Finding Purpose: Life and what you should do with it.
OK. So you know how sometimes you’re driving home from work and you have to pull into the nearest parking lot so that you can punch the steering wheel a bunch of times and scream things about your work being meaningless, your job sucking wind, the utter hopelessness of facing 20 more years in that place, and maybe something about how such a bunch of idiots ended up in management positions? Oh…yeah. Me neither.
What do you want to do with your life?
No, Twisted Sister fans, the answer isn’t “I wanna rock!” (although I did show that video to my two older kids while I was writing this). The topic for the day is figuring out the riddle of living with purpose and how exactly to know what you are supposed to do with your life. I guess the short version of that would be, what is my calling? I figure I should be able to get that wrapped up in 400 words or so. Right? Seriously, this is something I personally have struggled with for about as long as I can remember. I think it all starts when you’re a kid and grown ups start asking you about a future you can’t even imagine yet. There you are, just 7 or 8 years old, and some well meaning adult plants “the question” in your brain… What do I want to do when I grow up? Hmmm. I’d love to go back in time and just flatly say, “Hey, I’m 8. How am I supposed to know what I want to be when I grow up when I don’t even know how to cook mac and cheese yet?” Seriously. But its too late for that now. The seed was planted long ago and it has grown over the years. I guess some people get a good answer for this question at some point. I kept waiting for it during my teens and twenties. It never came. I started actively looking for it in my late twenties and thirties. Still, it never came. I guess that might be part of why I never felt comfortable with any major in college and why I went through about ten years of having all sorts of different jobs. Too bad I didn’t have the idea for the show Dirty Jobs back in the nineties. I might have ended up on TV making car commercials like Mike Rowe.
Now I’m in my forties, I’ve had the same respectable job for 11 years, but honestly, I still often feel like I’m looking for that special purpose in life. I think I’m probably trying too hard. This morning I stumbled across a video that I’d like to share here. It may be a little bit “new agey” for some people reading this, but I think some of the advice is really solid. The thing that really caught my attention was the approach used to figure out what it is that you want in life. It makes so much sense, but I had never heard it suggested before.
Figuring out what you want
OK, so if you watched that, maybe you came up with some good ideas for how to figure out what exactly it is that you want. Before I go any further, here is a link to the book written by Teal Scott (the woman in the video), just in case you were interested. It is called The Sculptor in the Sky and it’s on Amazon. Now what I found interesting was the idea of looking at what it is that you do NOT like and then working backward from that. I’m pretty darn clear on what I don’t like and I have been for as long as I’ve been working for other people. I’m keeping this list focused mainly on work issues for our purposes here. This is a partial list that I’m working with (how does it compare to yours?):
Things I don’t like:
- Dealing with incompetent people
- Bosses who are out of touch with the people they supervise
- Working with the public in a customer service type of position
- Dealing with unpleasant people
- Being forced to join committees
- Rules put forth by committees
- Office politics
- Having to enforce and follow rules that were made by politicians or committees that I think are counterproductive and ridiculous
- Large groups of people, although surprisingly, public speaking doesn’t bother me a bit
- Trading my hours away for money doing something that I dread on a daily basis and don’t enjoy in the least
Just making this little list helped me to come up with some things that I do enjoy.
Things I DO like:
- Helping others
- Writing and being creative
- Meeting new people who aren’t jerks
- Talking to and learning from other people
- Working on my own with limited interruptions
- Being in charge of my own productivity
- Making my own work rules
- Looking for and sharing ideas that make sense and help others
- Keeping things uncomplicated (simplicity)
- Bosses who ask for input and actually listen (although the idea of a boss still really rubs me the wrong way and I prefer being independent)
What do your lists look like? Please share them in the comments!
Who is making your choices?
I think I’m making a good move with building websites. It lets me work at my own pace while still (hopefully) helping people and expressing myself while I do it. I’m sure that not every person will like what I post, but I don’t think anyone has ever managed to please all of the people all of the time, right? That brings me to another point…
It seems to me that we spend WAY too much time worrying about what other people will think of us if we do pursue our dreams. Ask yourself these questions:
- Have you ever let someone change your mind about doing something that you were really excited about doing?
- How about a dream that you had? Have you ever listened to someone when they told you that you were a dreamer and that you should do something practical instead of what you had your heart set on?
- How many big decisions in your adult life were based on someone else’s idea of what you should do?
That is life changing stuff. Good grief, when I look back on my life, I realize that I probably let other people direct me on those big decisions at least 90% of the time. That is what you call living someone else’s dream. Where are those people who influenced you so much nowadays? Are they doing substantially better than you? Have they ever come around to tell you how fabulous you are for following their sage advice? Many times, the people who have the most to say about you should be living your life, are pretty much clueless about how to run their own affairs. I forget who said it, but a quote that sticks with me goes something like don’t take advice from people who are worse off than you. That seems like a pretty good idea. In hindsight, I can see that the people who were telling me which path to take were completely miserable in their jobs. I’m sure they had the best intentions, but they sent me down the same unhappy path that they followed! Really, they were just pointing me toward the societal “norm”, but I have a real problem with just rolling over and accepting that as my fate. I suppose that’s why I’m here writing this now.
Ask yourself some questions
You’ve got to ask yourself the tough questions. What is my calling? (if you feel you have one.) What do I really want? What is my purpose on Earth? If it helps you, scream out “God – What do you want me to do?!?!”, then sit quietly for a while. Write down the thoughts that come to you. Answer the questions about what you like and don’t like. More and more I’m realizing that this is something really important that I should have done a long time ago before I ever took any kind of full time job that I thought might evolve into a career. Just writing this cleared up some things for me (thanks for reading along). Go now and take a little bit of time for yourself and see what you come up with. I, and a lot of other people, are living proof that if you don’t figure this stuff out, it doesn’t go away. You’ll just end up older and more frustrated. Don’t let that happen to you.