“I’ve got to find out what my purpose is in life before it’s too late.”
“What am I supposed to do with my life?”
“Sure I want to have a meaningful life. How do I do that?”
These questions, and others that are similar to them, are questions of the very best kind. But they’re tough questions to answer aren’t they? I mean these are the really big ones; the “what is the purpose of life anyways?” kind of questions.
Some people hold the belief that each of us come to this world to accomplish some pre-determined objective. They call this fate or destiny. No matter what path we take to get to it, wherever we end up and whatever we do along the way to our end is out of our control. While we may think we are acting of our own free will, we are destined for whatever happens to us and things are largely beyond our control. If we make a huge change in our lives and appear to be changing direction, we are simply following a pre-set plan.
On the other hand, many people hold the belief that we are responsible for choosing whatever we do with the time we spend on Earth; that we have free choice and choose what we do with our lives. It’s this freedom to choose for ourselves what we do, how we spend our time that both excites and confuses us. If we look ahead to the end our lives, we can imagine ourselves either happy with how we’ve spent our time and thankful for the choices we made, or we imagine lamenting the passage of time, having wasted ours with the poor choices we made.
If you believe you have control over how you live your life, then the really big question of what to do with it becomes both fascinating and one of great responsibility. This question and others like it are the kind of questions that are asked best when you’re lying on the crest of a hill, under a canopy of stars on a summer’s night.
Hang on a second. That’s one scenario sure, but this is the kind of question that also forms in the minds of people walking down crowded city streets, sitting in the rear of taxi cabs, and by people trapped in cubicles working in offices every single day! I mean, haven’t YOU said to yourself more than once, “Is this it? Is this me for the rest of my life, sitting here at this desk, pushing this pen around, tapping on this keyboard? Was I really brought into this world to put nuts on these bolts day after day, year after year?” And haven’t you wondered, “What else is there for me to do? Is this really living?”
Well, not all of us can pack in our jobs and charter a three-masted galleon and explore the world for lost islands and new civilizations. Nor have we all the inclination or the resources to search for and discover Atlantis, colonize Jupiter, discover the cure for Cancer, create the winning design for the flag of Utopia, or make first contact with the inhabitants of some inter-planetary life forms. Well, finding Atlantis would be pretty cool, but some of us probably don’t even like water on our faces let alone submerge ourselves thousands of feet beneath the surface.
So really, what would make us happy is largely an individual thing. And here I raise another essential question. In terms of what to do with our lives is there only one thing that would make us happy, or are there numerous things that would bring us satisfaction? I mean if there is only a single job or career that would ignite this passion everybody talks about, well, that’s a lot of pressure considering the clock of life never pauses. On the other hand, if there is more than one single thing in this world that would excite us, fuel us, motivate us to feel happy and content, we’ve got a better chance of figuring out what that is. And if I expand on that, what if there are not just a few but many different ways to spend our lives, and in each of those many ways we would feel we’ve achieved a manner of success? That relieves some pressure to get it right!
Now, none of us know exactly how long our time on Earth is, nor do we know the state of our mental and physical health down the road. Time, health, available resources, opportunities, luck – all of us have in varying amounts. Perhaps instead of asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” – Predicated on the premise that there is only a single thing we will be – what if we asked, “What experiences would you like to have?”
Experiences we would like to have can morph, evolve, come into our consciousness, become less or greater priorities, shift with our age, health, finances. The people we meet introduce us to new possibilities; those we choose to share our lives with have their own dreams and plans too.
What you choose to experience during your life, with whatever time you have is largely up to you. If you knew you had another fifty years, what would you do? Would you answer differently if you only had another 7 months? Why?