Let’s say you have a meeting at school or college to discuss your future career, and they immediately hit you with the obvious question: “What do you want to do when you leave here?”
So maybe you say that you want to travel the world, see everything from the Grand Canyon to the Northern Lights, and while doing that you want to meet all kinds of people who would remain close friends that you could visit for the rest of your life. You’d like a job that didn’t take up much time but paid extremely well so you could concentrate on your hobbies.
I’m sure at this point the careers adviser would point out the problems with such a plan, but the thing is, at that age that is exactly what we want to do. We are at a point where we are told the world is our oyster and anything is possible, and at the same time we are told to be realistic and settle down for the long run.
Over the next 15 years something separates the path most people take. There are the career types who slowly climb the ladder of a vocation they chose an 18, those who stuff some clothes into a backpack and take the next $50 flight to anywhere, and then the people who just conform to whatever plan is handed to them. If only we were able to give people the courage and the strength to go after what they really want straight away, instead of slowing them down with so-called realism, then stopping at 30 and trying to find our purpose in life wouldn’t be necessary…or certainly wouldn’t be as hard as it is.
I think finding your purpose in life is actually quite backwards. Sitting down with a piece of paper and making a list to find out what you should be doing is like flicking through a travel brochure instead of visiting places. You simply don’t know until you experience it.
So forget trying to find your purpose – I don’t believe anybody exists solely to do a specific thing. Most people are approaching middle age when they start to think about their life in this way, and that is normally because they’re not doing what they enjoy doing. Somewhere along the way their plans didn’t work out, or they were not what they thought they were meant to do, or they changed their minds.
Let’s think back to that career meeting at school and try giving it an honest answer as you stand today. But do it with conscious thought and with the knowledge you’re now armed with. Don’t think with the mundane mind that goes to work every day to pay the bills, but instead with the part of you that has an imagination and has dreams. The world has so many opportunities! You can get paid or get funded to do almost anything, you just need determination and drive to go after what you really enjoy. So from today stop trying to ‘find your purpose’ and instead just start doing what you enjoy. Start taking notice of those little nagging voices inside telling you exactly what you want.
I have a friend who dreams of volunteering in Africa. She doesn’t have the chance to do it at the moment, but there is nothing stopping her putting a little something aside each month to save for flights, or volunteering for local charities that help children in Africa for a few hours a week – little things to get the ball rolling. Doing what you enjoy doesn’t have to mean a massive upheaval or even any major change – taking small steps every day adds up to a long way from where you are now!
So when it comes to finding your purpose in life, stop. Start doing the things you enjoy a more and consider how you can sustain your life by doing it.
If you have found your purpose please let me know in the comments below.
Updated for 2023