The personal development space makes a lot of noise about people finding their ”life purpose.” Most people have no idea of what that means, though. What people arrive at, nine times out of ten, is an obfuscation that can be reduced to “I want to be happy.”
But “I want to be happy” (or one of its thousands of variants) is not specific enough to be useful to anyone. Also, it does do not take into account the length of time in which said happiness is desirable. Why, I could be very happy on a diet of chocolate croissants while spending all my waking hours playing video games. But it is debatable whether that happiness would be lasting. I predict it would not work out in the long term.
Here is a formula, then: long-term, consistent happiness can be reached through any activity that is both interesting and produces value. The “interesting” ensures happiness in the present, and the “production of value”, in the future.
Let’s take video games as an example (because it’s my hobby). I think video games are extremely interesting. Playing them is very pleasurable. They are useful because people need to relax; they are my means of relaxation. But I do not produce value when I play. There are people who do. They either play very well, or comment very well on their playing, and thus practice a form of art. These people are generating value when they play, a craft that provides entertainment and inspiration for other people. But that’s not my case. In my case, video games are a blissful pastime, but there is no production value. And there is nothing wrong with that; it merely means that I can’t make video games the center of my life.
The opposite scenario — production of value, without meaning — is well known. Most professions produce value. And yet, it seems they are always mostly unfulfilling. For the majority of the population, working is an obligation, a means to provide the fuel needed for the living of heir life.
Most of the attempts to solve this problem do so in an unsustainable way: by generating value in an activity that the person does not like, so they can “buy” time for activities that they find fulfilling. Case in point: the person who works for a lifetime to be able to afford a luxurious retirement. The problem is that this game is flawed. Most people aren’t successful at this and the few who are, soon discover that the pure leisure that they worked towards proves unsatisfactory.
To find that perfect mix, then, of an activity that is meaningful and simultaneously generates value – that is one of the most important pursuits that we should take up in our life. And the only way to do it is through trial and error. We need to work at things that generate value until we find one that makes our soul sing. Or we need to think about how to generate value through activities which we already know make our soul sing.
Have you started your search?