What an interesting phrase! It can be read two ways. Which way did you read it?
“Lost on purpose” as in the quote, “Not all who wander are lost”?
Or “Lost on purpose” which is more like “omg i have no idea why i’m here or what i’m doing what is WRONG with my life?!???”
It’s likely that at times you’ve felt both of these!
Possibly within about 5 minutes of each other!!!! 😀
Having a sense of purpose can be wholly exhilarating. It makes each morning a wonder. You wake up and you know what you have to do today, and why you’re doing it. It infects you with drive. It’s fully and totally awesome when it’s there.
NOT having a sense of purpose can be a cause of depression, particularly given our achievement-oriented culture where having more more more seems so important: More money. More fame. More followers on instagram.
If you’re of a certain age and you don’t know where you’re going in life, you can get seriously messed up on the inside — whether that age is 19 or 29, or 49, or older!
Not knowing your purpose can make you feel like an absolute loser. In this culture, it can seem like EVERYONE knows what they’re doing. At certain stages of life, not knowing yourself well can be a recipe for unnecessary suffering. In college, you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, so you choose a career you aren’t inherently interested in because that’s the career all your friends choose. Or because it pays well. Or both. And you go do it but your heart isn’t in it. You end up burned out, tired, disenchanted by all of life as the outcome.
You look around and wonder “What next??” so you decide to go back to school, thinking that that’s the “out” that you’re looking for.
But if you STILL don’t know yourself — and how could you, if you haven’t done some work to figure yourself out — you’ll end up repeating the same pattern.
Whenever you go to an employer’s presentation, the recruiter makes the job opportunities at that company sound exciting. But the same thing happens at the next presentation, with the next recruiter and the next company. You get caught up in Shiny Object Syndrome, thinking that THIS next thing will fix it. THIS next thing will save you.
This is what Thoreau meant when he said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It’s because they are lost, and desperate.
So what is the answer?
Mentors can help — but only if they have a) done enough work on themselves to know their own purpose, and b) done enough work to know THE PROCESS of discovering a purpose.
Many mentors are very well equipped to mentor others who have a similar background and makeup and interests and goals. If you find someone with whom you resonate on such levels, then by all means, enlist their help and do what they say.
But many mentors have tunnel vision. They know what worked for them, and they take it as gospel. It becomes the prescription. They believe there’s only one path — theirs.
That’s not how it works.
Unless you go with a more all-encompassing prescription for life, such as “Meditate every day, and work out regularly, and put your energy into the tasks of your life” then any more specific advice is unlikely to be transferable to the majority.
(Pro Tip: If you do those three things I just named — meditate, work out, apply yourself to tasks — then you are undoubtedly going to discover your own purpose quite naturally! It’ll come to you, with ever greater force, the more energy you build up through those things.)
So yes, mentors can be invaluable, provided you have the right mentor!
Reading books can also be incredibly useful, again, if you choose the books wisely. There’s lots of pop spirituality out there that has some truth but lots of illusion mixed in, or suffers from the same issue as the tunnel-vision mentor thing. What works for one person does not necessarily work for all.
This is about developing your discrimination in order to assess what’s true.
What’s most likely to help if you’re unclear on your life’s purpose is — wait for it — meditation.
(You knew I was gonna say that didn’t you!)
Meditation — when it’s earnestly practiced for an extended period of time and you’re committed to working your practice each day and not spacing out — will uncover deeper truths of who you are. It’ll allow more and more of your core nature to surface and be felt in your life. It’ll let you break free of the conditioning of the masses and the heaviness that is out there in this world. It’ll let you lighten your load and be free.
And then you’ll just KNOW.
The Next Right Thing will come to you.
You may still be faced with doubt and challenging situations. The difficult decisions will still arise. But it’ll be easier to face them, and you’ll gain strength to just KNOW when what you’re doing is right.
Or even more useful: When it’s off, and you need to make adjustments.
There’s nothing wrong with not knowing your purpose, and it’s not like knowing it can be forced.
But if you’re suffering around a sensation of being lost in this life, then action is your best remedy: Action to do the things that are healthy, that will make you feel better and increase your attention. The action of meditation — which is actually a non-action but which requires making the decision to do it (that’s the only action you need to be successful with spirituality).
And then… Be patient, and see what arises.