Aren’t you sick of being told you need a grand purpose for your life? Doesn’t it feel wrong? Like you’re forcing something.
I’m sick of people screaming about why you need a purpose to be worth anything in life. The following gave me permission to live my life without answering anybody’s question for “why”.
If you have full faith in your purpose in this world. Great. Have fun with that. For the rest of us, I don’t think we need one. (And I don’t think they’re telling the whole truth.)
I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to find my purpose. I want to find some way to wrap my life up in pretty-package-sentence. I want to be able to tell that sentence to people when I meet them and then they can completely get me.
Of course that’s bullshit, though.
I don’t want my life to be a sentence. I want it to be a life. Emerson said, “My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady.”
And, by golly, Emerson is right every time. Defining your life by a purpose is apologizing to yourself and everyone else that you aren’t easily understood. It’s saying, “I’m sorry I’ve chosen a life that you don’t understand. I’m sorry I don’t quite know what it is yet.”
F*ck that. You don’t need to explain yourself. Just keep going and let the others pick a purpose to explain you.
Here are five ideas that gave me permission to drop a “purpose”:
1. The Universe doesn’t have a purpose.
Why do we have to justify our life? We’re just one more infinite fractal of the Universe. And I don’t see anything else in the Universe talking about its reason for living. We’ve taken reason too far!
When did you start believing your life needed a purpose? Who did that to you? Not all questions need to be answered. In fact, when people ask bad questions it’s dangerous to answer them.
Your life is as meaningful now as it will ever be.
2. Purpose is a trick of the brain.
The neocortex has reduced the time it takes to learn a skill from thousands of years to a few months. It’s pretty fucking awesome. It’s the thing that let’s us use rationality to predict the future. It’s the storyteller of the brain. The amygdala has some feeling to feel and the neocortex gives it a narrative.
This tendency to tell stories can go too far. We easily succumb to the narrative fallacy. We can see tidy stories when the reality is chaos. It’s no surprise the neocortex also tries to tell us we need our lives to fit into a neat story. We need to fit ourselves into a narrative with a great purpose.
But sometimes I can’t do it. Sometimes I hate the story of my life. And so I go to the present moment where stories don’t happen.
3. Actions define you more than an intellectualized purpose.
What you do in life will define you (or will be used to define you anyway). It doesn’t matter how grand your philosophy of life is if you don’t use it to do anything.
Try acting without reason. Follow your inclinations. Then, in a year, look back and give it a purpose if you must.
4. You will drive yourself insane trying to find the answer.
People say that you need to find your core “why”. The reason you do everything you do. Well, if you ask one “why?” too many you will be caught in paralyzing confusion. The existential crises being caused by people trying to find an answer to, “What is my purpose?” are a disease spread by bullshit personal development personalities trying to make a buck on your insecurity.
If you keep following your inclinations you will eventually find or develop your passions. The answer is never found intellectually, only viscerally.
5. Our egos build purposes.
It’s difficult to give yourself a purpose that is in-line with what you actually want to spend your life doing. When I sit and try to determine a purpose for my life I almost always come up with an answer that has less to do with what I want and more to do with what I feel I should want.