To Find Love and Meaning in Life, First Find Your Purpose

What motivates and has meaning for you, helps you set goals, and makes you feel your life is moving in a clear direction?

If you can easily answer those questions, if you believe your life has meaning and that you have a reason for being right here, right now, you’re much more likely on track to find your unique purpose in life and a path to success and happiness than someone who feels no particular calling or direction.

To find your purpose, start with the understanding that a purposeful life is a life filled with meaning and direction. Finding purpose requires self-reflection on your past life experiences and how they have affected you, opening yourself up to diverse ideas and experiences, and, ultimately, actively participating in your most meaningful areas of interest.

A small study led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that narrowing down life’s many options to those that motivate you, and leave you feeling satisfied and positive about yourself, not only helps you find people to whom you are attracted but also helps them find you. And that may well include a long-term romantic partner if that’s what you seek.

After setting up fake profiles on a dating app of people who appeared to have a strong sense of purpose as well as people with no real sense of purpose beyond themselves, the researchers asked 119 men and women to read and rank each on their attractiveness as romantic partners.

Overall, the researchers reported, profiles of people called to a higher purpose—wanting to help others (i.e., volunteering community service), following a strong creative drive (i.e., having a passion for acting, writing, dancing or visual arts), focusing on financial goals (i.e., pursuing wealth) or strongly centering their lives around relationships with loved ones—were perceived to be more attractive as potential romantic partners than those who expressed no particular purpose at all.

The highest rank for potential partners went to profiles of individuals most focused on their relationships, followed by those with a creative profile, and then those who were committed to helping others. Interestingly, the profiles primarily focused on finances were ranked lower in appeal than any of the others.

According to Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, intimacy, passion, and commitment are three components necessary for successful consummate, or complete, love.

Other types and stages of love, from friendship and infatuation to romantic and companionate love, contain and often survive on just one or two of these components. In any case, commitment must be a component of any relationship if it is to be sustained.

Earlier studies have shown that those who have a higher sense of purpose, regardless of the category of purpose, report more positive relationship outcomes than those who don’t feel purposeful or are not pursuing a broader purpose in life.

Research suggests this could be because highly purposeful people are also highly motivated people who invest more in their personal relationships and are therefore more committed to taking steps to resolve inevitable conflicts and sustain the intimacy and passion felt in a healthy, consummate relationship.

Someone with a lesser sense of purpose may feel less invested in a romantic relationship and therefore be less motivated to take those same steps to protect that relationship.

But the benefits of having and feeling purpose extend well beyond finding like-minded thinkers and a near-perfect partner.

Purposeful people have also been found to have better time management skills, better emotional regulation, less negativity and reactivity in stressful situations, and greater overall life satisfaction than those who feel little to no purpose in life.

The purposeful are more resilient when faced with setbacks and motivated to find the time and resources necessary to reach their goals, both personal and professional.

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