Why Is Purpose So Hard To Find?

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Daniel Garcia / Unsplash

Do you ever feel as if everyone else around you hopped on the purpose train on the way to their dreams and you’re merely a bystander waving goodbye from a distance while waiting for your train to come?

I do. While others are heading headstrong towards the rest of their lives, I’m still honing my interests. And, gasp, I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with this outlook.

Because I’m a millennial with an infinite curiosity for the ideas and opinions of my peers, I went ahead and conducted research on my personal Instagram account on what people think about purpose: do you find it or create it? Both options seemed to have a fair chance with “creating purpose” winning with a house edge of 20%. Of course, my personal social media account was not my only source of data. There are also plenty of articles that support my own three-in-one thesis: you can find your purpose as you are building your life; you create your purpose; and you were born knowing your purpose.

In reality, it’s different for us all. Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, Victor Frankl had this theory that humans should pursue meaning instead of happiness. Why? Happiness is marketed; it can take you from looking at a billboard of the newest iPhone to buying it at the store because, of course, you’ll be happy after purchasing this new gadget. But meaning asks you to ponder a whole other realm of questions: is the phone giving you life or is it taking life from you? Of course, this is all hypothetical as few of us find it challenging to let go of the pleasure of consumerism and the excitement of new things — myself included. But, meaning is at the epicenter of it all. Dare I say, meaning should be the goal.

It’s my lifelong goal and therefore my purpose: to seek meaning and joy. We tend to focus on purpose as the vehicle to success, but I’d argue against it. I don’t have just one purpose and when I thought I did, it changed. I’m not as financially stable as I’d like to be, I haven’t accomplished half of my dreams (or half of the things I thought I would by my age), yet there are days when I sit on my bed and joy comes. I think about how nice it is to sit in this apartment that I rent out, that is blocks from the ocean, and I give thanks… for the money I do have, for the dreams I have accomplished.

I read once in The Atlantic, that “the hell-bent pursuit of purpose kind of loses the point a little bit because there is value to the sum of positive emotions we experience every day. So if all you’re doing is pursuing your purpose, or if all you’re doing is goal-oriented, you forgo joy today for a perceived better future.” Arguably, it’s not purpose but purposes that fulfill our lives — we need not have one sole objective, rather goals or seasonal purposes.

If these words provided you no solace and you’re still on the verge of a nervous breakdown because you want to desperately hand in your ticket and hop on the train to the rest of your life, sit down and give thanks… I promise gratitude will take you everywhere you want to go. TC mark

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