We live in a world today where it is often said to be the best time in human history to be alive, with technology at its peak there has never been a greater leap in development as of today. We have self-driven cars, we can command ‘Alexa’ or ‘Siri’ to do our biddings as we please, we can now order dinner and have it delivered to our doorsteps with just the tip of our fingers, there’s even artificial intelligence in medicine. Human lives have never been made more convenient and comfortable than now, and with the internet and social media the world is now one big community, we can now form relationships and have real connections with people from opposite sides of the world, which a century ago would have been close to impossible. It really is a great time to be alive, but yet we have so many people who are suffering from anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that 1 in every 5 person suffers from some form of a mental illness. The world health organization estimates that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Mental health in general has taken a hit over the past decades. Suicide is now on the rise, every 40 seconds we lose someone. By the time you’d have finish reading this article we’d have lost approximately 15 more people to suicide.
At the point in time where we’re supposed to be the happiest and most fulfilled human beings, a great number of us have become hopeless and are rather choosing to give up and forfeit life. How is this possible? How can one even begin to phantom such a dilemma?
Though I presume there must be many and not just one underlying cause as to why more and more people are becoming hopeless in life, I think something that we need to take into consideration is that we are a purpose driven generation, we seek meaning and purpose in almost everything we do. We’re not just going to accept things at face value, we have questions we need answers to, we need to figure out why we’re here, what are we supposed to do and who are we supposed to be. And even though that is not necessarily a bad thing, over time we’ll find that the more we seek something out, inevitably the more we’ll discover how much of it we lack, and this can lead to some people feeling overwhelmed, defeated and wanting to give up on life all together.
None the less let’s entertain the idea that we do need to find purpose to live a meaningful life, because it is true that we do, to some extent. We then instinctively think that in order to find that purpose and meaning for our lives we first have to discover who we are. We have to have that sense of identity and belonging before we can move forward and have a positive impact on the world. Hence why we have so many people who are constantly on the quest of ‘finding themselves’ as if they’re lost and they go through great lengths to do this, a lot of people quit their jobs and put life on hold to go find what is it they’re most passionate about, what is that thing that makes them feel most alive.
The millennial generation for one is taking a stand and choosing to stray away from the normal rules created by their fore parents because they believe the old way of life is somewhat less relevant in the twenty first century. An increasing number of us ditch the traditional ‘nine to five’ jobs and veer into the world chasing our dreams and passions. We travel the world in search of experiences that will help us connect with ourselves on a deeper level to better understand who we are exactly. Again I’ll say that this is not a bad thing, this is actually encouraged. But what if for a second we have it all wrong? What if we have it backwards? What if it’s not about finding ourselves but rather accepting ourselves? What if life is not merely about finding passion but is rather about sacrifice and service? What if our ultimate purpose is to live a life of service unto others, to love beyond boundaries, to grow and become better people than we were before? You see knowing who we are is important but it shouldn’t be our main focus in life because in the end no one is going to remember who we are, they’re only going to remember our contribution to the world and what we did for someone else.
The philosopher Michel Foucault had the correct idea when asked what he was; his response was “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning”. These people that I’ve described above, the millennial ones, I used to be one of those people, desperate to find meaning in life by ‘finding myself’. For many years I questioned who I was and where I belonged only to become frustrated and tired, and then I came to the realization that there has to be more to life than self-identity and self-satisfaction. So I made a decision that instead of searching for who I am, I was just going to accept myself as I am in the present moment, a girl from a third world country who might never amount to anything in life. I was done looking for the things that I’m not and embraced what I actually was. I challenged myself to accept who I am but to keep growing into a better person by doing the simple things, like being a blessing to someone else, and by doing this I eventually found purpose.
If you ask me what I am, there’re a couple of titles I can give you, I’m a Christian and I’m a doctor. But what does any of that even mean? They’re just titles, they don’t define me, and they have no meaning without the actions behind them. What good is a medical degree or the claim to be Christian, if I don’t live a life of service unto others? If I am not constantly growing and becoming a better person then my titles are irrelevant. I learnt that who I am, is not as important as who I become, so whether I’m a super human or a super nobody, it shouldn’t affect my contribution to the world or where I’m headed.
Another great quote I love is by Steve Jobs, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” It’s not about where you started out in life or what your circumstances limit you to, but about where you go from there and what you become. We don’t get to choose where we’re born, the color of our skin or our social economical background but we do get to choose whether or not we’re going to take the hand that we were dealt and make the most out of it.
So even though today we have everything in the world to be happy and fulfilled, it’s safe to say that we are a generation that seeks more, we are inspired by purpose, and finding that purpose can come at the high price of anxiety and depression. And that is one of the reasons we need to stop searching and start living a selfless life. We don’t need to find purpose to live a meaningful life, but by choosing to live a meaningful life, we find purpose.