I’ll be honest, I don’t.
I was talking with someone recently about goals and purpose, and the question came up if I think it’s a clear-cut, well-defined thing. After thinking about it for a minute, my honest answer to that question is no. I really don’t think our life purpose is clear-cut, defined and one specific thing.
When we are kids, we’re allowed to be dreamers. We’re allowed to want different things. When asked what we want to be when we grow up, the answer of an astronaut, a teacher, the president, or a construction worker is all acceptable answers. And if we decide one day we want to perform surgery, and the next day we want to drive an ice cream truck, that’s okay.
By the time we get to high school, the dreamer inside of us starts to get pushed away. We’re encouraged to pick a college, pick a major and attempt to nail down the rest of our lives, our purpose, into one set list of courses. If we’re diligent, we’ll come out on the other end with a piece of paper that says we are now qualified to fulfill that life purpose by getting a job doing X.
Side note: I’m not belittling higher education. It’s important. I went to college, and wouldn’t trade it. I don’t think it’s 100% the only path for everyone, but it is definitely valuable for those who choose that route.
If your purpose is clear cut, defined and one specific thing, that’s like expecting yourself to hit the bullseye with only one dart on the first throw. Perhaps you will, but more often than not, you’re going to land in one direction or another.
When I’m helping people, I’m using technology every day. I’m using it for myself, and I’m also using it to help people like you do what you do best. And the thing about it is, there’s no one size fits all solution. There are always 10 different ways to do anything and 10 different tools you can use to accomplish the same thing. I think that holds true for our bigger life goals and purpose as well.
There’s this charge I heard of quite some time ago. It’s called The [Expert Enough] Manifesto. It starts out by saying, “We are all capable of so much more than we think.” Then, right in the middle, it states, “Life is an experiment.” The last line of the manifesto closes with, “Learn more. Do more. Be more.”
The whole idea is that we can be good at a lot of different things. Boxing yourself into only doing X as your life goal and purpose might prevent you from ever scratching the surface of what you are capable of.
What if all you are capable of is bigger than X? What if all you are capable of is bigger than yourself? If you think about your purpose and it’s clear-cut, defined and one specific thing, have you really even scratched the surface?
What is that thing in the back of your mind that won’t go away? We all have a dream that’s bigger than ourselves. A vision to impact the lives around us. Do you have the courage to figure out what that is? Do you have the courage to act on it? Are you willing to let life be an experiment?
Not having a clear-cut, defined purpose doesn’t mean you have no purpose at all. It just means life is an experiment, and there are a lot of different things we can do to make a difference along the way.
As the manifesto says — Learn more. Do more. Be more.