There Are Two Ways to “Find Your Purpose” — Only One is Right
Your problem isn’t what you think it is.
You think your lack of motivation is why you can’t seem to find your purpose. Incorrect.
You think your lack of direction, clarity, and guidance is why you can’t find your purpose. Is that part of it? Sure, but it’s still not quite right.
Why are you having such a hard time trying to pull this off? Why can’t you just buckle down, push yourself, grind, make it happen?
Simple. You’re going about it the wrong way.
“You don’t have to be good to start … you just have to start to be good!” — Joe Sabah
My entire writing career started…on a lark.
I didn’t get my ducks in a row. I didn’t read a bunch of articles on how to become a better writer. Nor did I have a grand vision of what my writing career would be.
Luckily, a friend asked to write for his website and I started writing.
Prior to that, I had thought about writing, but I made the same mistake I’m warning you not to make.
I took the idea of becoming a writer way too seriously. When it was a distant and vague goal it seemed to real and grandiose to me. All of a sudden, when my friend asked me to write for his website, it seemed like an easy enough thing to try on a trial basis. I wasn’t starting a writing career. I was writing a single article for some random website that didn’t have a ton of readers. No pressure.
I grew more serious over time. When I got better, it made more sense to start considering a career in writing. I owe the experimental nature of the beginning of my “career” to the success of my, now, very real career.
In your case, it all boils down to this — stop giving a you know what. Why does trying some new hobby, project, or path in your life have to be this big monumental deal? It doesn’t. Why do you feel the need to cultivate all of this motivational energy to try something new? It’s unnecessary.
It’s funny. As I got more serious about writing, I did adopt the attitude that I needed to get more serious, grind harder, and stay laser-focused. I ditched my whole social life to pull it off. Looking back, I realize that I didn’t need to do that.
You don’t need to do that.
There is a way to work hard without “grinding.” There is a way to take your future seriously without taking yourself seriously.
Easy enough for me to say, though, right? Be carefree, just start, give the process a try and see what happens.
The problem? You’re still afraid, full of doubt, and worried about all of these imaginary future scenarios that will never happen.
Here’s a path to solving that problem.
“Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” — Hunter S. Thompson
A great way to get over fear is to question it to death.
Let’s say you want to do something that scares you a little bit, like start an online business.
Break it down. Why are you scared? Literally, what does the process of starting an online business entail? Say it’s e-commerce. Ok.
You have to:
- Get a website — “Technical stuff is hard!” So what? Who cares? Why is clicking buttons scary to you? They are just buttons. Buttons, dude.
- Source products — Yes, you might have to pick up the phone and call somebody in China to get some products. What’s really all that scary about that? Why are you afraid to talk to somebody on the phone? You are just exchanging noises to each other. Noises. You’re scared of noises.
- Marketing — You are going to have to find a way to get people to buy your products. You will need to learn how to be persuasive. Ok, can’t you do that? What’s so serious about writing a product description? Nothing. What is life or death about typing the words “20% off” onto a computer screen? Nothing.
There are a lot of things you need to do to start a business. Things that are hard. But why do you have to carry all of that extra energy while you’re doing it? You don’t.
What if it all goes to shit? Who cares? You’re dead in the eyes of the universe already.
Being successful in life is like walking up to a gorgeous person and saying hi. You’re scared for no reason. At best, you meet a beautiful person and fall in love. At worst, they just say…no.
Finding your purpose is kind of like that. If you don’t pull it off, nothing really…happens. Maybe you lose a little bit of money, but side projects and such are quite cheap these days — less than you pay for a new iPhone.
The best way to overcome the fear of rejection, failure, and obstacles involves consciously cultivating a more carefree attitude.
Is it easy? No. But being carefree is a skill you can learn just like anything else.
“The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it — basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.” — Charles Bukowski
Here’s your new motto in life.
“Screw it, let’s see what happens.”
No anticipation of the future whatsoever. No grand master plan. Just begin to do the thing messily until you can do it professionally.
I’d been putting off starting a YouTube channel for years. I started it about 6 months ago, shortly after my separation. Part of the reason I started the channel? I was starting a new life. One where I promised myself I wouldn’t:
- hold back
- overthink making decisions that might benefit my life
- play small
I started my channel by opening up my laptop, looking into the webcam, and talking. No script. Posted the video the same day. No editing.
Now? I shoot all of my videos in 4k with an expensive camera. I’m studying YouTube analytics and SEO. I plan on growing the channel ad infinitum. But contrary to the way I built my writing career, I’m not going to care as much.
I’m just talking in front of a camera, no big deal. I suspect the carefree energy I bring to the channel makes it more endearing. I crack jokes, do funny voices, talk shit. I wrap serious self-improvement concepts in humor, sarcasm, and playful energy.
I’m trying to wrap my entire life in that energy.
I’m trying to pass that energy on to you.
Really, what’s the worse thing that can happen if you go all-in? Just for kicks?
Are you going to die?
Will anyone physically hurt you?
Is the entire population of the planet going to simultaneously look in your direction and laugh at you when you make a mistake?
No. No. And hell no.
What are the most fun moments of your life? The spontaneous ones. Why, then, would you attempt something like finding your purpose with anything less than the purest and powerful form of energy there is?
Because you’ve been taught not to.
Why Do You Do This To Yourself?
“Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation. Why are we doing this to ourselves?” — Peter Theil
I wrote an article called “Read This if You Feel Like You’re Falling Behind in Life”
One of the commenters who felt like they were falling behind in life was…an 18-year-old. An 18-year-old who had gotten into Stanford, at that! She has nothing to worry about, but she’s worried. Why? Because of this hyper-competitive comparison driven career ecosystem we’ve built.
I live in Rochester, MN, home of the world-famous Mayo Clinic. The city is filled with super serious, Type A, extremely career-driven folks. Sometimes I overhear them talking in coffee shops and it makes me cringe. Yuck. Why are you that serious? It’s just a job.
To become a better thinker, you must understand how to hold contradictory ideas in your mind.
One of my favorite pairings:
- On the one hand, you should care deeply about your life path. Work is a third of your life. Getting that part of your life wrong can make you miserable. In a way, finding your purpose can assuredly feel like a fight for your soul.
- On the other hand, your path means absolutely nothing. No need to carry all of this life or death energy while you attempt to do it.
Care, but don’t care.
I will work a 14 hour day to finish a project launch if I need to, but I will never, ever, ever, live my life as if I’m trying to curate the perfect LinkedIn profile. I work just as hard as many career-driven people, but without the pompous energy.
Do the same. Life is supposed to be fun. Finding your passion and purpose is supposed to be fun.
Have fun. Remember fun? The center of your life as a child?
The perfect combination for a successful life is the intellectual capacity, rigor, and wisdom of the world’s most ambitious thinker and the energy of a child to puts crayons in their noise to see what they smell like.
Get after it.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.