Meaning, purpose and connectedness

Purpose is about our intention or aim. Meaning is a feeling that life is of significance and worthwhile. Meaning and purpose are attitudes and views that help us make sense of life; and to transform suffering in to growth. This process is often related to connection with something beyond ourselves.* Meaning and purpose are integral to spirituality.

“Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” (Puchalski, Vitillo, Hull, & Reller, 2014).

As the peak body for spiritual care and ageing, we know it can come as quite a surprise to many people to find out that spirituality is more than religion. Spirituality is integral to, but not confined by, religion and faith. It is about our sources of meaning and hope, which in turn is intimately related to our connectedness to ourselves, to others and to the world.

How do I understand my purpose in life?

It’s about what gets you out of bed in the morning. It is expressed in lots of little ways and takes on many forms. Some people have a sense of ultimate purpose that comes from their faith. Some days our sense of purpose is clearer than others.

Ask yourself these questions:

What gets me up in the morning?
(meeting with friends, volunteering, fighting for a cause, creating…)

What gives me a sense of peace?
(grandchildren, living with integrity, forgiveness, singing…)

What’s been formative in my life?
(English poetry, a 1986 tennis tournament, my child died…)

What rituals help me feel connected?
(family dinners, watering the garden, prayer…)


*BMC Geriatr. 2017 Oct 30;17(1):254. doi: 10.1186/s12877-017-0650-x.

What gives Rika purpose

For Rika, purpose means making the most of everyday by doing the things that are important to her and bring her joy.

For many years Rika has been making blankets for the homeless people in her city. She buys yarn at the local op shop, and crochets in many colours and patterns. She has made over 100 blankets. She decided to do this work because when she was a child her father told her stories about his own experience of homelessness when he was a young man. He talked about the cold and the feeling that no one loved you. Rika has framed the certificates of thanks that the homeless shelter send each year. She also loves to share the week’s stories with her friends at the gym each Wednesday. It’s true, they do some exercise, but for her the highlight is the coffee and cake afterwards!