Purpose, I believe, is what makes us tick. It is what keeps each and every human alive, engaged, and ultimately happy.
Upon self-assessment some individuals may come to the conclusion that family, career, or hobbies are what define happiness, but ultimately each of these things are a subset of a higher need – Purpose. If a particular element of our life does not fulfill our need to satisfy purpose (and give us cause to exist) each of these things become just another mundane part of our life. So, by its very nature, it is purpose that defines what is important to us – everything else is secondary.
The trouble with purpose, however, is that it always runs the risk of being misguided, one sided, or blinding.
Religion comes to mind when I think about purpose. For some people religion serves as a moral compass. It operates as a self-check to enhance ones character and actions. There are even cases of violent criminals who become mentors and community activist. When religion is used in this way it is a blessing.
On the other end of the spectrum religion blinds or even radicalizes. I have had discussion with intelligent individuals who have no ability to think logically when it comes to religious subject matter. It becomes impossible for them to see past their own religious presuppositions. Religion, for these people, has become a blind passion.
Self-Evaluate: Does the thing that gives you purpose add value to your life?
The only mechanism available to each of us to balance the natural need for purpose and the somewhat unnatural necessity of clear thinking is constant and conscious self-evaluation. We must ask ourselves if our purpose in life in which we draw meaning is ultimately a hinderance.
For example, a person who is passionate about conservative politics may ask him/herself:
“Have I given the more liberal opinion a fair and unbiased examination? What can I do to better understand the opposing opinion? What points of their argument make sense? Do I have enough information to make an educated decision? How do I feel emotionally about this topic and is that hindering my ability examine the facts without bias?”
In this way it becomes possible to avoid letting our natural inclination for purpose and meaning become a mechanism for ignorance. Purpose is only valuable to the extent it drives one to become a better person.