpose in being who you are.
In the early years of our lives, we are learning about this new world and how we interact with it. Babies repeat things over and over, throwing the same toy on the ground, laughing when you amuse them and so on. We do this to understand patterns in this world. If I do that, this will happen.
Every experience we have in life teach us 2 lessons:
1. what to do more of
2. what to do less of
We hope we choose the good things to do more of and the bad things to do less of. We all know that doesnt always happen though.
Growing up and living through different experiences in our families, in school, university, relationships, sexual experiences, work, travel, friends, etc. These experiences teach us something to do more of and something to do less of. Layering experiences, thoughts, beliefs and actions that shape our normal patterns we live life by, basically forming our subconscious.
Even as adults we are still learning these same two things with each experience.
Ultimately getting closer to discovering and becoming ourselves (i believe the purpose of life) or drifting further away from who we are and end up focusing on more important things that never really fulfill us with a sense of purpose.
You only have one life; be yourself or be no one.
The purpose of life is whatever you choose for it to be.
Nothing more and nothing less. Some of us value wealth, some value happiness, while others value accomplishments.
To summarise the lives of 6.9 billion people into 1 sentence is to presume that you know best. Quite a statement to be making.
There is no meaning of life. We’re just animals like every other animal on Earth. We live and we die. There’s no “meaning” behind it. Just enjoy the time you have.
When youd be on your death bed, knowing that all this could be over any second, there, if you are not grieving for another life, another birth, another body; to accomplish what you think you should or could have in this life, then your purpose has been fulfilled.
To die without regrets is the ultimate purpose of life.
Become the best version of yourself.
We don’t come equal to this world. I don`t believe in equality in a pure way: someone will be brought up in a villa next to the beach, and someone will struggle to get a small part of the personal space in a small studio apartment.
But these are only external circumstances.
Whenever happens to you, the way you use the pains and gains around you determines your path and your limits. If you think, that you will never be better that you were meant to, you probably won`t. If you don`t care, if you are bold enough to pursue your dream and become a better person step by step, despite all the pre-determined things you can`t/couldn`t influence, you will see that magic happening around.
You can be noble, kind and smart, despite all the bad things happening to you. And you can be a bad man despite all the wealth you have.
Don`t try to change things around you. Concentrate on those within you, as they determine who you are and how you succeed. Whenever happens, you will always have you – so just make sure that you enjoy this person.
In one sentence: To set and attempt to accomplish goals that you feel are naturally meant for you to do.
Explanation: This goal is very vague sounding, and doesn’t really contain multiple instructions. But there is a reason for that, and that is because every one of us is unique and experience life differently every moment. Therefore only we can know and feel what is right for us to do. Obviously along the way youll realize that some of what you thought were meant to be goals were instead camouflaged obstacles that were noting more than lessons to help you come back to reality.
So in conclusion, I am not saying you shouldn’t take advice from others, I’m simply saying that you should take advice from yourself first.
Perhaps for countless number of people, purpose of life is to attain bliss which usually people accomplish through their long-term goals and call it success. Albeit the word SUCCESS is relative. Denotation of this word varies from person to person.
For one, it can be to earn a lot of money. For the next, success can be to go round the world with a dream to get glimpse of the world. For the other person, it can be carrier fulfillments. For parents, it can be their child’s happiness.
But behind all these bliss and so called purpose of life seems to be futile. So the actual underlying truth is that, all this long-term aims which we start considering as purpose of life is temporary. In other words, these purposes are materialistic. Because, every time a human achieves something , he starts to plan and achieve more. There is no end to this greed. And it continues to grow and is not gratifying ever.
The true purpose of life should be permanent and satiating. This permanence can be only attained by the eternal bliss that God will bestow upon us. So, the ultimate purpose of life is to attain God.
To leave the space around me a little better than when I found it.
Change the paths (lives) of the people you meet and see how they change yours in return.
Inspire others — and get inspired by others. Your path of life is a straight line you follow. But everyone who crosses your path or whose path goes alongside yours for a shorter or a longer time will change your path; and you will change theirs.
I think the purpose of life itself is to develop your own, ever-changing path while contributing to others paths. I imagine those paths like particles (or stars) flowing through space that are influenced by the forces (e.g. gravity) surrounding other particles (or stars).
You still have your own path, youre doing your thing, but the exchange with others leads to exchange and change; and there is no development (evolution) without change.
… And this comes from a person who loves to be alone.
To live only for yourself and only help others in the process.
Wait what?? Sounds selfish and contradictory, right? Let me explain…
To live only for yourself simply means live the life that is true to who you are, deep down inside, before your parents, friends, teachers and society conditioned you to be the person they thought you should be. The truth is there is no perfect life or perfect way to live life. Those who feel unfulfilled have often devoted their lives and defined their purpose by the measurements of society and not their true values. The only way to discover life purpose is to get rid of all the conditioning, screw societal norms, stop caring about possible judgement from others and go within yourself to discover who you really are and what you really want for your life. Oh and the most important step, is to act on it! Know that you can accomplish your purpose and take steps every day to live a life that is true to you.
Now, the second part of the sentence and only help others means that a true life purpose is accomplished without hurting others. You shouldnt have to scam, compete, lie, cheat, etc. to get ahead if you are in alignment with your true purpose. Yes, you will come across people who test you. If you are starting a business you will have competitors. But remember, that this is your life purpose and nobody elses. Challenging people help you grow. Competitors in business or the workplace only show that there is a need for the work you want to do. Only you will fulfill your purpose in a particular way and the right people will be drawn to you for it. And yes, you may unintentionally hurt others who disagree with your choices. Perhaps your parents are upset that you will never use that law degree or your friends get mad that you can no longer meet them for weekly beers because you are busy traveling. Remember that often the people who get hurt by you bettering yourself only need to work through something on their own. Ideally, your life will help inspire those who initially disagreed or didnt understand what you were doing.
So live for yourself, help others in the process and you are bound to wake up fulfilled and fall asleep accomplished most days of your life.
Life is about experiencing moments.
That moment you realize that your life is like an unimportant speck of dust in an overwhelmingly large timeline and massive universe.
The moment you realize that the most you can hope to achieve is to make a little dent in this universe, and that’s ok.
The moment you realize it’s all binary and relative. Life can’t exist without death, beauty cannot exist without ugly, and love cannot exist without evil.
That moment you realize that the struggle is real … and absolutely necessary to be who you are. Mistakes teach us, they bring us closer to finding ourselves, and help us appreciate what we have. It’s having nothing that will allow you to appreciate everything. It’s failing that will allow you to succeed. It’s struggling that will allow you to prosper and find happiness.
That moment you realize that everything in your life must have happened in order for you to exist. You would not be the exact same person if any of your past experiences, even the tough ones, were different.
That moment you realize that a broken heart is an important part of growth.
That moment you realize your dream job was never really your dream job.
That moment you realize your friends aren’t really your friends at all.
That moment you realize that the love of your life was still waiting for you.
That moment you realize that not even loss itself can stop you, that sadness, despair, anger and fear cannot hold you back, is the moment you become perfect. Perfectly flawed, but perfect nonetheless.
I like to think about it this way, inspired by this quote: “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.” – Viktor Frankl
Personally, I interpret this to mean that the meaning of life is unique to each and every person, completely up to you and written only by your actions.
There isnt one neat answer to what the meaning of life is and could possibly be. But in light of my own experiences and worldview, I believe the following premise is as close as it gets:
Use all of the gifts (big and small) and experiences (both good and bad) you were given in life, in every available waking moment, to somehow improve the human condition of every person you encounter, to the best of your ability – including yourself.
More concretely, strive to help every person you meet in some concrete way to become healthier, wiser, wealthier and/or better as a human being in some way for having met you, regardless of whatever circumstances in which you and the other person find yourselves.
You will fail in your mission often. You will fail yourself often. You will never live up to perfection or your own impossible standards – or your parents, or your spouses.
You will too often think that your words, deeds and thoughts have no effect on others. You will inevitably be wrong. Use your time wisely. Aim high. Listen before you speak.
The results will speak for themselves.
To collectively advance the human race. Now if only everyone were pulling in the same direction…
Whatever the purpose of life may be, the true essence is to be happy and content with whatever you do and however you live.
This is pretty much like asking define success. To me, it’s achieving your goals and living a happy ever after. To you, it could be to become a billionaire in 5 years.
Purpose of life, ah, is to be happy despite whatever comes your way. And why not? You weren’t created to do this or that. You were created to be you, and for me, to be truly you, you have to stop thinking about the purpose of life and learn to be happy about it.
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away and be happy, regardless.
Only then you can live happily and die happily. Purpose accomplished.
Well, personally I think it’s learning – learning to be a better human.” Although it may apply to different people differently.
I am a Hindu and I believe in the concept of the cycle of birth and rebirth. Each life you live will entail you to learn something depending on your actions in your last birth or any of your previous births. The final destination of which is called MOKSHA or NIRVANA which is he state when he soul becomes ONE with the almighty and hence FREEDOM from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
You could have been an overtly angry person in a previous life, then you will be put in situations that will either enable or force you to control you anger.
If you were someone who was too dependent on your wife or husband or parents or friends in your previous life then you would be forced to NOT be dependent overtly on that entity.
If you were too ambitious then your learning would be tame your ambition.
If you were a violent person the learning would be to tame your violence. In worst cases if you were one of those people who inflicted too much damage on people around you, you would be made to go through the painful experiences that you put others into.
If you were very egoistic, you will be put in a situation where you will have to tame that.
If you were dishonest you will be put in a situation where you will learn the hard way that dishonesty doesn’t get you anywhere.
After hundreds and thousands of births you would attain a state where nothing effects you. You are in the state of eternal happiness (you become a MONK OR A SANYASI). And then when you realize that you are nothing but a minuscule part of the ALMIGHTY you would be ready for NIRVANA or MOKSHA. Where the soul becomes ONE with the almighty.
It’s abstract. The moment you use words to describe it, it’s creating a limitation.
Keeping life simple as it should be.
Growing some food on your own, even a small plot or a tomato pot. Things like that. After having a meal grown entirely by you its easy to find the meaning.
To be absolutely the best you you can be. Because that’s all you have control over. You’ve been given one job in this universe, and that’s to fulfill yourself.
My reason is specific to me as yours will be to you. Purpose, in reality, doesn’t exist in the way that we’ve been led to believe it does. It isn’t some finish line to reach or common treasure to be hunted and dug up, but it’s a unique decision for each individual. Find your own purpose. Don’t let anybody tell you what the right answer is because there isn’t one, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Living the life with presence.
Some of this material has been edited for clarity.