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HOW TO FIND YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE

Are you struggling to discover your purpose? That may be because you feel isolated from other people. Here’s how you can overcome that.

 

Do you have a sense of purpose?

For decades, psychologists have studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of other people, like launching an organization, researching disease, or teaching kids to read.

Indeed, a sense of purpose appears to have evolved in humans so that we can accomplish big things together—which may be why it’s associated with better physical and mental health. Purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense. It helps both individuals and the species to survive.

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Many seem to believe that purpose arises from your special gifts and sets you apart from other people—but that’s only part of the truth. It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll almost certainly find others traveling along with you, hoping to reach the same destination—a community.

Here are six ways to overcome isolation and discover your purpose in life.

1. Read

Reading connects us to people we’ll never know, across time and space—an experience that research says is linked to a sense of meaning and purpose. (Note: “Meaning” and “purpose” are related but separate social-scientific constructs. Purpose is a part of meaning; meaning is a much broader concept that usually also includes value, efficacy, and self-worth.)

In a 2010 paper, for example, Leslie Francis studied a group of nearly 26,000 teenagers throughout England and Wales—and found that those who read the Bible more tended to have a stronger sense of purpose. Secular reading seems to make a difference, as well. In a survey of empirical studies, Raymond A. Mar and colleagues found a link between reading poetry and fiction and a sense of purpose among adolescents.

“Reading fiction might allow adolescents to reason about the whole lives of characters, giving them specific insight into an entire lifespan without having to have fully lived most of their own lives,” they suggest. By seeing purpose in the lives of other people, teens are more likely to see it in their own lives. In this sense, purpose is an act of the imagination.

Many people I interviewed for this article mentioned pivotal books or ideas they found in books.

The writing of historian W.E.B. Du Bois pushed social-justice activist Art McGee to embrace a specific vision of African-American identity and liberation. Journalist Michael Stoll found inspiration in the “social responsibility theory of journalism,” which he read about at Stanford University. “Basically, reporters and editors have not just the ability but also the duty to improve their community by being independent arbiters of problems that need solving,” he says. “It’s been my professional North Star ever since.” Spurred by this idea, Michael went on to launch an award-winning nonprofit news agency called The San Francisco Public Press.

So, if you’re feeling a crisis of purpose in your life, go to the bookstore or library or university. Find books that matter to you—and they might help you to see what matters in your own life.

2. Turn hurts into healing for others

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Of course, finding purpose is not just an intellectual pursuit; it’s something we need to feel. That’s why it can grow out of suffering, both our own and others’.

Kezia Willingham was raised in poverty in Corvallis, Oregon, her family riven by domestic violence. “No one at school intervened or helped or supported my mother, myself, or my brother when I was growing up poor, ashamed, and sure that my existence was a mistake,” she says. “I was running the streets, skipping school, having sex with strangers, and abusing every drug I could get my hands on.”

When she was 16, Kezia enrolled at an alternative high school that “led me to believe I had options and a path out of poverty.” She made her way to college and was especially “drawn to the kids with ‘issues’”—kids like the one she had once been. She says:

I want the kids out there who grew up like me, to know they have futures ahead of them. I want them to know they are smart, even if they may not meet state academic standards. I want them to know that they are just as good and valuable as any other human who happens to be born into more privileged circumstances. Because they are. And there are so damn many messages telling them otherwise.

Sometimes, another person’s pain can lead us to purpose. When Christopher Pepper was a senior in high school, a “trembling, tearful friend” told him that she had been raped by a classmate. “I comforted as well as I could, and left that conversation vowing that I would do something to keep this from happening to others,” says Christopher. He kept that promise by becoming a Peer Rape Educator in college—and then a sex educator in San Francisco public schools.

Why do people like Kezia and Christopher seem to find purpose in suffering—while others are crushed by it? Part of the answer, as we’ll see next, might have to do with the emotions and behaviors we cultivate in ourselves.

3. Cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism

Certain emotions and behaviorsthat promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of purpose—specifically, awe, gratitude, and altruism.

Several studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center’s Dacher Keltner have shown that the experience of awe makes usfeel connected to something larger than ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose.

Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s where gratitude and generosity come into play.

“It may seem counterintuitive to foster purpose by cultivating a grateful mindset, but it works,” writes psychologist Kendall Bronk, a leading expert on purpose. As research by William Damon, Robert Emmons, and others has found, children and adults who are able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to “contribute to the world beyond themselves.” This is probably because, if we can see how others make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back.

Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little question, at this point, that helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. In one study, for example, Daryl Van Tongeren and colleagues found that people who engage in more altruistic behaviors, like volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.

Interestingly, gratitude and altruism seem to work together to generate meaning and purpose. In a second experiment, the researchers randomly assigned some participants to write letters of gratitude—and those people later reported a stronger sense of purpose. More recent work by Christina Karns and colleagues found that altruism and gratitude are neurologically linked, activating the same reward circuits in the brain.

4. Listen to what other people appreciate about you

Giving thanks can help you find your purpose. But you can also find purpose in what people thank you for.

Like Kezia Willingham, Shawn Taylor had a tough childhood—and he was also drawn to working with kids who had severe behavioral problems. Unlike her, however, he often felt like the work was a dead-end. “I thought I sucked at my chosen profession,” he says. Then, one day, a girl he’d worked with five years before contacted him.

“She detailed how I helped to change her life,” says Shawn—and she asked him to walk her down the aisle when she got married. Shawn hadn’t even thought about her, in all that time. “Something clicked and I knew this was my path. No specifics, but youth work was my purpose.”

The artists, writers, and musicians I interviewed often described how appreciation from others fueled their work. Dani Burlison never lacked a sense of purpose, and she toiled for years as a writer and social-justice activist in Santa Rosa, California. But when wildfires swept through her community, Dani discovered that her strengths were needed in a new way: “I’ve found that my networking and emergency response skills have been really helpful to my community, my students, and to firefighters!”

Although there is no research that directly explores how being thanked might fuel a sense of purpose, we do know that gratitude strengthens relationships—and those are often the source of our purpose, as many of these stories suggest.

5. Find and build community

As we see in Dani’s case, we can often find our sense of purpose in the people around us.

Many people told me about finding purpose in family. In tandem with his reading, Art McGee found purpose—working for social and racial justice—in “love and respect for my hardworking father,” he says. “Working people like him deserved so much better.”

Environmental and social-justice organizer Jodi Sugerman-Brozan feels driven “to leave the world in a better place than I found it.” Becoming a mom “strengthened that purpose (it’s going to be their world, and their kids’ world),” she says. It “definitely influences how I parent (wanting to raise anti-racist, feminist, radical kids who will want to continue the fight and be leaders).”

Of course, our kids may not embrace our purpose. Amber Cantorna was raised by purpose-driven parents who were right-wing Christians. “My mom had us involved in stuff all the time, all within that conservative Christian bubble,” she says. This family and community fueled a strong sense of purpose in Amber: “To be a good Christian and role model. To be a blessing to other people.”

The trouble is that this underlying purpose involved making other people more like them. When she came out as a lesbian at age 27, Amber’s family and community swiftly and suddenly cast her out. This triggered a deep crisis of purpose—one that she resolved by finding a new faith community “that helped shape me and gave me a sense of belonging,” she says.

Often, the nobility of our purpose reflects the company we keep. The purpose that came from Amber’s parents was based on exclusion, as she discovered. There was no place—and no purpose—for her in that community once she embraced an identity they couldn’t accept. A new sense of purpose came with the new community and identity she helped to build, of gay and lesbian Christians.

If you’re having trouble remembering your purpose, take a look at the people around you. What do you have in common with them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on the world? Is that impact a positive one? Can you join with them in making that impact? What do they need? Can you give it them?

If the answers to those questions don’t inspire you, then you might need to find a new community—and with that, a new purpose may come.

6. Tell your story

Purpose often arises from curiosity about your own life. What obstacles have you encountered? What strengths helped you to overcome them? How did other people help you? How did your strengths help make life better for others?Reading can help you find your purpose—but so can writing,

“We all have the ability to make a narrative out of our own lives,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of the 2017 book The Power of Meaning. “It gives us clarity on our own lives, how to understand ourselves, and gives us a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences.”

That’s why Amber Cantorna wrote her memoir, Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God. At first depressed after losing everyone she loved, Amber soon discovered new strengths in herself—and she is using her book to help build a nonprofit organization called Beyond to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians in their coming-out process.

One 2008 study found that those who see meaning and purpose in their lives are able to tell a story of change and growth, where they managed to overcome the obstacles they encountered. In other words, creating a narrative like Amber’s can help us to see our own strengths and how applying those strengths can make a difference in the world, which increases our sense of self-efficacy.

This is a valuable reflective process to all people, but Amber took it one step further, by publishing her autobiography and turning it into a tool for social change. Today, Amber’s purpose is to help people like her feel less alone.

“My sense of purpose has grown a lot with my desire to share my story—and the realization that so man.y other people have shared my journey.”

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TERRIFYING PLACES ON THE INTERNET THAT WILL STEAL YOUR SLEEP FOREVER

 

13 Terrifying Places on The Internet That Will Steal Your Sleep Forever

They say that the internet that is visible to our eyes is only 5% of the entire network: a tip of the iceberg. The remaining 95% is a place you would never, in your wildest dreams, want to find yourself. Also known as the Deep Web, this almost invisible web surface cannot be accessed through the usual search engines like Chrome, Safari or Firefox, and harbors the most grotesque, deranged and despicable things known to mankind. Those that are capable of making your blood curdle and sending chills down your spine. Active drug markets, child pornography, human experimentation, red rooms and cannibal forums. Everything and anything is possible on the Deep Web. Following are some of the many horrifying things users have found on the Deep Web, those that still haunt them every single night.

1. How to Cook a Woman

While there have been many reports of forums full of people swapping tips on having humans for lunch. But perhaps the most chilling is the one lucky individual who stumbled upon a detailed guide on how to butcher and properly cook women. This page had information on what body types to use for specific cuts, how to prepare these cuts, and how to cook the girl so she lives as long as possible. It horrifies me that people way worse than the freaks on Criminal Minds exist.

2. Stillborn Babies Collection

A deep web user happened to stumble upon a forum where mothers shared photos of their stillborn babies. It is a site for women who can’t deal with the fact that their babies had been stillborn. It was filled with pictures of dead fetuses dressed up and had this really sad, creepy song playing as you scrolled through. I don’t think a forum could get more depressing and creepier than that!

 

3. Human Leather

Yes, that’s right: HUMAN LEATHER! This website is filled with products made from human flesh like food, wallets, belts, etc. If you fancy products made out of human skin, what am I saying, of course we all do! If you understood I was being sarcastic then good for you, if you didn’t then this site is probably for you!

4. Living Sex Dolls

This deep web story is sick and disturbing.  It is not for the faint-hearted.  If you are a sensitive person, you should stop reading right here. Continue at your own risk.

It is believed that a surgeon living in Easter Europe sold something peculiar on the Dark Web: Live Sex Dolls. He would adopt several young girls between the ages of 6-18 from a local orphanage that was happy to get rid of any extra mouths to feed. He would then take them home and surgically remove all of their limbs and sexually torture them.

The girls were only fed from a bottle minimum, their teeth were removed and a rubber was inserted in their mouths to maintain beauty and to assist with fellatio. The girls were then physically and mentally abused to turn them into unquestioning, unfeeling slaves. They were electrocuted, their genitals were sliced and were beaten regularly by the surgeon. The doctor destroyed their sense of hearing by playing extremely loud music and sounds on headphones, and used laser to blind the girls.  Almost all of their senses were destroyed to make them more docile. He tortured them for months preparing them for their new owner before they were ready to be sold for $40000 on the Dark Web!

5. Dead Girls

Well this is one disturbing site the does exactly what it says on the tin, lots and lots of photos of dead girls. The site is supposed to be full of photos of girls ranging from 5 to 16, all dead from various ways and means. While that’s just morbid there are a number of creepypasta stories surrounding the site and the subsequent madness that followed with seeing all those dead girls.

6. Hitmen for Hire

Yes, there are websites on the Dark Web that offer Hitmen for hire. These websites also post pictures as proof that these guys actually mean business. Getting someone killed is as you expect not cheap but from the looks of it, they’ll get the job done.

7. IRL Cannibal Forums

What may sound like Hannibal or Silence of The Lamb fan forums, are actually real life cannibal forums about eating people and being eaten by people. Some members even chat and arrange meetups there to eat each other like, “I need someone to eat my fresh meat. I am juicy and tender.” And all that crazy shit.

8. Child Pornography

Of the most deranged things found on the Deep and Dark Web, child abuse seems to be the most prevalent. Although many of these websites have been shut down by the authorities, there still remain an array of predators and pedophiles operating anonymously on the Deep Web.

9. Human Experimentation

This unholy creep fest is a room on the deep web. The guys who run this site believe that not all humans are equal, and to prove their point they find homeless people and perform dark and possibly painful experiments on them, similar to the likes of the Japanese unit 731 that existed during World War II. Experiments range from water/fluid restriction, injecting pregnant women with bleach, starvation, radiation exposure and even sterilization. Fake or not, it is bone-chilling and some of the experiments that were documented were creepy. Yep, told you it was a sick place.

10. Summoning Demons

Don’t think you’re having enough fun at your regular party? Worry no more, you can go ahead and summon a demon and get that party going! Yeah, but jokes aside, very creepy!

11. Drug Markets

Perhaps the most famous thing about the deep web is the fact that you can get every and any drug ever made. Ranging from premium quality marijuana to pills and acid, the Deep Web is laden with websites that engage in the sale of drugs. ‘The Silkroad’ was a very popular and the most credible source for some fine bud or anything else until it got taken down very recently.

12. Professional hackers, Fake ID’s and Credit Card Fraudulence

There is a whole bunch of sites where you can find people to hack anything for you, be it is your ex’s account or a top secret government website. These guys are up for anything. The deep web is also home to anonymous sellers who advertise their goods on topic-specific forums like copied credit cards on a credit card fraud board. Apart from forging credit cards, people can also purchase fake identification too. An American passport could cost you around 700 Euros, or 973.91 USD.

13. Red Rooms/ Live Torture Streams

While the existence of such rooms has not been proven as of yet, people have repeatedly claimed to have found terrifying live streams. Some guy stumbled on a live stream where a girl was sitting in a chair and commanded people from a chat window to tell her what kind of abuse she should do to herself. After many cuts, bruises, eye gouging, the girl eventually killed herself on the live stream.

This is not the only case where people have brought harm to themselves on a live stream on the deep web. These live streams are popularly known as “Red Rooms”: a place even ISIS is believed to have started using as a platform to conduct beheadings and murder.

YOUR EYES ARE THE WINDOW OF YOUR SOUL

People often call eyes the windows to the soul. But what exactly do we see when we gaze into the eyes of another person? In fact, the eyes do provide lots of information about another person’s emotional state.

When people are sad or worried, they furrow their brow, which makes the eyes look smaller. Yet when people are cheerful, we correctly call them “bright-eyed.” That’s because people raise their eyebrows when they’re happy, making the eyes look bigger and brighter.

We can tell a true (or Duchenne) smile from a fake by looking at a person’s eyes. The mouth shape of a smile is easy to fake—we do it all the time out of politeness. But the eyes are the giveaway: When we’re truly happy, we not only smile but also crinkle the corners of our eyes in a “crow’s feet” pattern. But when people fake a smile, they usually forget about their eyes.

If the eye is the window into the soul, the pupil is—quite literally—an opening into the eye. The pupil acts like the aperture on a camera, dilating or contracting to regulate the amount of light coming into the eye. We all know that our pupils get smaller in the light and bigger in the dark. This is the pupillary light response.

In an article published in a recent issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, psychologists Sebastiaan Mathôt and Stefan Van der Stigchel argue that there’s a lot more to the pupillary light response than, well, meets the eye. They claim that the size of the pupils tells us a lot about the emotions and intentions of their owners.

According to the researchers, the pupillary light response isn’t just a mechanical reaction to ambient light. Rather, as we shift our gaze from one spot to another, our pupils adjust their size in advance to the amount of light we expect to encounter at the new location.

Consider working at a computer: Most of the time, our gaze is fixed on the bright screen, so our pupils are contracted. But every now and then, we glance down at the keyboard, as when we need to reposition our fingers. The authors of the article claim that the pupils begin to dilate even before the downward eye movement begins. Because the pupillary light response is relatively slow—about a quarter of a second—anticipating the amount of light at the new location improves vision once our gaze gets there. (All of this, of course, operates below the level of consciousness.)

The pupillary light response is only one reason why the pupils change size. They also dilate when we’re aroused. The body has an alarm network called the autonomic nervous system that prepares us to take action whenever we detect a threat—or an opportunity—in our environment.

Encounter a bear while walking through the woods, and your autonomic nervous system goes on alert. Your heart and breath rates increase, you begin to sweat as your muscles tense up, and, among other bodily reactions, your pupils dilate. The autonomic nervous system prepares your body to take action against the threat—perhaps scampering up the nearest tree.

We also need to take action when we encounter opportunities. Meet an attractive person at a party, and what happens to your body? Your heart and breathing rates increase, you begin to sweat—and your pupils dilate.

Psychologists consider pupil dilation to be an honest cue to sexual or social interest. That’s because pupil size isn’t under your voluntary control. Let’s say you’re trying to fake interest as your coworker recounts every play in his weekend golf game. You can force a smile. You might even remember to crinkle the corners of your eyes, to make that smile look real. But your tiny pupils will reveal your lack of interest.

Arousal increases pupil size irrespective of the amount of ambient light present because optimal pupil size involves a trade-off between two factors. The first is visual acuity, or how well you can see the details of whatever you’re looking at. In this case, you need “Goldilocks” pupils—not too bright and not too dark, with just the right amount of light coming in. Thus, the pupillary light response is important for visual acuity.

The second factor is visual sensitivity, or how well you can detect something that’s in the environment. If you want to really see what’s out there, you need to have your eyes—especially your pupils—wide open. This is where the connection between arousal and pupil dilation comes in.

Psychologists consider pupil size in terms of the two functions of vision—exploration and exploitation. When we’re exploring our environments, we’re on the lookout for threats and opportunities, so we’re in a heightened state of arousal. Visual sensitivity is most important in exploration, so our pupils are wide open, taking in as much visual information as possible.

Once we’ve identified an object of interest and have it under our control, we shift to exploitation mode: We need to examine the item carefully to find all the ways we can use it, to understand it as fully as possible. Now, visual acuity is most important, and our pupils dilate or contract so that just the right amount of light comes in.

The so-called pupillary light response isn’t just a mechanical reaction to the amount of ambient light, as is the aperture on a camera. Instead, the pupils also adjust according to our emotions and expectations. Thus, the eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the pupils tell a lot about what’s going on in the mind of another person.

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