Statistics say something like 70% of people are actively disengaged at their job, and another 53% are downright unhappy. On average then, four out of five of you reading this are spending the majority of your life doing something you either don’t care for or you straight up loathe. While that’s a depressing thought, let’s tack a bit more on: you’re also pretty average, which means you don’t really have the burning success you probably deserve. On some level you do want it though, because whatever you’re doing right now isn’t really cutting it and you can literally feel it. Thus, the never-ending stressful struggle on how to find your purpose nags at you incessantly.
Almost to the point of snapping and having a mental breakdown, you tell yourself two things:
- Fuck this thing called life.
- It’s fucking impossible to find my purpose.
Well, you’re half right. Telling yourself “fuck it” is probably deserved, but you’re wrong to assume it’s impossible to find your purpose. You want to find it before you turn 90, or find it at all? Be prepared to work for it. If you’ve tried and failed to find your purpose before, you probably assume “work for it” means a stressful endeavor of hating your job, wanting to get out, and praying you magically find something you enjoy through some epiphany discovered on LSD or magic mushrooms. Of course praying and sitting on your hands year after year never worked, so you figure you’ll never find your purpose. Or you know, that thing called “whatever the hell you’re supposed to do with the rest of your life”.
Unfortunately for you, there’s no 10 step list on how to find your purpose, there’s no crash course on it, and there’s no guru you can pay who will enthusiastically discover your purpose for you. No, the best course on how to find your purpose in life is through one key mindset change. But first, let’s talk about purpose itself.
What Is Purpose?
If you look it up in the dictionary, you get this gem:
Purpose (n): the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
Shorten it even further, and you get:
Purpose (n): the reason for which something exists.
When people talk about purpose, they basically mean you’re put on Earth to fulfill “one big role that was destined for you”. The role that when you find it, you’ll know because everything just clicks. In fact, you’ll find lots of people who subscribe to the ideology that you’re here to ultimately fulfill some sort of self-induced prophecy. Kinda like Neo in The Matrix.
So even then, if you believe the idea you’re supposed to fulfill your one true purpose here while you’re living and breathing, there’s a fuckload of pressure on you to find it and make it happen. The stress consumes you because it’s like you’re now a ticking clock. Every day that you don’t find it is another day spent in agony because you just know it’s out there and you haven’t found it yet. You’re constantly sweating over the details as the fire gets bigger and bigger under your ass. Time isn’t slowing down for you to find your purpose. Why are you even reading this? Go out and find it, go go!
Talk about a serious case of performance anxiety. Feeling stuck yet? Here’s a few things you should realize.
Take Your Foot Off The Gas
When you put the pedal to the metal and hold it there, two things happen all thanks to the laws of science and nature:
- First, the car kicks into high gear and lurches forward, pinning you in the seat temporarily from the G-forces.
- And two, your senses will naturally snap into the moment and you’re on high alert as you’re now hyper-focused because you don’t want to crash.
Trying to find your purpose is like slamming the gas in a 2020 Lamborghini Gallardo.
If you’ve desperately spent the last 10+ years of your life with your foot on the gas, hoping for a miracle, you can agree it sucks. Really, really sucks. Life is flying by, and you’re praying for some kind of miracle.
It’s not the right way to approach finding your purpose.
Life isn’t a race to achieve a series of traditional notches you can mark on a wall. It’s not about hitting the gas in the V12, driving in a straight line like a maniac hoping to reach the finish line first out of your friends to buying a home, or getting married, or having a kid. Those are all great achievements in life to aim for, but it’s not about being the first.
To Potentially Find Your Purpose, You Need Curiosity First
To go about finding what the hell you’re trying to do in life, you need two things to line up: passions and curiosity. In other words, your curiosity leads to passions, which can ultimately lead to something you really feel fucking overly passionate about. Also known as your potential purpose.
If you want to get to the top of the pyramid, you have to start at the bottom. The bottom, in this case, is exploring anything that sounds remotely interesting to you. It means you need to address every little thing that catches your brain’s attention.
You shouldn’t care if it’s a 30 second Google search and doesn’t go beyond that, because it will ultimately happen. Something sparked your interest in an extremely random way, and you dabbled with a few keystrokes. Wasn’t your cup of tea? No sweat, consider it a win. You got curious, and you explored that curiosity in some capacity. On other occasions, you’ll spend more time looking something up. You’ll Google it, read a few web pages about it, and then maybe decide naaaah. Or you’ll Google it, read a few web pages, and then even find a club or organization and attend a meeting. Maybe it ends there. Maybe it goes beyond.
All this to say, this is how people discover their passions and move to the middle of the triangle, one step closer to finding your purpose.
But before you get too excited you’ve moved up, you need to engage in a new mindset: find shit that intrigues you. Get inquisitive. Get curious. Ever notice how a baby is in absolute awe of the world and always super curious, because they know nothing in it? You don’t (and won’t) get to the level you had as a baby, but it’s a start: explore random stuff whenever it strikes your fancy.
You’re an accountant, but you’ve always thought you had a creative streak in you and loved working with your hands. You saw a magazine article showcasing some hand-sculpted vases, so you Google on how to make them. After a bit of research, you seem interested. You find a local clay/pottery class to take. After a few of those, you buy the equipment needed to start making them on your own. You enjoy this hobby in your free time after work. It gives you a chance to decompress from your number-crunching day job. That’s all it is in your life, and you’re completely fine with it.
Alternate ending: You enjoy it so much, you start making some for friends. They tell you 10,384 times you’re talented and should start selling it. For the first 10,383 times, you play humble and shrug them off, thanking them for the kind words. On the 10,384th time you hear it, something connects inside you and you start to sell some. After a few people buy some, you realize this could actually turn into your job.
You’re a sales rep, and you enjoy exercising in your time off. You just moved to a new city, and as you’re watching TV, you see the Tour de France come on. It’s the biggest and most prestigious cycling race in the world. At some point, you took a few bike rides and enjoyed being outdoors getting cardio. You now think that this may potentially be a cool activity to get fit and meet people. You buy a used bike off Craigslist and join a local club, using it as a great form of exercise to decompress a few times a week.
Alternate ending: you get into cycling so much, you quit your day job and open a bike shop.
Curiosity Inevitably Leads to Passions Which Help You Find Your Purpose
The possibilities are endless, but they all start in the same place: a curiosity. Something that piqued your brain’s senses and made it do a double take. Once that curiosity gets satiated and you continually go back to the same thing, you discover “oh hey, I have a passion.”
It’s super important to realize it’s a process and a chain reaction, all wrapped in one. You can’t suddenly discover your purpose in life without actively engaging in things which you can say you’re passionate about.
And once you have your passions, you can potentially decide if there’s one that completely rocks your world so hard, you get tunnel vision with it and feel in your gut it’s your true calling in life. In other words, you might discover “oh hey, I have a purpose.”
And if you just have a bunch of passions and don’t feel that drawn toward one of them, and keep them as something to enjoy in your free time outside of your regular job, that’s also totally OK. Not everyone in life is going to find one purpose with their existence here on Earth. Your purpose by the way, if you ever discover it, can also change at different times in your life. What you’re totally salivating over right now may not be the answer in a few years or even a few months.
Give Yourself Credit and Realize Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
All this to say, as much as you want to believe it’s possible to have one true purpose (in other words your reason for being here on this hot mess of a planet) it’s a stressful endeavor to adopt that mindset. How to find your purpose is really, really difficult.
It’s important to relax about the whole fucking idea of finding the one thing.
Chill out, please.
It’s easy to overwhelm yourself with 10 million questions every day about anything and everything. It’s dangerous trying to ask too many vague questions and you shouldn’t really spend time trying to answer ones that fall into two distinct categories:
- They aren’t measurable in the least bit. As in, as mentioned, they’re super vague.
- You can’t act upon, or are even concretely answerable.
Need an example of a super vague question that you can’t measure and you can’t act upon and you shouldn’t ask yourself, but you do it anyway probably eight times a day every day for the last seven years?
“What’s my purpose in life?”
How can you possibly measure this, or even get something concrete or black and white with that question? How can you even act on it? It’s way too vague and more importantly, not actionable. On the opposite end, here’s a better question:
“What can I do today to feel better?”
Here, you can run through your to-do list and feel productive, or you can engage in a hobby or take a break and do something you don’t normally do but you thoroughly love. It’s actionable, measurable, and more importantly, doable.
And by doing all that, you might just stumble upon a passion…or your purpose.