Find Your Purpose
A Huge number of us have absolutely no friggin clue what we actually want to do with our lives. Even after finishing school, or getting a job, or even making a decent amount of money. Between the ages of 18 and 25 I changed my career aspirations more often than I changed my facial hair style (for those that know me well it was almost every other week). It was only recently that I have SOMEWHAT defined what I want in my life.
A direction, a path, a sign in the right direction, if you will.
Chances are you are like the norm and haven't the slightest idea what you want to do. It's a real struggle, I get it. "What do I want to do with my life?" "What am I passionate about?" "What do I not suck at?" There are people in their 40s and 50s who STILL haven't a clue what they want to do with themselves.
Part of the problem is the concept of "life purpose" itself. The idea that we are each born for some higher purpose and it is now our mission to find it. This is the same kind of logic used to justify things like spirit crystals or that your lucky number is 34 (but only on Thursdays after 3PM Eastern).
Here's the fact: We exist on this earth for some undetermined amount of time (at least to our knowledge, but that's a whole 'nother conversation). During this time we do things...some of them important, some of them are not. These important things are what give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant things are just there.
So when the question arises, "What should I do with my life?" or "What is my life's purpose?" the real question should be: "What can I do with my time that is important?"
This question is immensely more helpful to ask. It's far more manageable and does not carry the ridiculous amount of figurative baggage that the life purpose question does. There's no reason for you to be contemplating the cosmic significance of your life while sitting on your couch all day eating Doritos. Although, while those days are absolutely needed for some of us, when looking for your future you need to be out and applying yourself discovering what it is that feels important to you.
After some hardcore thinking in my commutes to and from work (as well as a nudge from a friend of mine), I have come up with five questions to ask yourself to figure out what is important to you and what can add more meaning to your life.
Now these questions are by no means the end-all be-all definition of finding answers, in fact...I think they are a little bit ridiculous. But I made them in a way that should throw a little fun into your search.
1. What's your go-to kind of shit sandwich, and does it come with an olive?
First off, nobody really likes olives. Deep down. It's a ruse. Let's go with french fries. So which type of shit sandwich would you like to eat?
The truth about this question is: Everything sucks, some of the time.
Now I know that sounds incredibly pessimistic, but if you really think about it..it's kind of liberating.
Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. The question now becomes, what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? I often think back to a story that Tom Hardy tells about the advice he received from the notorious prisoner Charles Bronson when researching the role:
"Tom? Do you remember the floods? Do you remember the floods? Do you remember that boy that got his foot stuck in the grate and the water kept rising, and it kept rising, and it kept rising and they try to get him out and eventually he drowned? Well...that wouldn't have happened to me, do you know why? Cause I'd have said, "Cut it off NOW." Tom, what I'm trying to say is, right, what I'm trying to say is, son, is sometimes...yea..you've gotta cut a little piece of yourself off, yea? No matter how much it hurts...in order to grow, yea? In order to move on, do you know what I mean?"
Think what you want about the man that Reggie Kray deemed meeting was the most fearful moment in his life, but Mr. Bronson most certainly has a very good point here.
Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days. If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can't handle failure, you are not making it far. If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren't willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you are done well before you even start. If you want to be a hotshot businessman but can't stand working 80 hours a week, then I have bad news for you.
What unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to forego sleep and study for a certification? Can you put-off weekend activities to focus on bettering yourself in your career path? Are you able to have people laugh you off stage over and over again until you get it right?
What shit sandwich do you want to eat, because we all get served one eventually. Might as well get it with fries or an olive.
2. What is true about you today that would make 8 year old you cry?
When I was a kid, I used to draw stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself with a pen and piece of printer paper and draw a scene and talk to myself out loud until the whole page was an unrecognizable series of scribbles and lines. I didn't do this to show anyone. I did this for the sheer joy of it. And then, for some reason, I stopped. I don't remember why.
We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We're taught that the only reason to do something is if we're somehow rewarded for it.
It wasn't until recently that I rediscovered this way of telling stories. I turned those lines of action into words, and I feel it comes through in my writing style. The ellipses...the questions I ask myself, the quotes...
oh yea, and these break out sentences seem to "sound" right to me.
The funny thing though, is that if my 8 year old self asked my 20 yr old self why I don't play with pen and paper anymore and I replied with anything other than because I love it... I would have cried.
3. What makes you forget to eat?
We've all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn to "Ah crap, I forgot to have dinner."
Supposedly, in his prime, Sir Isaac Newton's mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would go entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget.
Is there something that gets you so passionate that you don't eat? For me it's writing these blogs, which.. is a clear indication that I need to do way more of it. More to come for sure.
4. How can you better embarrass yourself?
Before you are able to be great at something you have to be good at it. In order to be good at something you have to suck at it. And before you suck at something you have to have no idea what the hell you are doing. This is obvious. But in order to completely suck at something and have no idea what you are doing, you must embarrass yourself in some shape or form, repeatedly. Most people avoid embarrassing themselves because it doesn't feel good or it's uncomfortable.
Don't be most people.
If you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, you will never end up being good at it..important or not. Get out there, be an absolute loon and make a complete fool of yourself. It's only a matter of time before you get the hang of it.
Great things are, by their nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality..which is scary.
5. How are you going to save the world?
The world has quite a few problems right now. Write a good bunch of them down and throw them in a hat. Pick one. Do something to help that problem. Anything, even if it helps the tiniest bit. Every little bit helps and is progress. Any contribution makes a difference, and the feeling of making a difference is ultimately what's most important for your own happiness and fulfillment.
When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it's because they don't know what's important to them and that they don't know what their values are. Discovering on'e purpose in life really boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It's not some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time towards something.