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‘While working from home, I can’t stop questioning my purpose in life’

Time off the treadmill of life made reader think about the big picture

Question: Since I've been working from home during the pandemic, I can't stop questioning my purpose in life and why we're all here in the first place. I've become slightly preoccupied by this question. Have you any suggestions as to how to deal with this or what might help?

Ultimately, I know nobody has an answer to this question which makes it all the more difficult.

Answer: This is not the usual sort of question for a column such as this, but it is the great philosophical question; why we are here and what is our purpose?

This territory is covered by the major philosophical traditions and religions and it is definitely worth investigating. That you are asking it now, because you have had some time off the treadmill of life, is good as many of us avoid it until a catastrophic life event forces us to confront such fundamental queries. We know that many people have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to change their direction in life and work. People have moved to the country, totally changed their career track and have made big decisions about how to live their lives. You should welcome this questioning as you are in a moment in time where conversations about this topic are alive, full of potential and a shared concern.


Do you feel other people have the question of purpose sorted and you are last to the game? Do you wonder if you'll come across as woolly or foolish?

What will help you to delve into these questions and how might you start?

There are many approaches to choose from: ecological, spiritual, psychological, philosophical, academic to name just a few. Are you excited or interested in doing a foundation course in philosophy or would you prefer a more spiritual space in which to have these conversations? Would you prefer to do some reading on your own or to discuss the issue with others? Are you drawn to a particular view of life or do you want to check out a wide variety of approaches? If you can answer some of these questions, then that will help you start your search.

There are people who are used to discussing such questions and you have plenty to choose from. Chaplains, poets, teachers or lecturers, philosophy groups, psychologists and some writers have all explored these questions. Do you know any such people whom you could reach out to?

If you do not know where to start this conversation, start by checking in with your own friendship group. Ask them what or who they think might help you to open up this territory, or indeed ask them how they have thought about these questions themselves. If you have never had these conversations, it is worth looking at what is blocking you. Do you feel other people have the question of purpose sorted and you are last to the game? Do you wonder if you’ll come across as woolly or foolish? It is interesting to note that most children ask “why” so how is it that we get to a point when we consider this a no-go topic. Are we afraid of coming across as having nothing sorted when we’ve reached adulthood?

What is coming up for you is important; don't suppress this itch or get busy with other projects to distract yourself

A good starting point for philosophical inquiry is one of not knowing; Socrates famously said he knew nothing, so be brave and dive into the rich possibility of a discussion where you do not know the answer before you start. If you really need to feel more secure, drop into your local library and ask the librarian for some reading on such topics and you will be rewarded with a wide range of material.

What is coming up for you is important; don’t suppress this itch or get busy with other projects to distract yourself. Sit with this nagging topic and you might find that your capacity to fulfil your life will take new directions as a result of these investigations.

At the very least you will have widened your perspective and opened out to the possibility of discovering an alternative path for yourself.

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