“We all have these different versions of ourselves competing to be our real self.” Michael C. Hall, movie Christine
In a recent podcast on The Next Chapter with Charlie my guest, a successful real estate investor/advisor, made a comment asserting that most people know who they are and what they want in life. This was one of the few times I offered a bit of “push-back” to my expert interviewee.
Who Are You and What Are You Supposed To Do
In fact, in my experience a rather large number of people can’t answer those two questions. I frequently chat with people who are unsure of their talents and what they feel is a purpose to their lives. They desire something meaningful to be or do.
I am not surprised. After all we live in a country where we are often coached, “You can be anything you want to be.” It’s not true. I could never play piano in the Carnegie. I haven’t the natural talent. In addition, parents, teachers, coaches, and friends don’t hesitate to tell you what they feel you are qualified or not qualified to do or be.
And then to add to the confusion you often find yourself acting almost like a different person in each of your various roles as colleague, friend, relative, parent, child, or teammate. No wonder there is such confusion about the most important question of what is your purpose in life. Too much conflicting information.
Demystifying Your Purpose
Let me try to demystify the question of “your purpose in life.” It’s not all that difficult, really. I’ll begin with a couple of obvious purposes for every person. One is simply, “Be Kind,” and help others. The second is also obvious, “Do Your Job… Well.” No matter the job—parent, worker, boss, student, spouse, teammate, whatever—do it the best you know how. I know it sounds pretty obvious, but if everyone did just those two alone the world would be a much better place, and each of us would play a meaningful role.
But, what about Your Specific Purpose? The one that gives you meaning and fulfillment. I believe Aristotle put it best and most succinctly, “The goal of every person is to contribute to the value of society.”
So, you say, “I don’t know how I am supposed to contribute.” That, too, is not all that difficult to figure out. First of all, be assured that you are endowed with a set of talents (or DNA’d) to accomplish what you may call your “mission in life.” My personal mission is pretty clear: (1) Help others feel good about themselves, (2) Satisfy my creativity and curiosity, and (3) Serve those to whom I have given a commitment.
You are Not “Supposed” to Do Anything
I know I still haven’t answered the big question, “How do you know what it is you are supposed to do.” First, you are NOT “supposed” to do anything. Life is not a test. It is an opportunity to serve and enjoy. And, even if you were “supposed” to do anything, it is something that would come quite naturally to you because it is in your DNA.
If you are serious about how you are to contribute to the value of society, I have a pretty simple process. CAUTION: This requires a bit of effort, but not a lot. And… if you DO the three things I suggest, I can almost guarantee radically increased clarity about how you might increase both joy and meaning. Two questions and a brief writing assignment.
If you are serious about figuring out your purpose, do these three things and you will find yourself far along the road to satisfaction.
- What excites you? Write down that small list of endeavors or activities that bring you great excitement. Personally, I get it from, among others, travel, watching my son play ball, painting, and doing new and interesting tiny adventures—like even going to a new museum.
- What do you really want to do? Make a list of things you really want to do. This list will most certainly include thing you are already doing.
The answers to these two questions will reveal both your talents and DNA. You are always excited and want to do things you do well or desire to do well. This is your hard wiring. These will include the talents you will want to use to fulfill your mission. And finally…
- Write 2 or more pages on what your life would look like in 10 years if you were “guaranteed success with no chance of failure.” I first came across this exercise from marketer, writer, executive, educator and podcaster Debbie Millman. When Debbie first did this exercise herself a high percentage of items on her list came to fruition and she regularly receives feedback from students saying the same thing. I did it. It was amazing and offered highly insightful ideas for my next chapter.
Okay. Maybe this is a little work, but it is your life we are talking about. Perhaps it is worth 30 -60 minutes of effort to make a stab at understanding your self a little better, as you become “your real self.”
There is Nothing More Natural Than
Your Purpose in Life
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