So, what do you want to do when you grow up, what are your plans? What an annoying question. Or at least it was for a very long time. I don’t have the slightest idea! That was my go to answer whenever someone dared to bring that subject up. I think the reason it was so annoying was that it implied that the one asking had it all figured out, and just wanted to look good, or to make me look bad.
For a long time I was absolutely clueless about the future, about my life and what I wanted it to be like. Life would happen regardless, I thought, and just continued without a worry in the world. And without really knowing anything about what I truly wanted. I foolishly believed only a few people had that insight, and if anything good ever happened it would be through a stroke of luck. Succcess and happiness landing in my lap so to speak.
I still think it’s an excersise in futility to just come up with something incredible and interesting, simply by guessing and assuming. I don’t believe in a big masterplan you hatched decades ago, To me, it has more become a matter of trying all the rides in the theme park in order to find the ones I like.
In many ways it’s so much easier to avoid the things you don’t want or like. Like you do with food at the buffet. I mean there seems to be a never ending flood of career choices and hobbies that just scream “noooo” , and that do more to tickle your gag reflexes than to really generate any interest.
This is of course a bad strategy for finding true purpose, as you’ll probably just move around in familiar territory with no new revelations in sight. Chances are you also start dissing other peoples choice of work or hobbies, and may very well lose sight of your own wants and needs in the process.
If you lose track of the good stuff by just avoiding shit you don’t like, well, then you miss out on perhaps the most gratifying thing you can possibly do. Finding your purpose.
But hey, if you are one of those rare specimen who decided as a teenager that you would become a lawyer, get married and raise a couple of kids, and that is precisely what you have done, then good on you. Congrats. The initial masterplan worked, and you’re happy. Excellent!
If, however, you are like most people, you are now likely aware of the fact that meaningful careers, hobbies and general interests will vary with time, and change as you grow older. This means you got to be willing to break new ground, and try new things every now and again.
The thing is, what has a purpose when you’re in your early twenties might loose it’s appeal once you hit thirty, and so on and so forth. As you change, so will some of the things that have meaning to you, that inspire you. And hopefully, if you’re curious enough, the search for new meaningful things will continue as you progress through life.
People who never bother to spend any time searching for that purpose tend to always feel a bit empty, as if something is missing. And since they are uncertain of what they seek, they typically give up before even trying, or just assume “it’s not their thing” anyway.
Well, here is where most of us go wrong. Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups, and should be avoided at all times. Period. Assuming things is the best way, by far, to close all the doors to the stuff that could potentially fill your life with meaning and purpose. And the saddest thing is you wouldn’t even know what you missed out on.
Assumption is what keeps people from learning to play musical instruments, thinking it takes a certain talent to do it. Or what keeps people from hitting the gym, thinking they’re way too skinny to ever build muscle. It’s also what keeps us from finding love, thinking we’re not interesting enough.
This is of course pure bullshit, and serves only to prevent you from engaging in meaningful activities, and the same goes of course for career choices. Yes, we often assume some lame crap about our own capabilities, and therefore end up in jobs we feel we weren’t meant to do.
A good friend of mine was terrible at math in school. He flunked so hard you could probably write a book about it. Most of it was due to uninspiring teachers and a violent upbringing, but he always assumed he was dumb.
A few years later, when he was 23, he decided to give it another go, and finally finished high school math so that he could apply to university. Not only did he finish that course with flying colors, he also got in to university and left with a degree in computer programming three years later. After that he quickly re-avaluated his fondess for assuming things, and decided it hadn’t really served him well. It changed everything, and pretty soon he landed a high paying programming job and got married. He never looked back.
As soon as I started to let go of my own misguided assumptions, and actually tried out things that I previously had bias towards, a whole new world opened up to me. Meaning and purpose slowly started to find their way into my life at a rate I had never experienced before, which also sparked an interesting insight.
I realised I hadn’t been totally honest with myself. I had allowed people around me to dictate where my interests lay, and never really listened to myself. What was, or wasn’t, “my thing” had in fact often been tainted by other people’s ideas and opinions, and had for years successfully steered me away from things I now thouroughly enjoy.
Simply by listening more to my own wants and desires, I started to indulge in activites I never, and I really mean NEVER, had even thought about. Mostly because I was no longer taking cues from my environment. Gradually I got clearer and clearer about what I truly wanted, until it eventually became a way of life to always pursue that which inspired me and interested me. I cannot overstate how significant this has been.
If you manage to subdue your own eagerness to assume which things hold true purpose, and which don’t, then the chance of finding purpose increases substantially. On top of that, you must also have that super honest conversation with yourself about what you’re really curious about, and what really rocks your world. Really, what is it? And be honest now. And remember, you probably know best, which means ignoring the influence of others might be a good idea. Your ideas are probably way better and cooler than you really think.
So, I guess the big takeaway is this. What is meaningful right now can change, and simply by being aware of this means you’re one step closer to finding that purpose. Stay curious. Only if you try things will you truly know their real value, assumptions will lead you nowhere. And if you really listen to what that curiousity in your head tells you, then I’d say you’re staring happiness right in the face. You’ve now made sure there aren’t any real obsticles between you and your purpose.
However, your true purpose may not be what you first thought it would be, it may not involve money or fame, or blinding people around you with your unstoppable success. Or maybe it is.
But it could, quite frankly, be something completely different. Something small, or something you never even thought about, or simply something outside your perifery. It could be anything from becoming a parent, doing volontary work, starting your own company, writing a book, travel the world or maybe learn how to play the guitar and fill Spotify with unforgettable music.
But whatever it is that itches that inner curiousity of yours, just make a decision to go after it with a passion. Finding true purpose in life is nothing short of magical, and will truly change your life forever.