Finding purpose in life in extremely difficult. Figuring out the day-to-day actions is easy. You can get good grades, complete projects to not get fired, and save up for your retirement mostly on autopilot. What’s challenging, and often intimidating, is really considering what’s the real reason you’re here. What do you want to be remembered for after you pass on?
It is even possible to discover your purpose in life? I was convinced I’d found it a couple times in my past. It was always some blast of inspiration that I thought was brilliant in the moment. I was sure then and there that I could follow it my whole life if I wanted to. Each time this would happen, however, my interest in this ‘amazing opportunity’ would die out after a few weeks.
After having this experience again and again I have a theory. I think that trying to find one, single purpose that will influence and guide your whole life is naïve.
We all need something to get us going in the morning of course, but I think trying to fit your whole life into one single sentence of who you want to be impossible. I think it’s impossible because most people just don’t know themselves well enough to plan their entire life’s destiny.
Living is an incredibly complex journey. The road will be rocky at times and at others it will be smooth. One thing that stands true for the length of it is that you never really know what’s ahead. The only thing that’s constant is change.
Is it possible to have a purpose that never wavers while life changes around us?
As you grow older, more things become clear that you didn’t understand when you were younger. You learn more about how the world works as you exist in it.
If you’ve kept a journal you probably know that looking back on it can make you laugh. Your old self can seem very idealistic and misled as you look back on what you wrote years ago. Looking through the lenses of experience, your old perspectives can seem very naïve and even comical.
Does an overarching purpose fit in this ever-changing world? I don’t think so. As life changes, so must our goals. If the game, or our view of the game, changes, the strategy can’t stay the same.
The only thing constant is change. But if you want to start finding purpose there are three steps you need to take.
1. At first, do nothing.
This is important because you need to 'wipe the slate clean' for a period of time so that you can begin to paint your own picture on it. When you're searching for what you want to do with your life lots of 'amazing' ideas will pop into your head that you feel need acting on right away.
Don't act on them! The reason they seem so amazing is because you haven't thought them out. Chasing them will lead you into a dead end unless you're exceptionally lucky.
What happens if you choose not to wait and instead chase your half-thought-out dreams?
You're at least doing better than most people who never take action, but you'll most likely end up having done a ton of work with little to no results to show at the end. This is a hard lesson to take. For a painful example of what happens when you chase ideas too quickly read my article on sharing ideas.
2. Get a goal.
Once you're past the stage of wanting to chase every little idea that comes your way you're in a much better place to think about what goals you'd really like to achieve over the next couple years. You'll have thought through some of your past 'amazing' ideas and realized that they had a bunch of flaws that you hadn't seen before. You'll be more able to make a good decision about what you'd like to do and goals you'd really like to achieve.
When thinking about goals don't try to think of something that will encompass your entire life. Just think about a goal you'd like to achieve in the next year or maybe two. Life changes to much for you to create a ten year plan unless you've been making long term goals for a while and have the necessary persistence built up.
It's pretty simple. You need to jump into action on your goal if you really want to learn if it's for you or not. The best kind of learning comes from action, and now that you've had some time to think about which goals you really want to pursue you are (hopefully) on a somewhat right track. Given, you are still probably not anywhere near the 'right' path but it is only by actually doing something that you'll figure out what you actually want to do.
You can't see the rocks along the road until you actually start walking.