What is the meaning of life?
This sometimes agonizing question keeps a lot of people up at night, inspires entrepreneurs, and has the power to either kickstart a self-improvement journey or push someone into a spiral of depression.
It’s a question that’s tough to answer. But Apple’s CEO Tim Cook might just have addressed it once and for all. A couple of weeks ago, he participated in a town hall-style interview for MSNBC’s “Revolution: Apple Changing the World” special at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep High School.
One of the lucky attendees — it’s not every day that you get the chance to ask whatever you want to one of the world’s most prominent leaders — asked the CEO what advice he would give to his high-school self. Cook answered with a powerful statement about our relentless search for purpose:
“The truth is we all have the same purpose, and so we should all quit looking. Our purpose is to serve humanity.”
Wait, what? So we should all just stop looking? Keep in mind that Cook himself mentioned that it took him 15 years to define his purpose in life, which means that he must have been searching for meaning throughout a lot of his career.
Though surprising, his advice makes sense if you think about it. First, we are all such different people, but this idea of serving humanity is universal and can be applied in an infinite amount of ways. Second, focusing on serving the collective good actually helps us get a healthy dose of perspective and live a more fulfilling life on an individual level.
And it’s a concept supported by science. A recent study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology concluded that “a central feature of meaning in life is a consideration of more than oneself.”
We spend so much time searching for meaning through self-introspection, but perhaps the answer has been in front of us (and outside of us) all along.