How to Turn a Wasted Life into Something Special

How to Turn a Wasted Life into Something Special

Are you surrounded by shallow dreams and empty pursuits? Some people like to complain about an unhappy life. Yet, others manage to turn the negative experiences into positive ones. For example, the world mourned the death of Carnegie Mellon's professor Randy Pausch, not because of his great contributions in the academic field, but his outlook on life.

Dr. Pausch signified living life with a focus purpose. He was a pioneer in virtual reality research. He died at the age of 47. To those that knew him, "his flamboyance and showmanship as a teacher and mentor" made him a campus legend. His final discussion to students focused on his fight with terminal cancer; his outlook on life generated international acclaim. Dr. Pausch' book, The Last Lecture, became a nonfiction best seller. Yet, Pausch did not seek fame or fortune for himself. Pausch explained, "The lecture was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful." However, many people never examine their personal values or goals in life. People tend to just exist. Given this reality, the next step would be to reevaluate our personal values in life, thereby moving beyond a wasted life.

The Real Problem

Life without purpose continues to plague humanity. In fact, it can be deadly or lead to drastic decisions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in 2004. Given this scenario, people who feel that they have lost their purpose, become more vulnerable. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that eight to 25 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death. Some key indicators in attempting suicide include gender, age, ethnicity, and extreme change. The risk factors include depression and other mental disorder.

More than 90% of people who die from suicide deal with stressful events, according to NIMH. Armed with these negative beliefs of a wasted life, individuals confined themselves to a premeditated future of gloom. In fact, the more that individual repeats these self-limiting thoughts, the more they become trapped in their ways. Almost two centuries ago, Samuel Johnson said, "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, he concentrates his mind wonderfully." Therefore, people need to establish a renewal process.

Purpose Living
Individuals need to make the most out of life. To do this, one must feel that life has some significance. In fact, there's something special about having a reason for existence. In 1946, Dr. Viktor Frankl wrote a book, Man's Search for Meaning, which embodied the concept of purpose. As a prisoner in a Nazi death camp, Dr. Frankl developed a revolutionary approach called logotheraphy, which outlined that man's primary motivational force is searching for meaning. Dr. Frankl, an author and psychiatrist, had first-hand experience on suffering. His wife, father, mother, and brother all died in camps or were sent to the gas chambers. Only Dr. Frankl and his sister survived. How could Frankl go on when everything seemed to turn against him-loss of family and possessions, loss of dignity, mental and physical torture, and the constant threat of death? Like Dr. Pausch, Dr. Frankl used his purpose to sustain himself. Therefore, no matter what the obstacle, an individual can be renewed by a sense of purpose.


Success begins when you take charge of your life. I personally don't believe that anyone's life is meaningless. Each individual is divinely made and uniquely created. However, individuals need to believe that they have purpose. In fact, no manmade program, self-help book, or motivational speaker can instill purpose. British historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle noted, "The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder -- waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you." With a purpose, a person can bear the hardships of life. Successful people know what's important but can be sidetracked if they don't reevaluate themselves properly. Don't wait any longer. Start today to build a great life, not a wasted one.

Dr. Daryl D. Green writes on contemporary issues impacting businesses, societies, and global communities. He has over 19 years of assisting organization decision-making.

Author, lecturer, and decision-making coach
"Helping People Make Good Decisions"

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