So I turned 29 last week. Yes, some of you might think that sounds old, while others probably think of me as a baby.
I think I fall somewhere in between…Haven’t figured out how I feel about exiting my 20s yet.
But 30 is right around the corner, well, in 12 months, at least.
Time marches forward and there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t buy back time, and we can’t stop it from depleting. It’s truly our only non-renewable resource.
Which got me thinking.
How can we maximize the time we have? How can we find our life’s purpose and ignite our passion? Does life even have a purpose?
Ultimately, how can we find “the thing” that creates true joy in our lives? I’m taking answers, please.
The Point of a Fulfilling Life
Depending on who you ask, you’ll be told that life is either pointless or has a very obvious point. Some even say that life is meaningless except for the meaning we give it, which is an ambiguous answer that lies somewhere in the middle.
So, who’s right?
All of the above, I’d venture to guess.
I’ve struggled with this question for as long as I can remember. Why am I here? What is my life’s work? My “thing” that invigorates me and causes me to jump out of bed in the morning ready to tackle the day. What am I going to be remembered for?
And beneath all of those questions, there’s one that rings louder than all else. Namely, does it even matter?
Why do we care about living a fulfilling life? Why do humans struggle to find their passion and their purpose?
So many questions, I know. But this is a subject that doesn’t have any known answers.
I think the reason why each of us spends a lifetime trying to find our purpose is multifaceted. We’ve evolved to develop consciousness so we can reason, and ultimately, survive. But as a byproduct of that capability, we can also ponder the infinite wonders of the universe.
And, because we’re rational beings, we believe that there’s a reason why we exist and our brains therefore try to find our “place” in the aforementioned wonderful universe.
But it goes deeper than that, because our consciousness has also made us emotional beings. What we want above all else is to pump ourselves with positive emotions for the time we’re allotted.
So, the point of a fulfilling life isn’t one but many. We’re hardwired to look for purpose and fulfillment, and at the same time, our happiness is directly derived from doing things we enjoy.
Which means to feel fulfilled, we have to find the “thing” that gives us a sense of belonging in the universe and fills our time with fleeting emotions of contentment.
Identifying Your “Thing”
As I said above, emotions are fleeting. They never last, which means we’re always chasing happiness and belonging and running from fear and anger.
I always thought that once you found your “thing,” which I’ll define as a set of activities that make you feel fulfilled, it was all over. You succeeded. All you have to do is to continuously do that thing for 50+ years until you’re buried six feet under!
But now that I’m old and wise (joke), I’ve come to realize that life is a constant evolution of trial, failure, and learning experiences. What gave you passion and purpose one year might not give you the same feelings the next. It’s not uncommon and you’re not alone in feeling this way.
Which means that your “thing” in life may change over time. The goals you set for yourself in your 10-year plan might not be the goals you want as you get closer to achieving them.
So, what gives? Where’s the rub?
I’m reminded of the quote, “Success is the gradual realization of a worthy ideal.”
According to people much smarter than me, fulfillment doesn’t come from specific life events but instead comes from methodical movement forward. It’s a function of self-growth.
So instead of thinking about your “thing” as a goal, a physical object, or some type of social status, think of it as a sense of direction.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
But the question remains: How do we know what direction is the right one to take?
Well, it all comes down to experimentation.
Look, you can always make more money, but you can never make more time. Sadly, when people are faced with an option of financial security or the pursuit of a worthy ideal, often times they pick the money. This takes you away from your “thing” and the fulfillment it’ll give you.
Instead, we need to think about our lives as a set of experiments, a la Tim Ferriss.
Do you like acting? Good! Pursue it for a year and see what happens. Is your desire to start your own business? Amazing! Form an LLC, launch an MVP, and see how the market responds. If neither turns out to be as fulfilling as you’d thought, at least you can cross it off your list and move on to something new.
Because change doesn’t equal failure. And if you haven’t found the “thing” in your life that invigorates you above all else, all it means is that you have to keep on experimenting.
Before long you’ll find something that gives you the passion and fulfillment you always wanted. And then the feelings might dissipate, and you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. But, at least you felt like you had a purpose for a moment, and that feeling will act as a signpost and help you find your next “thing” faster than before.