Better Than You Found It
The Simplest Way To Find Meaning In Your Life If You Feel You’re Missing Your Life’s Purpose
We live in a world that tells you, “Find your purpose. Find what gives you meaning. Find your passion and go after it your whole life.”
We also live in a world with millions of dissatisfied adults (mostly young adults) who feel their life is incomplete or that they’re living the wrong life because they haven’t found that elusive “purpose” yet…
Living in a first world country where most of our basic needs are met–food, shelter, safety–we feel a deep desire to find something beyond basic human survival. Maslow calls it “Self-actualization”–or in other words: finding your purpose in life.
Ever since I returned home from my LDS mission five years ago, I’ve struggled with this. I yearned to find my meaning or my passion so deeply it disturbed me. I couldn’t sleep, I excluded myself from social settings, and I searched incessantly to find a profession or a path that was my “passion”.
I think the reason I struggled with it so intensely was due to the fact that I felt such immense purpose and meaning on my mission. Now I’m not going to get all religious here and start preaching Mormonism. But I do think there was one thing that caused me to feel such purpose and meaning that it’s worth mentioning—one thing I had completely forgotten about until recently.
The past month I’ve been working as a counselor at a service ranch for youth. I won’t dive into the details because I want to get to my point. But in a nutshell, it’s a camp for youth 12-15 yrs old. In the camp, we give community service, learn arts and crafts, and go on backpacking trips every weekend to learn how to value nature.
The ranch is guided by many ethics and values that I believe to be the basis for a healthy, happy life. But the main underlying value that rules the camp (I would say) is service. Not just service but living community minded.
As in living not just for yourself.
You’re always looking to improve your surroundings. You clean up not only after yourself, buy after others. You let your friend eat before you. You pick up trash that’s not yours. You worry about other’s needs before yours.
This type of living breathed life into my soul. It awakened a feeling I hadn’t felt in years. It made me feel purpose again.
Being told we need to find our passion or find meaning in our lives causes us to look inward. We think we need to do some “soul searching” to figure out what our destiny is on this planet.
But I think it’s much simpler than that.
After reading, pondering, and meditating about this, I’ve come to one simple rule. One guideline to live by that I believe can exterminate dissatisfaction and the feeling of living a “purposeless life”. Something I believe that if the entire human race lived by, the greatest problems in this world would be solved:
Is it better than you found it?
The environment around you…
The earth you’ve walked on…
The people in your life…
…are you leaving it better than you found it?
If this isn’t your mindset, then what is?
A selfish mind won’t think this way. It is too focused on his own life to think about leaving his surroundings better than before. This mindset leads to a selfish, meaningless, and empty life.
The Gita teaches that “…selfish actions and cravings is what makes a person feel separate from the rest of life.”
Once you can change your inward improvement to outward improvement, life will take on a whole new meaning.
Purpose will be found where there was none. Meaning will be formed from the smallest of things. And passion will flow through your life because you’re living beyond yourself.
I truly don’t believe you need to find that one job or that one path in life to find your purpose. Sure there are massive problems that need solving in this world and there are people who take on the task and burden to try and change the world.
But I’m here to say you can find just as much meaning as solving world hunger as you can by simply improving the life that immediately surrounds you.
Just the fact that you are living beyond yourself is what gives meaning.
In the end, if everyone lived this way, the greatest problems–such as world hunger–would be solved. In a world that is obviously and blatantly ruled by greed and pride, selflessness is the greatest value I can think of.
It doesn’t have to be big. Just having the “Better Than I Found It” mindset everywhere you go and in everything you do, you will start to notice a change.
When you go on a hike, try picking up some trash.
When you visit someone, try doing their dishes or sweeping their floor.
When you’re walking down the street, try talking to a homeless person and becoming their friend.
It’s not hard. It’s just inconvenient.
But I believe most of what we truly want in life lies just beyond convenience.
Another teaching from the Gita:
“..through selfless service, you will always be fruitful and find fulfillment of your desires: this is the promise of the creator.”
And one of my favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama:
“The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.”
We’re not here on this earth to achieve the highest rung of success, nor to gain the most accolades or achievements…
We are here to do one simple thing:
To contribute to this earth. To make it better than we found it.