Many of us realize that God put us here for a reason, and we know that keeping whatever mitzvot apply to each of us individually is a big part of fulfilling our purpose in life.
Some mitzvot apply to all human beings equally, whether Jewish or not (like not murdering or stealing). Some apply only to Jews, and among those mitzvot, some apply only to men or only to women or only to Kohanim, and so on.
And for those of us who consider ourselves religious Jews, keeping Shabbat, keeping kosher, praying, giving tzedakah, performing acts of loving kindness, while refraining from harmful acts of slander, tale-bearing, revenge, and all the rest are vitally important and help create our place in the Afterlife while also impacting This World positively.
Then there are personal qualities that Hashem implanted within each person, qualities which indicate another purpose in life. For example, a person with a strong inclination toward writing or singing or music composition or medicine or intellectual knowledge or or managerial skills or school children, etc., often understand that they should do something positive and fulfilling with those talents and inclinations. Furthermore, they even feel frustrated when they don't find an outlet for their unique abilities and inclinations.
So between these two ideas, it seems like we have an idea regarding the meaning of life.
Yet according to Rebbe Akiva Rabinovitz, if we aren't identifying and uprooting our negative qualities, then we are not fulfilling the purpose of our existence.
But how can that be?
Teshuvah on One Foot
The thing is, you can't really keep all the mitzvot unless you are uprooting your negative qualities and strengthening your positive qualities at the same time.
It's like with the famous story of the potential convert who came to Hillel and asked to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel told him: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is all the Torah in its entirety; the rest is its interpretation—go study."
Really? That's the whole Torah? And the rest is its interpretation? Even avoiding borer on Shabbat? Even mayim achronim? Even wearing tzitzit (for men)? Those are interpretations on "what is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow"?
Well, apparently they are! After all, if Hillel said it, then it must be true. He knows better than all of us.
It all goes together.
When a Jew keeps Shabbat, for example, you are testifying to the fact that Hashem created the world. Avoiding borer is including in Shabbat observance, so this is part of it. When you attest to Hashem's Mastery and Omnipotence over the world, you are also attesting to the fact that He decides what is ethical or not, and if Hashem says that you must do what you can to avoid hurting others (according to Hashem's definition of hurting others), than that's what you do.
You put Hashem's Will above your own (or you try to, anyway) because He is all that really matters.
(It's a lot more profound than that, but this is the best I can explain.)
Likewise, you can't really do the mitzvot without your heart, and without working on yourself. We see that throughout Neviim/Prophets, the people are constantly exhorted to work on their hearts. There are calls to "circumcise your heart," to avoid having a heart of stone, to empathize with and behave compassionately toward others (especially those in particularly vulnerable situations, like the impoverished, widowed or orphaned, etc.), and to turn back to Hashem with your heart.
When you perform an act of loving-kindness, you're ideally supposed to do so without any ego or personal motivations. But how many people can realistically carry that out? You should do chessed anyway with the hope and intent that eventually, you'll be able to do so without any ego stuff in the way, and with the knowledge that chessed affects you positively even if you're motivations aren't totally up to par.
But to really perform an act of pure chessed, you need to have scrubbed off all your negative qualities.
And this applies to everything else too.
Really Frum or RoboFrum?
You can also learn Gemara the way that secular academics learn Greek philosophy in the original Ancient Greek language.
And you'll be kind of like a frum robot, which does have it's advantages since you'll always be giving a tenth to charity and lots of other very exalted stuff. And it goes without saying that doing the right things impacts your soul positively.
Yet we all know people who are technically frum, but whose mitzvot are rough around the edges because they're tinged with pride, ego, status-seeking, grouchiness, resentment, martyrism, or they're always on the look out for the latest loophole, etc. In truth, almost everyone suffers from rough-around-the-edges mitzvot because no one is perfect, but some people really think their mitzvah performance "good enough" or really think that they're doing the best they can.
There's a difference between saying "Nobody's perfect" as an excuse not to try and saying "Nobody's perfect" as words of encouragement to avoid despair and keep on going.
It's the same term with totally different meanings.
So if you are braving a deep look at yourself, both the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful parts, and asking Hashem to help you uproot them (the not-so-beautiful parts), then you are fulfilling your purpose in life, even if your mitzvah observance isn't totally up to par (yet).
(But if you keep going with talking and confessing to Hashem, then your mitzvah observance will follow eventually.)
However, if you're only giving lip-service to your not-so-lovely attributes (or ignoring them completely), then even if you're technically doing all the mitzvot and doing them technically right, then you're still not fulfilling the purpose of your existence.
You are Perfectly Imperfect
This is something to feel really, really good and hopeful about.
It can hurt so much to spot a particularly nasty sliver of ego or to see how far you really are from where you thought. But hopefully, you can combat that pain and cringing with the feeling of pleasure that you're doing a really wonderful thing and fulfilling your purpose in life.
(This is in addition to the fact that real chesbon hanefesh and working with Hashem on your negative qualities impacts the entire world in a positive manner. Yes, what you do quietly while possibly wincing and cringing in the privacy of your room sweetens harsh judgements hanging over the world, and can prevent really awful things from happening. So feel good about being "bad"!)
How to Get Past Toxic Shame & Apathy
What is the Main Purpose of Your Existence?