Find meaning in the small things

A sense of purpose provides a framework for all that you do, whether it involves your work, your health or your personal relationships. Identifying and living out your sense of purpose promotes greater creativity, productivity and engagement.

By Stacy M. Peterson

One of the most important aspects of wellness is often the most overlooked: a sense of purpose. When you can identify and incorporate a personal sense of meaning into your daily life, even in small ways, you're more likely to feel content, fulfilled and at peace, even in the midst of everyday stress and times of challenge or upheaval. Your purpose doesn't need to be lofty — just take small steps to discover what makes you feel more energized and connected.

Chances are, you're already tapping into a sense of purpose, but you may not have fully recognized it. Think about the times when you have felt most energized or times when you were so engaged that you lost track of time. What were you doing? Who were you with? People typically find meaning when they feel connected to something greater than themselves. But that doesn't mean you have to end world hunger or discover a cure for cancer. Start by looking for the ways you find meaning in your work, your relationships, or your religion or sense of spirituality.

Perhaps your role as a mother or father brings you this sense of meaning. Or maybe you find fulfillment in your career or through your spirituality or nature. Look for the times when you feel most content and at peace.

Try these suggestions for discovering what's meaningful to you and bringing that into your everyday life.

  • Explore your strengths. When your strengths and values align with your actions, you are living with purpose. Take an inventory of your personal strengths and talents. Brainstorm ways to bring your top five strengths into your daily life.
  • Ask a close friend, spouse or mentor when they see you thriving most. Sometimes other people notice things about us that we may not be aware of. Their stories and insights can help you explore your purpose.
  • Take small steps to add meaning to your day-to-day life. If you love being a parent, leave a note in your child's lunchbox or set aside time in the evening to read together. Or if you find joy in using your creative side, volunteer for a new project at work or explore a hobby, such as painting or photography.


  • Note the times throughout your day when you feel most fulfilled and energized.
  • Set aside time this week to call or meet with one person who is important to you.
  • Create and record a goal that's connected to your sense of purpose.


Feb. 19, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3 ways to get closer to achieving your goals
  2. Make healthy habits stick
  3. 5 do's and don'ts for staying motivated
  4. 3 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  5. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  6. Energy management
  7. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  8. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  9. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  10. Bone health tips
  11. Cancer-prevention strategies
  12. Cellphones and cancer
  13. Colon cancer screening
  14. Plastic surgery
  15. Do adults need shots?
  16. Don't save leftover pain pills
  17. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  18. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  19. Functional fitness training
  20. Overcome obstacles to your goals
  21. Healthy holiday habits: How to get back on track
  22. Hand drying
  23. Hand-washing tips
  24. Healthy habits that boost happiness
  25. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  26. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  27. Home Health Hazards
  28. Brown fat
  29. How social support spurs you
  30. Break the busy cycle
  31. How well do you wash your hands?
  32. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  33. Investing in yourself
  34. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  35. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  36. Liposuction alternatives
  37. Lost in Space
  38. Making progress towards your goals
  39. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  40. Make over your mindset to make time for your health
  41. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  42. Medical family tree
  43. Coronavirus disease: What is it and how can I protect myself?
  44. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  45. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  46. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  47. Personal health records
  48. Personalize your wellness journey
  49. Stick to healthy-eating goals at social gatherings
  50. Posture: Align yourself for good health
  51. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  52. Reach your goals, track your habits
  53. New Year's resolutions
  54. Secondhand smoke
  55. Creating a wellness vision
  56. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  57. Good posture tips
  58. Back exercises
  59. Proper lifting techniques
  60. Stop multitasking and focus
  61. Thirdhand smoke: What are the dangers?
  62. Want good health? Build a solid base
  63. The benefits of gratitude
  64. Travel Safety
  65. Triclosan
  66. Using if-then statements
  67. Vaccines for adults
  68. What are superbugs?
  69. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  70. Air purifiers and smoke