3 Major Misconceptions About Finding Your Purpose
Living a meaningful life isn’t what you think.
Finding purpose is hard as it is — but it becomes next to impossible if you fall victim to one of the many misconceptions about the subject.
This isn’t your fault. If nobody ever told you the earth was round, you’d fear falling from the edge, too. The official Flat Earth society still does.
As this community of low-voltage brains shows, the internet allows everyone to have a voice. This leads to erroneous beliefs that distort the picture like a butt-lifted and photoshopped Kylie Jenner the beauty standards of teenage girls. While many people look for meaning and fulfillment, few know the path — the rest is led astray.
As a purpose coach, I deal with these misconceptions every day, so let’s clear up the biggest ones.
The Harsh Truth
First things first — there is no universal purpose to life other than existing. This goes for humans, animals, plants, planets, and the whole universe.
I know what you’re thinking — “Doesn’t this make everything obsolete? If there is no universal purpose to life, why even bother looking?”
See, this is the problem. Many people think there must be a universal purpose, so they make it up. They claim being happy, spreading love, or enjoying life is what you must do. I’ve been one of them.
Being happy would be a terrible purpose because the more you chase happiness, the further you move away from it. How about spreading love? There are billions of beings not even capable of producing the chemical cocktail that tricks our brains into feeling what we call “love.” Enjoyment isn’t the path either. Alexander the Great enjoyed slaughtering innocents, the mad emperor Nero enjoyed burning down Rome, and Donald Trump enjoyed planning the Mexican wall — look where it got them and what it brought about the world.
There is no universal purpose besides existing. This means you, as a unique human being, have to create your purpose yourself. When you do, stay clear of these misconceptions.
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
― Albert Camus
#1 You Can Find Your Purpose
Looking for your purpose isn’t an easter egg hunt.
Yet, this is how most people treat it. They’re looking for the perfect egg that has written “purpose” in neon letters all over it and gives them a mental orgasm the moment they touch it. But since life doesn’t work that way, they get stuck saying “I haven’t found my purpose yet.”
You can’t find your purpose, you can only create it.
This is contrary to what most gurus tell you, but once you’ve understood this, you’ve taken the most important step.
My purpose is to inspire the world through my articles and help men find purpose and meaning through my coaching. But I didn’t just wake up one morning and yelled “Eureka!”.
I studied business for over six years and had no clue what to do with my life. Instead of facing the challenge, I waited for a divine intervention to rain down like a thunderstorm in the summer heat, washing away the feelings of uncertainty and replacing them with fulfillment. But like in the Atacama Desert, the water never came.
I tried many rain dances, from traveling over bodybuilding to investing. It was only when I got into personal development and started writing articles that I felt a sense of meaning. Even then, it took tons of iterations and more wrong turns than a novice driver without Google Maps to finally get where I am now — and this isn’t the end.
Purpose is a process.
With every step you take, you move further towards it. Sometimes you take the wrong direction, sometimes your steps lead you onto a path you didn’t even know existed. But you have to move.
If you want purpose, you have to create it.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw
#2 Following Your Purpose Means Your Life Is Awesome
Expecting your life to be all sunshine and rainbows because you’ve found purpose is like expecting to lose weight because you’ve got a gym membership.
Most people associate purpose with a problem-free and blissful life with unicorns pooping their favorite ice cream into their mouths 24/7. This isn’t completely wrong — when you align your actions with what gives you meaning, you sometimes feel like you’re flying. But life always brings you back down to earth.
You’ll still have to take out the garbage, cut out junk food to keep your volume-to-surface ratio in check, and get stuck in traffic because most folks drive like old people bang.
Having purpose doesn’t mean life won’t suck occasionally — but you’ll know why you’re dealing with it.
I still wake up tired some mornings, but at least I’ve got fulfilling work instead of meaningless data entry in a cubicle. I still fail miserably sometimes but I’ve got a reason to get back up and try again. I still feel like giving up from time to time but I know why I won’t.
Living on purpose doesn’t make life a smooth ride, but having a reason for overcoming the obstacles makes it much more enjoyable.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
#3 You Have One Distinct and Almighty Purpose
Your purpose is like a haircut — it changes over time, and sometimes you look back and ask yourself: “Why in the world?”
When you assume there’s one specific purpose until the end of your life, you get stuck in analysis paralysis. It’s like asking about your favorite food while telling you it’s the only thing you can ever eat until the end of your life. What if I’m wrong? What if it doesn’t fulfill me? What if I waste my time and energy? Scary, isn’t it?
Throughout my life, I had many a dream. I wanted to become a vulcanologist, biologist, writer, get rich beyond measure, inspire others, and travel the world. None of these turned out to be my calling. You won’t hit the jackpot on the first try, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy that part of your path.
Your purpose is dynamic — so go with the flow and enjoy life in all its facets.
Life unfolds in chapters and phases. Look at how different you were five, ten, or twenty years ago — and how different you’ll be five, ten, or twenty years in the future. Your focus will shift from work to your family, learning, health, or spirituality. It’s impossible to predict these changes, so dive into the now. You can always pivot later.
Do what feels right to you, right now. But do.
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