In this blog I am going to attempt to tackle one of the biggest psychological questions that has ever existed in the study of the workings of the human mind:
What is purpose and why do we need it?
There is a massive trend in today’s society to chase happiness. “Do whatever makes you happy!”, or “Follow your passion!” Heck, I’ve even written blogs and recorded podcasts about this very idea. But there is something that I have learned over the past few months that contrasts with this huge belief of happiness.
It involves me telling you something radical like, “Happiness does not exist.” But allow me to elaborate.
Happiness tends to be described as getting what you want and living a life without worries. Google defines it as, “The state of being happy.” But more interestingly, it uses happiness in the sentence, “She struggled to find happiness in her life.” Which fits in perfectly to this blog post! (Thanks for reading my unposted blog ideas AND THOUGHTS, Big Bro– I mean, Google)
Most people think of happiness as more of: The ability to not care about anything.
All of us drool over the idea of laying out on some tropical beach on some remote island sipping on margaritas and not having to worry about a single thing in the world. Perhaps we live on that island. It’s YOUR island. Can you imagine it? You have no deadlines or commitments. You wake up when you want. Eat what you want. You have servants that do everything for you. You have all the things you want. It is the life you desire.
All of this sounds great, doesn’t it? I’d challenge how this would actually feel.
Feeding your desire is temporary, and you desire will NOT make you happy. You would grow tired of this daily routine. Maybe it happens over the course of a couple of weeks, months, MAYBE years, but it would bore you. You’d lose your mind. You’d begin looking for something more and begin chasing happiness endlessly. But happiness does not exist. Stop searching for it. It will never be found. Not by getting the things that you think you want or by following your “passion” of being a rockstar. Not even by finding “the one” (To some degree, but I’ll touch on this later).
You see, as human beings, despite being the lazy creatures that we are, we actually need to have things to do. Having a focus or purpose is fundamental to human psychology. If humans don’t have a purpose, it leaves a void in us. We have to fill it with something, and often, that involves satisfying an addiction (or desire), sadly. When we have no purpose, we have nowhere to focus our mental energy except inward, and suddenly, we are finding everything wrong with our “perfect” world. It’s hard to stay grateful when everything is given to you. Have you ever known an entitled little turd to be pleasant? I haven’t. The turds.
Even animals have to feel a sense of purpose. Generally, their purpose is basic survival. Finding their next meal takes a lot of effort, so they don’t have to try and change the world to stay busy. How “fortunate” they are to have nothing given to them. When an animal has all of its needs taken care of, it can become aggressive or unstable. We’ve all heard of the killer whales at certain aquatic themes parks that literally try to murder their trainers or other park visitors. It wasn’t because these orcas were hungry for sunscreen covered tourists. It’s because they were trying to defend their purpose.
There are many different forms of purpose.
As the stoics like to remind the rest of man-kind, “Memento Mori” or “Remember, you have to die.” The date of your death is unforeseeable. For wild animals, in general, their purpose is to live long enough to reproduce. Humans have by and large outgrown that purpose. We have littered the Earth and are only outnumbered by insects. There is a great number of humans that are still only living to survive, but for the sake of the people leisurely reading this, I will only mention this: If you are not struggling for survival, hierarchy dictates that YOU are responsible for helping those that ARE struggling to survive (well, it’s easy to find purpose when you put it like that Mr. random-internet-blog-man).
For most of us, purpose is about the legacy we leave behind. For some, that is how much can they accumulate during their lifetime. For other’s it is how many lives they can improve while they live. There are also those that wish to improve the Earth for future generations. All of this purpose drives people to do incredible things. The world’s greatest wonders were founded on the purpose of mankind. We can see purpose-driven people we know achieve tremendous success, whatever that means for them.
Then we see those that don’t have a purpose, or have simply lost theirs, or maybe never even found a purpose. Professional athletes have great purpose while they are young and their bodies are performing at the highest level. But in many cases, after their professional career is over, they lose purpose. They become a shell of who they used to be. They did not fill the void that was left when their athletic career ended. They succumb to addiction or depression. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. That is not to say all athletes are doomed to this fate. There are many that go on to become teachers or entrepreneurs, and they continue to make huge impacts on the world. They found a new purpose.
You need purpose.
You need goals and things to accomplish. That is why so many people go BACK to work after they retire. It’s not because their retirement checks aren’t enough, regardless of what they tell you. It’s because just sitting at home, not worrying about anything, creates worry. Idle time means you would be alone inside your head and THAT is deathly terrifying for many people (though it shouldn’t be, but that is another topic all-together).
You need to find something that makes a difference. Maybe it is not something that changes the world, but it is something that you are proud of. It is something that excites you. Something that is bigger than you, and something that helps people other than yourself. That you can’t wait to do every morning. Your passion, maybe, though I don’t believe many of us have really found our passion, yet, nor do we only have merely one single passion throughout our lives. We must find something that gives our life purpose.
Then you need gratitude.
You need to be okay with never having anything more than what you have right now. You have to understand that you could most certainly have less. If you are reading my blog, you can definitely have less. Things can most certainly be worse for you. Be grateful that you aren’t hungry right now and that you can go eat food that you actually enjoy, right now. Be grateful you have a computer that allows you to read and do other things at your leisure. There are so many things to be grateful for sitting right in front of you, and here you are worrying about getting more.
Gratitude is certainly a skill that must be developed, but it will help you find your purpose.
Having purpose is nearly always about something greater than yourself. Something that you can share with the world. Maybe, for you, it is something massive and world-changing. Maybe it is something that would change your community. Or maybe it’s something that changes one single person’s life outside of your own.
Everyone needs somebody, or something to chase. Something that will push them in every single moment to be better than they are today. That’s why having a gym partner or a personal trainer works. You have someone else to hold you accountable. That is counting on you. But for me, and some of the people I surround myself with, it’s not someone we know. It’s someone we haven’t met yet. It’s someone that we are never going to have the luxury of meeting.
It’s us. The us in 10 years. Who are we going to be in 10 years? I don’t mean 10 years from today. I mean 10 years from tomorrow, and when tomorrow comes, it’s 10 years from the next day. I live my life so that the life of the man in 10 years is going to be great. He’s going to be in great shape, he’s going to have everything he needs, and most importantly, he’s going to elevate the world around him. He won’t be someone that takes, but someone that gives. There is a lot I must do to be that guy.
I can’t skip my workouts or eat whatever I want ALL of the time. I can’t sit on the couch and scroll through social media every day or play video games all day every day. I must push very day to make myself better. That’s what keeps me going. Knowing that in 10 years, I will become a man that is 3,640(ish) times the guy I am today. I will become the man that makes my mom and dad proud. That my friends can ask for advice. That my niece looks up to.
That’s my purpose. That’s the reason I wake up at 5 A.M. every morning so I can read an extra chapter or two in the book I am reading and go for a run. It’s why the last few minutes of my shower I run the water as cold as it gets. It’s why I don’t eat all the sweets that I want, when I want to. Why instead of going out and partying every weekend I am working on my next project, blog, podcast, or program so I can improve myself and others. It’s the life the man in 10 years needs to live. If I don’t do these things, he dies.
I am writing this post because I want you to have your purpose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be the same as mine. Your purpose could be so you can see your grandkids grow up, or so you can keep up with your children. Your purpose could be to run a marathon, or complete a triathlon. Your purpose could be so you can finally look yourself in the mirror and say, “Damn, you look good.” Maybe it is owning your own business, or multiple businesses. Or your purpose could be to change the whole damn world.
We should tie our goals to emotional anchors or they just don’t matter. We must find a purpose, or our lives just don’t matter.