How to Find Your Purpose – Part 3 : Not 7 Questions to Ask

Click-Bait Answers ?

If you’re like me, you hate click-bait articles.  5 ways to get 20-inch pythons ( those are biceps for those of you who don’t pump iron ).  6 ways to get a weird view on politics from a super biased journal. The ONE thing you need to do to lose weight while eating Big Macs and Doritos.  It’s all the same.  If you google “How to Find Your Purpose”, most, if not all of them are this.

I get that.  I want to be able to ask myself a couple questions and think I’ve got everything sorted.  But there are VERY few articles which follow that structure that have ever really impacted me.  A lot of those articles take a while to say little, but the title is catchy.  And look ! Everything has a one paragraph answer – just like life.

Maybe I’m just trying to justify writing about 4,000 words already in this series, and in some ways, we’re barely scratching the surface.  But that’s not it.  Life needs time and exploration.  Answers often need experience to settle in.  That’s the goal of Caravaners – to make a real How-To guide; one that understands the journey and the time and effort taken.

That’s the reason for looking at Why Purpose Is Important and What Purpose Really Is.  Those aren’t arbitrary posts to get traffic or make myself look smart or cool.  Those posts, I think, are important.  They help confront us – they definitely confronted me with some questions.  That might be one of the most necessary things in our lives, especially now, – confrontation.

We sometimes get exposed to parts of the world we don’t understand.  When that happens, there are two choices we have – we can hide from that and stay the same, or we can go into that new part of the world and learn.  A lot of that exploring is risky and scary and might threaten aspects of how we view life.  I believe that is a good thing.  It is way too easy nowadays to live in an echo chamber – to only read, listen, and talk with people who vehemently agree with you ( and stay annoyingly ignorant ).  The difficulty is stepping out of that echo chamber – and being confronted with other ways of living and thinking, and potentially needing to change.  It’s a whole new world out there.  We need to be challenged – that’s how you learn.  It’s good to learn; you might learn that you’re wrong on something and, if you let yourself be challenged, you might even realize it, and learn to correct it.

Anyways, I’ve made a vow to myself to be true to what I think How-To guides should look.  I’m sure there are some great articles that ask a bunch of questions – and I read some in prep for this one – but I think the best way is different.

Watch Your Life

The way to find out you purpose is to watch your life.  You will need to answer the questions for yourself personally – no one else can.  And, if someone else answers it for you, guess what ? you’re probably living out their purpose.  I also want to encourage you not to be insecure about your watching; be as honest as you possibly can – your satisfaction depends on it.  The goal is to watch you life for about a week or two.

This has been something that is really tough for me.  I am arrogant enough to not care at all about people’s opinions, and then, at the same time, a people pleaser.  I don’t really get how I’m both – but I feel it.  Maybe I want to please others in how independent I am.  Who knows? But that’s not the point of this.  The point is – it has been pretty hard for me to watch my life and draw conclusions from my feelings and actions from it.  Why ? Because of the obligations and expectations I keep putting myself under.

If you’re like me, I want to encourage you with something I wish I would have understood a long time ago :

be honest with yourself, and don’t answer with how you think you’re supposed to answer. 

Here’s why.  If there is a standard you WANT to live up to, being honest will help you find out what needs to be modified or what you are weak in.

Watching your life is key.  But you need to know what to watch for and what they mean.  Here is what you need to watch for :

  1. What Makes You Hostile
  2. What Makes You Weary
  3. What Makes You Ambitious

By watch your life, I mean : pay attention to yourself and your feelings and thoughts and actions and emotions.  You’re going to have to find yourself out.

What Makes You Hostile

I’m not talking about prepping for war.  When you start watching your life, you’re going to recognize things that make you mad.  There’s going to be things that frustrate you and annoy you.  Some of them will make sense, others won’t.

For example, I get irate when I’m walking behind a group of people on the sidewalk, who span the whole width of it, and walk super slow.  I get even more mad when they all stop.  Traffic jams on the side walk.  I also get mad when people get on the elevator or on the subway before the people leaving have time to get off.

So, after we watch our lives for a bit, we will see things that make us hostile, and you will start to recognize them.  Some of those things are going to be irrational – like what I mentioned about.  Some of them won’t be – but they will expose who we are.  When you find something that makes you hostile, there’s going to be a reason.  The reasons can be that we have some wrong ways of thinking or some wrong expectations, or we put ourselves through things we don’t necessarily need to.

Part of finding your purpose is minimizing your hostility.  But it’s not about getting out of hostility.  Parts of life suck – and we all need to deal with that.  The way to minimize hostility not to tell everyone around us to make our lives easier – it’s for us to grow stronger and think wisely and, if needed, change.

I’m starting to write a novel.  Let’s say, once I’m done and dusted, it gets released, and then the reviews come rolling in.  And in this hypothetical situation, those reviews are terrible.  Just terrible.  The plot is amature, the dialogue childish, the climax a bust. etc etc.  It wouldn’t be right for me to call up everyone who gave me bad reviews and force them to change their opinion.  The solution for me would be to change and grow, to learn and sharpen my skills.   The solution would be for me to learn that some of the things in life that make me angry or sad are my own weaknesses and insecurities.  Really, that’s all I’m trying to say – you can’t force others to change; but you can change ( or master ) yourself.  Learn to grow.

What Makes You Weary

When we start to watch our lives, we are going to see things that make us weary and exhausted and worst of all, bored.  Again, there’s things that weary us that are okay.  If you love rock-climbing, don’t stop because you feel exhausted at the end of a day of climbing.  What you need to watch for is one of two things : being lazy or pursuing worthless things.

You know what makes me the most bored ? doing nothing.  Being bored out of my skull.  Last year my wife went away to Chicago to visit some of her friends for four or five days.  At first, I was super excited.  Josh time.  Hang with the boys, do what I want, read, play video-games.  It was going to be glorious.  Two days in, after some late nights with pizza and beer and my Xbox, I was bored.  I hadn’t done anything.  I got antsy.  But not antsy in a good way.  I’d just go on to another lazy thing.  Watch some Netflix series.  Boring.

We get weary when we’re lazy.  Being lazy and undisciplined is not going to help you find your purpose.

The other thing that makes us weary is pursuing worthless things.  A bit of an explanation is needed here.  Some things are just worthless – by any definition of truth and purpose.  But, there is a part of this that is personal; part of purpose that is subjective.  Underneath the overall definition, there are many ways to carry purpose out.  Some people love and live for line-dancing, and I am not hip to that.  All I am saying is this : minimize the laziness and the worthlessness of life.

I feel, pretty often, that for ME, working at the bank is “worthless”.  Other people LOVE it.  Power to them.  It isn’t worthless because it is bad; it feels worthless because of the other passions I have in my life.  The point here again, is not just to cut out worthless things, it’s to learn.  It’s another fact of life that no matter what you pursue, you’re going to feel weary and bored because some of it is going to feel worthless.  The point is to have a better perspective for dealing with the worthlessness.  I am trying to do this – to realize that I am still learning and growing even while I do what seems so worthless.  One of the things I’ve learned and that’s kept ringing loud in my mind is :

I do not want to work at a bank forever.

That’s important too – worthless things often point us to things that are valuable.  Just be strong enough to learn.  And not just able to learn, but humble and open enough to recognize other people may love what you find to be “worthless”.

What Makes You Ambitious

This is the final thing to watch for – and it is the most difficult.  What we are looking for here is almost difficult to see or process or feel.  I think the best way to explain this is to first give a bit of a story.

Last year my wife and I went to Hawaii – Kauai to be exact.  While we were there we did two major hikes, The Sleeping Giant and the Waimea Trail.  The Waimea trial we hiked was about 6 – 7 miles total, into a giant canyon.  We started at the top, and slowly descended the red sand and rock into the coolness of the valley.  The scenery changed from hot, dry, and brown to cool, lush, and green.  As we hiked down we talked and laughed.  Finally reaching the bottom, at a river bed, we were able to look up at the giant mountains we had just climbed down.  It was mesmerizing.  And then we started the hike back up.  Climbing steep paths, getting a bit lost, and the more exhausted our bodies got, the hotter and more dry it got.  Up, up, up we went, like hobbits on a secret path.  Still talking and laughing.  When we finally finished the hike, we met up with family we were travelling with, and almost 5 hours had passed.  Time flew by.

That’s the sort of feeling you need to watch for.  The feeling where you almost disappear and become one with what you’re doing.  You are engaged in something meaningful and purposeful.  For my wife, that is connecting with people, helping them, and painting.  For me, it’s writing and leading, and some other stuff I’m trying to figure out.

This feeling of ambition makes life purposeful.  It helps us go through life and deal with the hostility and the weariness.  In fact, if we watch and find that ambition, even when the hostility and weariness comes, we won’t give up.  We have the feeling that we could do this forever – and that is the goal.

Wrapping It Up

I don’t have any list of questions to ask you – and I don’t think that’s the best way to go about finding purpose.  Life is about learning and growing and being challenged.  It is about finding our weaknesses and growing from them.  Hemingway once said this :  “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”   We need to be challenged and we need to grow, and strength comes from that journey.

In order to find your personal purpose in life – you will need to start paying attention.  We pay attention to the things that make us hostile, which normally show our weaknesses.  We pay attention to the things that make us weary, which normally show us what we value.  And we pay attention to the things that make us ambitious, which show us what gives us purpose and strength.

What do you think of this ? Do you have any other suggestions for finding purpose ?

Check out the What and Why posts from before if you missed them.


5 thoughts on “How to Find Your Purpose – Part 3 : Not 7 Questions to Ask

  1. You asked if I have any suggestions for finding purpose in my life…
    I am a housewife with a partime job at a Doctors office. We have two grown up married sons. I am very involved at my church. I love routine, (that would be an understatement); I thrive with routine.
    You probably think that my life is very monotonous… see, my purpose in life is my relationship with Jesus Christ.
    That defines the person that I am.
    So, in the middle of my monotonous day to day life, I feel very fulfilled because for me to live is Christ and everything I do, I do it to the glory of God.
    Looking forward to reading more of your blog. I am really enjoying it!

    Liked by 1 person

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