Here’s a New Way To Look at Life Purpose

April 27, 2016

Life purpose.

What a pain in the ass.

Part of me hates this term even exists, yet another part feels it’s an undeniable part of the human experience.

And why do we have to write about it so much? It seems like there is a new article on life purpose that gets published every minute, and yet here I am adding to that pile.

Eh… But I have to.

I think we’re looking in all the wrong places. It all started with a line I heard in the movie Cloud Atlas.

Halle Berry drops some serious wisdom on Tom Hanks in a moment of moral indecision. She said…

You’re gonna have to do what you can’t not do.

Now, I’m not not the fastest car on the block, so I had to stop and think about that.

You’re gonna have to do… what you can’t, not do.

Something you can’t not do is something that keeps you up at night, something that try as you might, you can never forget about. It’s something you do almost effortlessly, because something would feel off if you didn’t.

For me right now that’s writing. More specifically, blog writing. I literally can’t not do it. How do I know that? As I look back over my life it’s the one thing I’ve kept doing, regardless of what direction my life was headed.

When I don’t write, I’m not as happy, I don’t feel as fulfilled and it feels like something is missing.

When I do write, I’m happier, more relaxed and more satisfied with life.

I can’t not write.

This is actually the same for my wife and meditation.

She can’t not meditate. She has done six Vipassana meditations (10-day retreats) and regularly meditates two hours a day. I can’t even manage to meditate 10 minutes a day but for her, it’s essential.

When she meditates, she’s happier, more grounded and self-sourced. When she doesn’t, she’s irritable, in her head and she doesn’t feel like herself. She can’t not meditate.

So what is your thing?

What is it that you can’t not do?

Here’s the reason I love asking this question. Most people look into the future when looking for life purpose.

What do I want to do?
What am I really passionate about in this moment?

That’s not what I’m asking. Forget the present. Look into your past, and look as far back as you’d like. Look over your life as if you were a biographer, and see if you can discover that one thing you’ve been doing that consistently brings you joy.

And let it be simple!

Often we get so caught up in having our life purpose look huge and grandiose that we miss this little things that bring us happiness.

Maybe you can’t not grow a garden.
Maybe you can’t not set up parties for friends.
Maybe you can’t not go for hikes in nature.

Whatever it is, look at how if you made your life about that one thing you might be totally happy and content.

I do a lot of awesome shit in my life, but the most fulfilling thing I do is write on this blog. That’s why in December of 2014 I decided to get serious about it and write one post a week for the next five years, which so far (I’m proud to say) I’ve done. Just take a look at that beautiful archive.

The reason I’ve been so committed to blog writing is I know it makes me happy. I know that not because of some passion test I took or some life-purpose quiz online, I know it because it’s already been true in my life for many many years.

What I’m saying is we need to stop looking into the future and trying to figure out what our purpose is, because it’s right under our noses. When I discovered a few years ago that what I really love more than anything in this life is blog writing it was embarrassingly obvious. How could I not have seen that all these years?

In a way, it felt like I was the last one to find out. To everyone else it was obvious. They could see how much I loved writing but I missed it.

You’re gonna have to do what you can’t not do.

The only thing left to do is to stop resisting it.


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