What’s the point?
It seems everyone you ask has a different answer. And that’s totally cool, because the only answer that matters is your answer. The trick is to find an answer around which you can build a lifestyle that gets you to your goals.
But isn’t life an absolute? Universal definitions of right and wrong? One divine purpose?
Some people think so, and that’s fine as long as it works for them – and as long as they don’t try to force that worldview on other people. I choose to believe that I define the purpose of my own life, and that my purpose can be anything at all, as long as I follow it with passion, commitment and drive.
And that’s the key when it comes to realizing your goals. Having a clear sense of your own purpose.
I don’t think it’s enough to merely “exist.” To me that means doing all the stuff that society expects me to do. Plodding through an uneventful cardboard life someone else handed down to me. That life can be summed up in two obituary sentences: “Bob was a nice guy. He always did his duty.”
Is that how you want to look back on your life when you finally reach the end?
We have so many choices, and more possibilities than we’ve ever had as a species! You don’t have to be born into money to travel the world. You don’t need family connections to make something of yourself – I came from a town of 4,500 people and had no advantages except my own talents, and I got out okay! You don’t need anything handed to you. All you need is a plan and the determination to see it through.
I believe that in order to truly exist, we must fully manifest our talents and virtues. As Nietzche said, “becoming the person you really are.”
That means taking the time to uncover your passion, and having the courage to live it. It also means completely rejecting the victim psychology that seems so prevalent in today’s society.
I think it needs to be said flat out, because so much of society is sending us the opposite message. You are responsible for yourself. Responsible for what you do. Responsible for who you are. Responsible for the way you face the world and deal with it. You aren’t a victim of your childhood or your past or your circumstances – unless you choose to be. There are no excuses.
That’s a tremendously empowering realization, or at least it was for me. When I realized that I was responsible for myself, I stopped making excuses and I stopped waiting for others to help me. Instead, I started changing my life.
No, it’s not easy. Nothing worthwhile is. But it does get easier if you’re clear about your purpose and you embrace it with passion. When you’re driven by that purpose, when every action you take is aligned with it, it’s easy to stay on track and nail every goal you set for yourself.
So that’s your Lifestyle task.
If you already know your purpose, great! Sit down and think about it some more, and reevaluate the details of your life so you can continue to cut away those things that don’t have anything to do with your purpose.
If you’re not clear about your purpose, if you feel like you’re living your life for someone else or for some vague notion of “society” and what it expects of you, don’t despair quite yet…
Set aside an hour this week – or at least 30 minutes – to sit down with your journal and pen. Lock the door. Pour yourself a cup of tea, or shake up a classic cocktail of your choice. It’s important to carve out this silence, because clarifying your purpose takes time. Quiet, uninterrupted time. If you’re skimming across your life at high speed, it’s impossible to dig down more deeply.
You might not figure out your purpose today, right now. But answering these questions will get you thinking in the right direction:
- What do you want in life?
- What experiences and accomplishments do you want to look back on?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What have been your greatest successes in life so far?
- What do you admire about other people?
- What are your most important values?
- What did you really enjoy doing as a kid at play?
- Describe your ideal job.
- Describe your ideal relationship.
- How do you most enjoy spending your time? When you’ve got free time, what do you fill it with?
Write down the first ideas that come into your head. Build on each one like a kid making a sandcastle. Don’t stop to think about whether or not it’s realistic, or whether you think you could really achieve it. Write in the third person if that helps, and pretend you’re creating a character or alter ego: your “ideal self.”
That’s a good start.
Want to take that process one step further? The most helpful “lifestyle” book I’ve ever read was, How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World by Harry Browne. I reread it every 3 to 5 years to keep myself on track. It’s out of print and used copies are expensive, but you can find PDF versions online. Get it. Read it. Apply it.
Living the life of your choice starts now.