How to Cultivate Purpose During Difficult Times

cultivating purpose flowers

Our most difficult seasons in life — whether it be loneliness, heartbreak, confusion, the list goes on — have a way of sending us straight into a slump. During these times, it can become easy to sit in our sadness. It can feel like there’s no easy fix or end to what we’re going through.

For me, it was a time in college during which I felt particularly lonely in my corner of the world. Hard as I tried to find my place to fit in, it started to feel impossible. I became someone who I didn’t recognize and my dreamer spirit was gone.

That season, which was extremely difficult to walk through, taught me a great lesson in cultivating purpose. Though I had to spend a large amount of time alone for a while, doing so taught me that I needed to choose to create purpose in each day. Otherwise, nothing was going to change.

If you’re going through a dark time in life, it’s easy to sit around in your feelings and wish things would just finally get better. But when it doesn’t get better, what do you do?

flowers

In our most difficult seasons, we can still find great purpose. Maybe it’s a lesson that this time was meant to teach, even if it takes digging deep to find out what it is. Or perhaps the difficult season is meant to reveal bigger dreams for ourselves.

So how do we cultivate purpose in in our lives, especially when walking through hard times?

Write Your Dreams Down

Dreaming, you could say, was my way of moving past the lonely feelings to find a deeper sense of hope. I began to write down my dreams, no matter if it was a goal I wanted to accomplish by the end of the week or my deepest desires for what I wanted to accomplish in life.

Seeing your goals written down on paper, right in front of you, creates motivation. And when you dream about the future and all you’d like to accomplish, you’ll create excitement within yourself for when your situation turns around. You’re able to look beyond your current grief, especially as these desires start taking shape. Write your dreams down, then start making things happen!

Do What You Love

The slump we experience during rough times can create a stronghold that’s hard to escape. Getting out of that slump takes intention, so be purposeful and take the time to do what you love, whatever that looks like for you. Maybe it’s spending time with dear friends or family, reading your favorite book or going for a hike. Whatever it is, even if you have to go it alone, set aside time to do more of what you love. You will begin to find joy again when you intentionally engage in your interests.

Choosing to make time for what refuels your spirit will not only fill your moments with more purpose and more joy, but you’ll have less time to spend with those negative thoughts and feelings that have become familiar.

You will begin to find joy again when you intentionally engage in your interests.

Seek Beauty

It doesn’t take plane tickets and a foreign country to find beauty; find it in simple joys. Spend time without technology enjoying nature, a good book, or the company of your dearest friends.

Finding beauty, even in small ways, can help us overcome difficulties by shifting focus from the bad to the good that still exists around us. We are reminded that our problems should not be allowed to defeat us. Beauty reminds us of life’s higher purposes and it also connects us with nature, which is a sure way restore joy.

Whatever you find beauty in, take time out of each day to dwell in it.

twirl flowers

Encourage Others

Not only is there purpose to be found in the midst of darkness, but these times connect us on a deeper level to other humans — we learn empathy. Remember, you are not alone. The people you least expect might just be going through a tough time of their own. So take advantage of the season you’re in, perhaps over a cup of coffee, to reach out to your friends or family and ask about their lives. We’re not always eager to share our messier sides and sometimes it takes someone else asking the questions in order for us to open up.

If you know a friend who is hurting, be there to encourage them and share their load. Remind them of their strengths and of their value. Share the wisdom you fought hard for during your own difficult season — often it’s things we are not able to see for ourselves in the moment. Remember, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

I know that hard seasons are just that — really hard. What I have found is that while we can’t just escape with a snap of a finger, intentionally creating purpose during a time when you may be wondering what the purpose is, moves the focus from what we are facing to accepting the season as necessary for our growth.

When has a difficult season produced something lovely in your life?

Images via Yuri Orozco Rivera

Aleah is photographer, writer, traveler, and dreamer currently living in Los Angeles and loving every detail of California. She is a soon-to-be college graduate looking forward to next, unknown season of life and all the magic it may hold.

4 COMMENTS
  • Marquita Medley March 29, 2017

    I am in a difficult time. It is hard to write, to teach, to eat, to sleep. It is often hard to breathe. I have gone through something similar, but nothing has ever cut this deep. Even though I know I’ve made it through rough times before and I know I can again the pain is something serious. When I finally start to heal I get creative. DIY projects, volunteering out the wazoo and lots and lots of cathartic writing. This storm may be what finally gets me to finish a book, or two.

  • I deeply believe in the gift of struggle. There are things we uncover about ourselves, our relationships, our priorities, our past, our faith, and our abilities when we walk through difficult seasons. I loved this article for many reasons–one of them is the simple acknowledgement that we can indeed have difficult times that bring pain. But pain is not without purpose. And your suggestions give a place for pain to begin the metamorphosis into joy. Thank you for writing this!

  • Emily Wilson March 28, 2017

    This is such a refreshing read! I think what sticks out the most to me is the need for pursuing beauty. As I’m currently walking through one of the rougher times in my life (if not the roughest), the pursuit of beauty has continually given me hope, refreshment, and purpose. “Without the conscious pursuit of beauty we risk falling into a world of addictive pleasures and routine desecration.” — Roger Scruton
    Our pursuit of beauty shapes us and frames our habits and mindsets. It has to be conscious and intentional – we must be able to identify beauty and allow it to point us to truth and hope – especially when we’re walking though difficult seasons. If we can make a habit of finding beauty when life gets difficult, how much easier will it be for us to find joy when the seasons are good?
    Thanks for such a great post!

  • The most difficult time in my life was when I was faced with a big decision – to change the career path I’d been on for four years. I’d graduated with first class honours with a degree, worked one year in the field… and ultimately I decided to leave it behind to pursue my true interests. It worked, and now I’m much happier!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

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