One way or another, many of us dedicate our lives to something other than our own self-interest.
It might be a spouse, a child, a career or anything else; whatever it might be, it’s the thing that makes you get up in the morning, fight off the sleep and start a new day.
It’s your reason to live, the fire in your soul, and without it, you have no idea what to do with yourself.
And one day, it might actually happen. You lose the one thing you devoted your life to, that one thing that keeps you going, and immediately, everything starts to fall apart.
The excitement for the next day, the eagerness to make that next step: gone.
The pain can tear you apart. It can turn your life around and make you feel meaningless. It feels like it’s impossible to continue with life. Many people even contemplate suicide when they lose their reason to live.
You now have a choice. You can give up. Or you can redefine your reasons for living.
Here are seven reasons to keep on living when feel like you simply can’t go on.
1. Life is always moving forward and changing
When you experience such immense suffering and feel like you can’t go on, it feels like the whole world is collapsing in on you.
Your friends will probably begin by showing some sympathy, but after some time they’ll begin to push you, saying things like:
“You need to get back on your feet” and “When are you going to move on?”
It’s easy to react with frustration to this suggestion. How could they possibly understand the pain and loss you’re experiencing? They obviously just don’t get it.
But the truth is this:
They’re right. Your situation may feel dire. But it’s going to change. The time will come when you have to move on.
It’s difficult to take advice from people when you’re feeling so frustrated. According to research in the Journal of Applied Psychology, our emotional state influences how receptive we are to the advice we receive.
Your mental and emotional strain makes it very difficult to see your current situation clearly.
Whether you’ve lost someone close to you, a relationship, a career or something else that was incredibly important to you, you’ve based your reason to live on this thing.
You’ve probably lived with purpose and passion, and this thing has been taken away from you.
Your reason to live has been taken away with it.
You now feel lost, trapped and confused, because the thing you’ve put so much into is gone.
It’s as if both of your legs have stopped working and there’s nothing to grab onto as you fall. But here’s what you have to understand:
2. Your reason to live depends entirely on you
It might not seem like it right now, but the purpose of your life didn’t depend on that person, career, or thing.
Just because it was the meaning of your life for so long doesn’t mean that it has to remain that way for the rest of your life.
Just as you assigned the meaning of your life to that person or thing, you can also reassign it to something else.
This is the power you have. This is how dynamic you truly are.
The meaning of your life and the reason why you want to keep going isn’t just an idea. It’s like another living entity that exists within you.
It’s a part of who you are, your body and soul, and it coordinates with the things you think and feel. It’s a deep part of you that you are not even aware of most of the time.
3. You don’t have to find your purpose in life
Too often I have seen people become lost in their search for their one true purpose. They try dozens of careers, hundreds of potential partners, only to end up disappointed and frustrated every time because it didn’t “feel” like it was what they were born to do or be with.
Eventually, they give up and surrender—they give up on the idea that they were meant to do anything or be with anyone special, and they just end up feeling worse.
In fact, this was my reaction. For a while, I completely gave up on my search for a purpose.
Then I had a truly profound conversation with the shaman Rudá Iandê. He showed me a different way of discovering my purpose.
He explained I needed to surrender to my purpose. It’s not something I could find by searching within. Rather, my purpose shows up through my actions when I’m trying to help others.
Here’s how Rudá explains it:
“Purpose is something different. You don’t need to change the world. You just need to shift your perspective, from ‘what you can take from life today’ to ‘how you can contribute to life today.’
“Many people don’t understand this and get really sick, trying so hard to do more. It then doesn’t matter how much you get from life, for it will not fulfill you.
“Fulfillment comes from inside out. It comes from acting, putting out your best, transcending your basic selfishness and contributing to the chain of life. It doesn’t need to be giant. It doesn’t need to change the world. It only needs your heart to be warm and present.
“When you start living your purpose, you reach your place in existence. You start understanding that you belong to life and you’re an active part of it. Then you find fulfillment, and being grateful becomes something as natural as your breath.”
(Rudá Iandê is teaching a free masterclass on how to claim ownership of your personal power by embracing your inner beast. He’s a brilliant and authentic spiritual teacher. Check it out here.)
4. You can find your purpose by starting with kindness
When you’re looking for a reason to live, it’s easy to become very introspective. You start to analyze everything that’s happening. You become your own worst critic. You want things to be different. You want your life to be better.
There’s a simple way to cut this chain of thinking and get yourself back on track.
Rather than trying to define your purpose or find a reason to live, start to find yourself through your actions.
Begin with kindness. Kindness to yourself and to those around you. Small and simple acts that remind you that you respect and love not only yourself but also others.
By starting with kindness, you become someone who actively contributes to life around you. You then start to embody your purpose through actions. Over time, you’ll be able to articulate your reasons for living by reflecting on the actions you’ve been consistently undertaking.
If you are interested in going through an exercise to reflect on your deeper and underlying purpose in life, check out my article on how to find your life purpose. I also recommend checking out Out of the Box, our online workshop that will help you to create a new blueprint for your life based on a clearly defined purpose.
5. The most challenging moments are the ones that define us
I wouldn’t wish tragedy upon anyone. But the reality is this:
The most tragic moments in our life are the ones that define us the most.
Our most tragic moments bring our greatest opportunities, if we have the courage to seize them.
I’ve learned this through personal experience. But there’s someone who explains it much better than I ever could.
Neale Daniher is 58 years old and a former professional sportsman, very well-known in my home country of Australia.
In 2013, Daniher was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and is now a prominent campaigner for medical research.
Daniher recently addressed the Melbourne Football Club, sharing an important message about personal tragedy.
He told the players that “life is good, but it doesn’t promise to be fair. There will be good times. But there will be hard times.”
When life is tough, there is one thing you can do to seize back control of your life.
“You can conduct yourself in the right manner when things get tough.”
Daniher faced this challenge. There’s no current cure for motor neuron disease. It’s slowly taking away his movement and quality of life.
But he chose to take responsibility for his circumstances. In his greatest challenge, he found a reason to keep on living. In his case, he dedicated his life to fighting against motor neuron disease.
As he says:
“When life gets difficult, you think it’s a train wreck, there’s no opportunity. There’s always opportunity. If you’re in the blame game, if you’re in ‘woe is for me, poor bugger me,’ you’ll never find it. My opportunity was to fight MND. It’s allowed me to prevail. It’s allowed me to find purpose. To transcend what’s happening to me.”
He shared some further advice:
“Have the courage to accept responsibility. Don’t shy away from it. Don’t balk. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t handball it to someone else. And while doing that, what will emerge inside of you, is the better side of your character that will allow you to prevail, allow you to move through it. It may even allow you to transcend.”
Check out the video below of Daniher addressing the Melbourne Football Club.
6. You owe it to yourself—and your family—to find a new reason for living
You feel like you can’t find any reasons to keep on living. You’ve lost that thing that gave you purpose and drive. You’ve lost your passion for life.
But you’re starting to feel a flicker of light within. You can see that you’ve been giving up your power by defining your reasons for living based on other people, other relationships … other things outside yourself.
You’re now starting to see that your reasons for living can come from small acts of kindness. You can discover a purpose that has always existed inside you.
You can also see that the obstacles you face can be your greatest opportunity, if you accept responsibility and don’t shy away from it.
If this even resonates just a little, congratulations. You’re going through a very important shift in perspective.
This slight shift in awareness holds great potential for planting a seed within that will slowly grow and start to move you forward in life.
It’s now your responsibility to nurture this seed, to continually remind yourself of the gift of life that you and many other people around you have.
The truth is this:
You owe it to yourself to continue nurturing this seed within. You just need to maintain a perspective of humility and kindness. You don’t need to do big things in life. You don’t need to find the one true love that gives life meaning.
But you don’t just owe it to yourself. You also owe it to your family.
Even if you have a troubled relationship with your family, they will be impacted by your attitude towards life. They’ll be especially impacted if you choose to end it.
As Jordan Peterson says:
“People with depression often struggle to find meaning in their lives. They don’t think anyone needs them or cares about them. This almost always isn’t true. Don’t underestimate your value in the world.”
(Interested in learning more about the ideas of Jordan Peterson? We published a 58 page eBook breaking down his key ideas in an easy-to-understand way: The Jordan Peterson Phenomenon eBook.)
7. Don’t underestimate your value in the world
This strikes to the core of why you need to take the opportunity to find new reasons to live when you feel like you can’t go on.
Peterson expands on the intrinsic value you have in the world. In making these remarks, he was responding to a question from an audience member about whether they should commit suicide or continue living:
“Don’t be so sure your life is yours to take. You don’t own yourself the way you own an object. If you’re religious, maybe your life belongs to a higher power. Or if you’re not religious, maybe it belongs to your loved ones or some greater cause. You have a moral obligation to yourself as a locus of divine value.”
See his remarks in full below.
You have incredible value just for being you. You don’t need to achieve anything to have value. You don’t need to be in a relationship to have value. You don’t need to be successful, make more money or be what you may judge as a good parent.
You just have to keep on living. You only need to start acting with kindness. It’s enough to be a participant in life and contribute to others around you.
Over time, this new attitude will create a groundswell of momentum in your life. You’ll start to naturally understand your reasons for living. You’ll be able to articulate them to yourself and others around you.
For now, you just need to make a commitment to yourself that your life has value. You just need to make the decision that your greatest challenges can be your greatest opportunity. You just need to start contributing to the lives of others by acting with a little kindness.
In this way, your life will slowly change, for the better. In time, you’ll look back at this moment as one of the most transformative and powerful moments of your life.