Stop being a life purpose chaser. Here’s why.
Every year on my birthday for as long as I can remember I’ve always done the same thing. Turn off my phone and spend the day alone – reflecting on the past year. What went right, what went wrong, my life purpose, and you know… all that other really deep philosophical and important stuff.
And for the most part, I’ve enjoyed it, but I realized that it’s not that effective. Sure, I’m doing a lot of really deep thinking, but essentially it doesn’t create much meaningful action. It sorta just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside like when you climbed the rope in gym class.
So this year I wanted to do something different. You see, I did a lifetime of reflecting on my 10-day silent retreat and to be honest with you I’m a bit reflected out.
Instead of reflecting on my 39th birthday I woke up and went surfing. Then I rode a bull. Then I went to rock climbing, I did some gymnastics. I had a really great conversation with someone over tea. Then I drank some wine, read, and wrote part of this article. I only wrote part of it because the wine took over and I started typing like this:
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I did all that stuff instead of reflecting because those are some of my favorite things to do and they make me feel pretty darn good.
This post is my very random thoughts about why discovering your life purpose doesn’t really matter all that much.
DON’T GO CHASING WATERFALLS OR YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
I used to be a “what is my life purpose” chaser. I was searching under every rock and in between all the nooks and cranny’s trying to discover who I was and what my purpose in life is.
For years now I’ve constantly gone back and forth between thoughts, ideas, jobs, and relationships. Never quite able to fully embrace anything in particular. Always questioning if what I’m doing is the right thing – The best thing – Something representative of my “higher purpose.”
I just wanted to “know myself” better.
The want to know yourself, discover your purpose, or live up to your potential has more to do with the fear of not ever being able to figure it out than it actually does with the discovery itself. It’s pretty scary to think about going through life and never really figuring out who you are as a person. I use to often think “is what I am doing now what I was put on earth here to do?” That question in itself would give me anxiety out my yin-yang
But this same fear, anxiety, and stress that make us so uncomfortable also keep us safe. Fear is partly what keeps us from jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. You might be thinking that common sense is what keeps you from taking such an action but I would say that the fear of ending up like a pancake is what actually does the trick.
So what’s this got to do with purpose, self-discovery, and getting more out of life?
Well, without fears, anxiety, and stress we wouldn’t be motivated to do great things. Often when I talk to friends about what motivated them to finally lose weight they point to a specific time where the fear of not changing was greater than the fear of actually changing.
This fear of not changing happened to about 8 years ago.
When I was 28 I took a trip around the world in hopes of discovering myself. But I didn’t. Instead, I just got some really cool stories to tell and experiences to share with people. Oh, and I also got a really nasty rash and a case of the runs in India.
TMI? Maybe, but just being honest.
As it turns out I didn’t need that trip to help me “find myself.” Instead, I needed it to break the comfortable routine that I had fallen into. I was getting really good at practicing the status quo and that wasn’t ok with me.
What that trip and my 10-day silent retreat really did for me was remove every external distraction that was influencing my decisions. My work, my friends, my own personal habits, and coping mechanisms for when life gets “too difficult.”
That trip and my retreat allowed me to get a clearer picture of who I was back home and whether I actually liked that person. Turns out I really didn’t like that person all that much.
Deep shit right?
So I started to ask myself some questions and I think it would be really cool if you asked yourself them:
- What would I do once I figured out my purpose?
- What if it’s something I don’t even like?
- How would I feel if I have no purpose at all? Talk about a mind fuck.
- What if my life purpose isn’t even cool. What if it was to be the world’s best burrito maker. Or worse, just a mediocre burrito maker.
- Most of us assume that were destined for something great and we get caught up in chasing something epic. What if my life purpose is just something super simple?
Instead of trying to discover myself or find my purpose in life, I’m now preoccupied with living one that I’m proud of.
And that life includes investing more of my time and energy on growing my personal relationships, having more experiences, and less on discovering my purpose and chasing career and money goals.
Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.
So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important? – Mark Manson
I just want to spend my time doing more of the important stuff. Or at least the stuff that’s important to me.
The world is like one giant college campus and at our disposal is an infinite amount of courses we can take that will help shape who we are or who we want to be. The person you are varies on so many levels. There’s the person you are with your family, at your job, out on the town, with your health, and so on.
It’s hard to figure out who you are if you’re repeating the same routine day in and day out. That’s not to say something new needs to be done every single day but take advantage of all that is out there.
Learn to dance, learn how to play the guitar, take an art class, learn how to make sushi, go wine tasting, book a trip around the world, swim with dolphins, write a poem, stand in a rainstorm, wander around and take a picture of something you find, BBQ with friends, take part in a triathlon.
Experience as much as you can. That is the only way to true self-discovery and purpose. You may find your passions lay in many more things than you could ever have imagined.
WHAT WOULD YOU REALLY MISS?
When I was on my silent retreat I realized that there weren’t a lot of things that I missed. I didn’t miss weight training or even coaching.
But the things I did miss I missed a tremendous amount. So much so that when I thought about them and what life would be like without them I was brought to tears. Or was that just sand from the desert in my eye?
- I missed a really good conversation with someone I care about.
- Watching Netflix with someone I love.
- I missed seeing a buddy of mine and giving them one of those five’s with a half-man hug designed to look super cool so it hides the man love you have for one another.
- Cooking myself a really good meal. And I missed cooking a really good meal for myself and my girlfriend even more.
- I missed moving my body in unique ways that made it feel good.
From now on I want to make sure I’m doing more of those things.
YOUR LIFE PURPOSE WILL CHANGE AND THAT’S OK
Finding yourself, discovering your purpose, if these are things you’re interested in take that as a good sign. It means you have a deep love for life and are excited about the journey. All the apprehensions you are feeling about not knowing are normal.
The most important thing to remember is that you are a constantly changing and evolving person. Changes are happening every day physically, mentally, and spiritually. As you change so will your purpose. Embrace the change.
When I was eight my purpose was eating as much candy as possible and playing in the mud. In high school, my purpose was to drink beer and chase girls. Now, it’s learning and sharing knowledge with others. I could wake up tomorrow and find a new purpose… And that’s ok because when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.
Scott Young said it beautifully in this article.
Even if you don’t know where your life is going you can still enjoy the hell out of the ride.
I guess my argument is this. Knowing your purpose, passion, mission, or whatever you want to call it won’t really change your life much.
I’m even willing to bet that you’ve already found it and either overlooked it, ignored it because it wasn’t what you hoped it would be, or got bored with it and decided to start searching for a new purpose instead.
You’ve felt it before, the excitement, power, confidence, and invincibility that occurs when you are in your element. You know, those times when you’re in the zone when all your virtues seemed to be aligned and your acting in a way that emphasizes your strengths; you’re around people who help pull it out of you, you’re being challenged, those moments of pure and utter bliss, those moments of flow.
For some of you, this may be in the work that you do, while exercising, kicking it with your kids, out in nature on a hike, while listening to some of your favorite tunes, or it may be any combination of those things. It’s those times when you just get lost in within yourself and the environment around you. You feel free, comfortable, and confident expressing emotions and just being yourself.
If you’ve never felt that before, believe you don’t feel it enough or are unsure of what those moments are for you then you need more experiences. You need to give yourself a platform to be yourself, learn, and experience new things that will challenge you and force you to grow.
No experience is good or bad
Personally, I don’t believe that any experience is either good or bad, it just is, but it’s the way you respond to it that determines how that experience is perceived now and in your future.
So get busy today and define what your ideal life looks like. What experiences do you want to have in these areas?
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Have you ever felt complete freedom in any of those areas before where you were acting as your authentic self? If not, how can you create more experiences in those areas that help you to figure it out?
- Scott Young: Feeling Lost
- Mark Manson: 7 Strange Questions To Help You Discover Your Life Purpose
- Zen Habits: Life Purpose
- Steve Pavlina: How To Discover Your Life Purpose In About 20 Minute