Life Work

Big Questions

How does one find life’s purpose? No really, I want to know. I want the knowledge not just for myself, but for other people that are in my life. How are some people so clear about what they are doing and some just get blown along life’s path doing what they can or just simply surviving?

Do the people that seem to be so happy doing what they do not have very high expectations? Are they willing to settle? Risk vs reward? There must be some kind of mathematical equation in there. I feel like I have some idea, but it’s all a bit fuzzy. Anyone have any knowledge they would like to lay on me, because I’m game.

image via: time magazine

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    blake
    May 17, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    I don't have the answer, but I like this question. Actually, I don't like it; this question haunts me, always has. I even wonder if we're set up for unhappiness with the whole notion of "life's purpose" … I assume you mean it in a work sense? Maybe you mean more broadly. But I do believe that we (on average) spend so much time working that we've gotten to the point that our work MUST be our life's purpose (i.e., source of deep contentment), or else something's wrong. Kind of like the soul mate idea (not saying that's necessarily untrue), we've been told that there's a perfect fit for our days. A perfect career. A "calling." I tend to suspect it's a moving target, this day-to-day contentment. What made me leap out of bed ten years ago makes me yawn now. But it made me happy back then, and that was good. Something else does that for me now… or at least it does most of the time. Probably has less to do with what I'm doing, and more to do with what I'm not… and the conditions under which I do it all. I'm bigger on the "how" than the "what" these days. I don't know if happiness is a case of lower expectations, but I do think that the idea of a perfect fit for one's whole life can backfire. People close to me also labor under this question, and it's a good one. Maybe the next commenter will have the secret 🙂

  • Reply
    Desi McKinnon
    May 17, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    I think I do mean work, because it takes up so much of our time. I love your answer or discussion on it.

    I just think that making a living has become very tough, at least to support the American ideal (which is also a moving target). By "American Ideal" I don't mean a ton of crap either. I just mean that you have some sense of autonomy and are able to meet your financial obligations.

    Maybe it's a game of scales/balance. I'm a little jaded, so sometimes I tend to break things down to the point of everything seeming meaningless (I want you to know that I typed that while smiling to myself not crying).

    Let's see if anymore insights are revealed 😉

  • Reply
    blake
    May 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Oh I do that jaded (smiling) break-down all the time. If I think about everything, it's all pretty meaningless. But then some other notion strikes and I'm off in another direction. Ooo, shiny.

    Re: the 2nd paragraph, did you ever read Radical Homemakers? That book, while certain parts of it rubbed me the wrong way (healthcare), turned the "rules" about making a living/surviving on its ear for me. I liked it so much for that.

  • Reply
    Desi McKinnon
    May 17, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    I haven't read it. I'll have to check it out. Thanks Blog Buddy.

  • Reply
    blake
    May 17, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    Anytime 🙂

  • Reply
    Shelly
    May 18, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    Pal, I wish I knew! Blake suggests relevant points in purpose relating to our work. I also think her thoughts are noteworthy on purpose changing as life changes and as we change.

    My favorite job was waiting tables…certainly my purpose is not serving plates of food and coffee??

    I like to think happiness and purpose goes beyond our landscape- That the purpose is to feel joy and gratitude in the present moment.

  • Reply
    Desi McKinnon
    May 18, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    I agree on the present moment tip.

    I liked waiting tables too. I'm pretty sure it's not my life's purpose either 😉 I think it's tough to figure out what comes easy enough to you that you can carve out a decent living for yourself/family and still have the energy to feed your body/mind/soul.

  • Reply
    Colleen
    May 25, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    my brain is so foggy these days with allergies and adrenal fatigue that i can barely even consider the question! But I know that I love to talk about this stuff…

    I'm also more into the 'how' rather than the 'what' lately. For me…i think that's where I'll have to feel happiness. The 'what' can change in an instant with circumstances beyond our control—disease, accidents, etc. Of course– the 'how' doesn't answer how to go about making a living or choosing which direction to go in. I struggle with it too.
    love the photo– just watched *week with Marilyn* last night.

  • Reply
    Melanie
    May 25, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    oh my friend i am so there with you. ask myself this pretty much daily and vacillate a lot over what I think mine is. my 2 cents is follow the heart one day at a time. it's gotta lead somewhere good and maybe it's not just one path but a whole lot of tributaries that make up a big sea. how's that for mixed metaphor?

  • Reply
    Desi McKinnon
    May 25, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    that's so nice to hear that i'm not alone.

  • Reply
    Desi McKinnon
    May 25, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    i do know you love talking about this stuff. i was baiting you a little. lol.

  • Reply
    ronnielle
    May 27, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    don't think anyone has one answer (if at all) to this question for all his/her lifetime. which is why you shouldn't compare yourself to others' "answers" or stress about it. I think a good way to get through to answer this is to know what ISN'T your purpose. by stripping off the unnecssary you might get closed to what IS important. by the way, having fun and helping others be happy while you're at it usually means you're in a good place 🙂

  • Reply
    180|360
    May 29, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    I've read and tried to comment on this like 5 times and each time I delete what I was going to say. I'm not sure if this post is about you or someone else. Maybe it doesn't matter. Are you worried about the disconnect between making money doing what you love vs. suffering through something that pays but isn't your dream job? Are things meaningless because in the end anything can happen?

    I don't have any answers. All I know is that I have found my calling(s) in life. I am living them to some extent every day. This is not to say that my callings bring me utter joy every second or tons of money. But I do know that in my core I need to be doing what I'm doing, even if it is kind of killing me right now. (Too much on my plate.) I live day to day most of the time and I would *almost* always seize the moment over worrying about the end result. I usually assume that things will work themselves out in the end, and this kind of thinking drives my husband crazy. 🙂 He's kind of the opposite of me!

    That said, I have known plenty of people who seem to flounder on a daily basis. They are in constant search of what they really want out of life. They have no focus or stamina although they haphazardly try things like running marathons, randomly starting direct-sales type businesses, or taking yoga teacher training even though they don't want to teach yoga. But their heart isn't really into anything in particular and before long, they stop trying that and move on to the next random thing. It is just so hard for me to relate to people that don't know where they stand or what they want. And I don't see you like this at all, which is why I am confused.

    I'm not saying this is wrong or that I have and know everything I want to know. Quite the contrary! I have a huge list of things I want to learn, study, try, places to go. I will never be bored or without something to do. And like others mentioned, I believe life is all a process and everything constantly changes. If anything, I've tried to focus on flowing with change.

    See! I am rambling and not making any sense. I should probably delete this monologue, too. I'm sorry! I wish I could be more help.

  • Reply
    Desi McKinnon
    May 30, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    Don't worry, Kim. It's not as serious as all that. I'm not having my midlife crisis yet. My people live a long time. I have a few years.

    I too have a ton of interests and I mentally pull myself in a ton of different directions. I wonder how I'm going to fit my 10,000 hours in for each thing and when I realize that's impossible I get frustrated. Then I go back to thinking I have to choose.

    So every once in awhile I have to ask the question. I know there aren't really any right or wrong answers it's just nice to hear other people think. Thanks for throwing your hat into the ring.

  • Reply
    Anna
    August 9, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    I've been thinking about this lately too…

  • Reply
    Desi McKinnon
    August 24, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Anna, I just posted a follow up to this post. I think there's some good resources in there if you're interested in looking into it.

    P.S. I love what you do. The way you share resources is so amazing. Keep it up 🙂

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