What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up? Part 2: Why I Stopped Searching for a Purpose/ Dream Career
Ok first things first, I didn't give up on searching for my purpose or creating my dream career, I just found a lot of videos that talked about this and even though on the surface it contradicts what I'm trying to do, after watching these videos I found they actually align with my desire to find my purpose.
In the previous post I talked about how creative people tend to get attached to outcome and I also mentioned that type A, super ambitious people can fall into that trap as well. In this post, I'll be exploring the later through a lot of videos that I found on my YouTube recommendations. I'm going to write out the main points and show my reflections on them. If you are searching for your life purpose, I think it's really valuable to watch these videos because again, even though it might seem like it's contracting your search for a purpose by the title, I think it reveals a lot of the traps that one might encounter when searching for a purpose. These are simply my key takeaways.
4:43-5:24: "I personally think that the idea that each of us are here for some specific purpose and that the price of finding that purpose would be like achieving the highest form of fulfillment would be to minimize the human experience. We're not like razors where our sole purpose is to remove hair. We're not machines or things and so I simply think that humans are far too complex for that idea. And I also think that it is limiting in the way it might make us get tunnel vision."
I really like this because I feel that often when we talk about life purpose, we get this capitalistic, success/career oriented view of purpose where our purpose revolves around what we do and produce. And while work has an element of that when it comes to purpose, I think it's good to have many different purposes in different areas of your life that align with what you value and resonate with. It also goes along with putting all of your eggs in one basket and having one thing rule your life. In my opinion, that doesn't give you a rich multifaceted experience of life, nor does it honor your complexity as a person or your human experience. I think the more important question to ask when pondering this is what are your values? Because ultimately, your values are what guides you towards your purpose or purposes.
5:24-5:57: I think it can cause a lot of anxiety. For a lot of us, feeling like we haven't "found it" whatever that means or that we can't quite pinpoint what it is for us, can make us feel like failures or really lost. And I also think that it can be seen as this impossible task where any purpose we have in mind isn't big enough or isn't special enough compared to others. And what even is a "good enough" purpose to have in life?"
This resonated with me because a while back I was thinking about how you don't have to be special or exceptional to be deserving of love. This section also resonated with me because as I've been getting older, I have been feeling that anxiety of *oh shit I need to figure out what I'm doing in my life because or else I'm going to waste my life or worse die because I can't support myself.* I think coming from that place of anxiety and coming from a place of wanting this special or grandiose vision goes back to the whole attachment to outcome concept. That level of neuroticism from taking this whole finding your purpose thing so seriously can be counterproductive. And that's difficult to do when you keep being told that without this purpose that your life is going to be unfulfilling, a waste, or a failure. Finding your purpose is a purpose and it is my purpose for the time being and as much as my ambitious, type A side of my personality wants to come out and find my purpose as soon as possible, it can be a challenge to detach from that and focus on the journey instead of the destination of finding that purpose.
6:00-7:45: "I started asking myself, what is the purpose of finding my life purpose? Is it supposed to be this magic spell for long lasting happiness? Is it that once that we have found we that purpose, only then will we be truly fulfilled? I don't think that is always necessarily true. How about until then? Do we just settle for unfulfillment until we find our purpose which may or may not exist? So if it's not life purpose that will bring us all of those things that we talked about, the things that most humans want and need what's going to bring it then. This is my current philosophy on this. By living a life that aligns with the things I value and believe in and doing so everyday. Instead of living my life thinking that there is one big thing that I'm supposed to discover called "purpose" which is supposedly will make everything feel right. For instance, I value learning and developing my character, so I feel like I'm living purposefully when I write, and read, and have interesting conversations with people.
Again, this goes back to the whole values thing and taking the time to enjoy the process of finding your purpose and having your values be the compass on your journey. I think this is where our culture often goes wrong when it comes to life purpose because of it's focus on career. There is an emphasis on picking a career rather than the process in which you pick a career, what you actually value, and whether or not it's coming from a healthy place. Especially when Lana talks about how she feels like she's living purposefully when she is writing, reading, having conversations with people, experiencing new things, and being led by a sense of curiosity, that really resonated with me. I think whenever we ask a child what they want to be when they grow up or when we conflate life purpose with career, we miss out on the smaller things that gives us a sense of purpose. And then goes back to the whole thing about creating a rich, multifaceted life instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket.
1:45-2:45: "We all do not need to live super profound lives with this huge meaning to them that it's ok to just be average in life and just enjoy what you enjoy and just ~exist~ sometimes. Just be. Imagine 7.6 billion people on this earth all with that crushing pressure to find some sort of meaning or to be super important to everyone in the world or just people outside of their bubble. It's just not possible. And there is all this pressure from society saying we have to productive all the time. We have to be constantly be making money on everything that we enjoy. If you aren't making money from a hobby or whatever, what is the point of doing that? And society instills shame into us if we aren't making money which is so toxic."
This goes along with the detaching from outcome piece because even if you do have a super profound life, you're still going to fade into oblivion with the test of time. It isn't the best strategy to want to make yourself significant through your life purpose. I think what's important about finding that flow state on whatever you're mastering is that that flow state puts you into that state of being. And that state of being feels natural instead of stressful because you aren't in that place of constant resistance. This also goes along with the concept of how you should unhook from money when it comes to searching for your life purpose. Over all, a large chunk of this video is about just letting yourself exist and be so that you can take in life and the human experience. She also talks about how there is so much relativity in our experience and how life looks to every person. As a result, that there is no way to do life wrong (this is around the 5 minute mark). I just really liked that point. It goes along with the notion of how your purpose is something that you construct rather than some absolute truth.
6:18-8:10: "Purpose and dream job tend to go hand in hand at least in our culture. That is ultimately what society teaches us that if you can find a career that gives you a purpose, or feels like it gives you a purpose in life and that encompasses your passions too and make money from it, that is living the life. And I don't think that is necessarily is true for everyone. Sometimes a job is just a job. It's to pay the bills. It's just to get food on the table. It's just a job and it's ok to work "just jobs" that you aren't super passionate about for the rest of your life and find that fulfillment elsewhere. Sometimes it happens where people have passions that they aren't passionate enough to financially gain from it and we need to start normalizing this and normalizing people not having dream jobs. Some people do not have one thing that they love to do and that they are really good at to financially gain from it. As long as you're not super miserable in whatever you're doing, it's ok to work jobs that aren't a dream job for you. Personally, I think we as a society and as a culture we identify too much with our work, our career, and our jobs. Granted we do it for a majority of our life unfortunately, we spend a lot of time doing our jobs. But it's not our entire identity and it shouldn't be a significant part of your identity in my opinion, yet it's one of the first questions people get asked like "oh what do you do?" like its one of the most interesting thing about people what this isn't usually the case. We are asked as children "what do you want to be when you grow up?" What do you want to "be"? Not what you want to DO. No it's what you want to BE. It's like an identity and usually the answers to these questions are typically career choices, like that's the expected answer and acceptable answer from children. "
I have mixed opinions on this section. I think that it's important to have a sense of separation from your career and that it doesn't rule your life or your sense of self. There is so much more to life and who you are than what you do to support yourself. It's ok to have passions and purposes on the side that give you a sense of fulfillment but aren't the thing supporting you. I talked about in my previous post on my feelings around monetizing my passions. Again, this thing goes back to the whole unhooking from money concept. My main critique about this section is that if you're going to be spending a significant amount of your life working, it's important to have something that you care about and that you feel contributes to the world. But I do think that isolating your life purpose to your career is rather limiting to say the least.
I also really resonated with the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question as a kid. I remember one time when I was like 13 I was asked this question and I responded with something along the lines of "I want to be fulfilled, stable, and happy and I don't think there is any one way of achieving that." And the person asking me this question gave me the blankest expression as if I entered in data into a computer and it responded with ERROR NOT APPLICABLE as if this person, for a lack of a better way of describing it, started glitching. Then they asked me the question again and specified career choices and I said "listen, I don't know. I'm 13" to which this person responded with "you need to have some idea so you pick AP courses accordingly in high school so that you can apply to colleges and know what you're going to major in. The clock is ticking, you need to decide on a path." And then I sat there having an existential crisis. Basically the only thing that I came up with was this scene from Daria: