Statistics say something like 70% of people are actively disengaged at their job, and another 53% are downright unhappy. That means on average, four out of five of you are spending the majority of your life doing something you either don’t care for or that you loathe. That’s depressing. You’re also pretty average, which means you don’t really have a burning drive to find the success you probably deserve. But on some level, you do want it, because whatever you’re doing right now sucks. Thus, the never-ending stressful struggle on how to find your purpose in life shifts into focus, and it never gets traction. You’ve just about had it, so you tell yourself two things:
- Fuck it all.
- It’s impossible.
Well, you’re half right. Telling yourself fuck it is deserved. But you’re wrong to assume it’s impossible. You want your purpose in life? Be prepared to work. But what is “work”, exactly? If you’ve tried and failed to find your purpose, you probably assume work means a stressful endeavor of hating your job, wanting to get out, and praying you magically find something you enjoy through some epiphany. All while flying high on LSD or magic mushrooms. Because this never worked, you figure you’ll never find your purpose. Or whatever the hell you’re supposed to do with the rest of your life.
But really, that’s not how it works. 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 energetically 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 in life, they basically mean you’re put on Earth to fulfill “one big role”. In fact, lots of people subscribe to the idea that you’re here to ultimately (and ideally) fulfill some sort of prophecy. Kinda like Neo in The Matrix. His purpose was to save Zion and humanity as “The One”. Every movie’s hero tends to have the same pattern: their purpose was to do X, Y, or Z. X is usually making humanity better, Y is usually stopping some bad guy who is about to fry the entire world’s population, and Z is usually helping a particular person excel by being their coach or mentor. But we aren’t fake movie stars. We’re just regular people. Average people, I might add.
So even then, if you believe the idea you’re supposed to fulfill your one true puFinding rpose here while you’re living and breathing, there’s a fuckload of pressure on you to find it and make it happen. The stress, which never really goes away, consumes you. It’s like you’re constantly sweating. In case you needed a bigger fire under your ass, realize this: time isn’t slowing down for you to find your purpose. The clock’s ticking.
Talk about a serious case of performance anxiety. Feeling stuck yet?
Take Your Foot Off The Gas
When you slam your foot on the gas and hold it there, two things happen: the car kicks into high gear and lunges forward, pinning you in the seat temporarily from the G-forces, and two, your senses snap into high alert and you’re suddenly hyper-focused because you don’t want to crash.
Let’s say you’re driving a Ferrari. Trying to find your purpose is like slamming the gas in it.
Trust me, I know the feeling: I’ve desperately spent the last 10+ years of my life with my foot on the gas, hoping for a miracle. If you’re like me, I’m sure you can agree it sucks. Really, really sucks. Life is flying by, and you’re just gassing it, praying for some kind of epiphany.
You know where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, it’s not the right way to approach finding your purpose. Because really, finding a purpose in the traditional sense is bullshit. That’s right, I said it. I’ll say it again: finding your purpose is bullshit…
…in the traditional sense.
What the hell is the traditional sense? It’s kind of like a race to find it as fast as possible.
And it’s not a race. That’s something I wish I knew this from an early age. 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 in a stroke of luck.
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.
To Potentially Find Your Purpose, You Need Curiosity First
How to find your purpose in life is no easy job. 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 past that. Because that 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 nah. 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 it.
All this to say, this is how people discover their passions.
But to find passions, you need to engage in a new mindset: find shit that intrigues you. Get inquisitive. 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 you’re talented and should start selling it. After a few people buy some, you realize this could actually turn into your job. So you do.
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.
Alternate ending: you get into cycling so much, you quit your day job and open a bike shop.
Curiosity Inevitably Leads to Passions Which Leads to Your Potential Purpose
The possibilities are endless, but they all start in the same place: a curiosity. Something that piqued your brain’s senses. Once that curiosity gets satiated and you continually go back to the same thing, you discover “oh hey, I have a passion.”
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.”
That’s what I was trying to impress upon with the “alternate endings” above.
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 in 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.
As much as I want to believe it’s possible to have one true purpose, our 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 in life is really, really difficult.
I think it’s important to relax about the whole fucking idea of finding the one thing. Here’s why: you shouldn’t really spend time trying to answer questions that aren’t measurable, you can’t act upon, or are even concretely answerable. For example, “what’s my purpose in life?” How can you possibly measure or get black and white with it? How can you even act on it? On the opposite side, you’ve got a question like “what can I do today to feel better?” Here, you can run through your to-do list and feel productive. And by doing all that, you might just stumble upon a passion…or your purpose.