I came across this article written by Mark Manson titled “7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose“. For someone who is continually rearranging her thoughts, expanding her horizons, and changing the way she thinks of herself and her future, the title intrigued me. I mean, I always thought knowing my life’s purpose was something I’d learn in stride. But that Mark Manson is a genius; he’s shaved years off my wondering by providing me with seven little questions to discover my whole reason being in this world.
Unlike Mark’s brother, I have never known what I want to do with my life to the degree that I could base all my life decisions. And when he makes the statement, “My brother is a freak. This basically never happens.” I agree hardheartedly.
I did not declare my major in college until my senior year. I was lucky enough to take a variety of classes to slip into graduation within my allotted four-year span, and I was even luckier to have a job before graduation rolled around. However, did I know what I wanted to do for my entire life? No way! Do I now? Not even close!
This is not to say that I am unhappy where I am at in life. I love my career path, though if you had told me a year ago I’d be working for a brokerage, have a real estate license framed behind my desk, and helping writing legal paperwork every day I would have laughed. Last year I wanted to own my personal wedding venue, two years ago I wanted to be a teacher, five years ago a journalist, ten years ago an architect, and twenty years ago anything involving Disney and water looked like the best adult-life ever.
So Mark came up with questions to help the world discover their potential. These questions, he says, are “to help you figure out for yourself what is important to you and what can add more meaning to your life.” They are a bit ridiculous, but also gave me a fun and interesting way of looking at my life…
- What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?
If you haven’t happened to live the most sheltered life ever, then this question should hit a nerve because it pulls at the strings of the Number One truth in life: everything sucks, some of the time. No matter how happy of a situation or thought or feeling, it comes with a cost. So this question is basically asking: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate in this life? How willing are you to stick with something you care about through all the inevitable rough patches?
For me personally, this question really relates to my career choices. I am not willing to put off a relationship and family for ten years to become well established in the wedding industry. I am not willing to sacrifice every weekend and holiday to coordinate and manage weddings. Though I loved my time at Shadowland and the aspect of bringing happiness to other people, I’m not going o sacrifice my own youth and sociability for a job. Coming out of graduation thinking I wanted to be an event planner or wedding coordinator, this change in attitude has allowed me to diverge my career path into something completely new and exciting.
- What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?
This question is pretty straightforward and helps analyze our passions. What with the years between our youth and today, the pull of media, peer pressure, and the glaring desire to succeed in Adulthood, our eight-year-old selves probably wouldn’t even recognize us in the here-and-now.
Similar to Mark, eight-year-old Ashley was big into reading and writing, as well as playing video games. Though I have rediscovered a love for words, she probably would have been very disappointed to know how long of a break I took during college. And she would definitely cry knowing her Neopet account is most liking sporting very hungry creatures…
- What makes you forget to eat and poop?
I have this sometimes unhealthy habit of forgetting to eat while I’m engrossed in a fabulous book. I also tend to skip lunch at work when I’m focused on excelling at the job at hand, whether it be organizing the store, researching farm tenants, or creating a new marketing tool.
To me, Mark is not only asking what your passions are with this question, but also what drives those passions. Just like he says, once you discover what is that driving force, you can begin applying it to every aspect of your life.
- How can you better embarrass yourself?
As anyone who knows me well is aware, I am the queen of tripping, falling, and causing myself to bruise and bleed — all typically with an audience. So embarrassment has always been a part of my life.
When it comes to what this question is actually seeking, though, I’m afraid I am a bit weary. This questions asks what you would be willing to attempt even if you’re going to fail a few times. As someone who hates being vulnerable and disappointing anyone (especially myself), failing is not usually an option for me. I tend to skip opportunities if there’s a very real possibility I may not succeed on my first try. But, as is stated, “if you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, then you will never end up doing something that feels important.”
Right now, all my fantasies include world travel. And the reasons I am not booking a flight are pretty legitimate: my paychecks are paying off student debt, I want to buy a house within the next two years, safety in traveling alone. But maybe the tides or turning…
A more short-term embarrassment may be simply going out and meeting new people. I have been clinging to my close friends for security and belonging. Perhaps its time to expand my social network though and begin new friendships. I can always embrace the embarrassment of introducing myself to a new person and seeing if a meaningful relationship might come about.
- How are you going to save the world?
I am an observant person and it has become apparent to me that this world we live in needs some help. But before I don my spandex and cape, I think I need to realize that no matter how hard I try, I can’t fix everything myself.
Thankfully, there are some wonderful organizations and individuals out there that have already started initiatives with which I could volunteer. With my nonprofit background, I have a lot of passion for a lot of different movements. Focusing on just one will be tough, but at least I’ll be starting somewhere. The newest Newsfeed articles which have riled me up are those about all the missing girls in the US who are supposedly kidnapped for sex trafficking. After some research, I have found a local organization focused on educating the community on this quickly increasing crime. I have emailed the president for more information on how I might be of service.
- Gun to your head, if you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?
This is not to say you can only choose one thing to do with the rest of your life. Instead, if you were forced to leave the house every day, with no Internet access, mobile service, or any other useless technology available, what would you do?
I would see the world. Every day. Nonstop. I would ride an elephant in Thailand, learn to ski in the Alps, do yoga in Prague. My life would be an amazing adventure, and I would never even miss the art of being a couch potato.
- If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?
I am not afraid to think of death. It is the inevitable end. I know where I’m going afterwards, so it’s not something I fear; death is something to look forward to. However, knowing that you will die one day and understanding that your time on earth is actually very short when compared to the vast concept of Time is nothing but an advantage. You can zero in on what is most important in your life and not be distracted by that which is not.
I have thought about this question on a regular basis (in a non-creepy, non-suicidal fashion) and have an answer. I would cut myself off from the digital world. I would wake up every one of my senses and experience the world to the fullest. I would make sure those I love know I love them. I would go out and apologize to anyone I may have once hurt, and make sure those who have hurt me know it’s okay, life goes on, and that forgiveness is better than bitterness.
As for a legacy, at this point in my life, my legacy would remain with my parents, my family, and my loving friends. I would write to them, leaving them each a piece of me to remember… and hopefully share with their children so I’m not completely forgotten.
In the end, the majority of the world still has no clue what they want to do with themselves. They’re confused on their career choices, they’re constantly changing their passions, and they’re endlessly discovering exactly what it is they do and do not suck at. And guess what? IT IS OKAY!
It seems to me, my life is generally focused around experiences. I want to learn more, see more, and do more. And I want to share those experiences with those closest to me.
But here’s the bottom-line: everyone is on this earth to do, see, learn, and teach things. Some people believe their purpose is to spread their religion. Others believe it is to inspire generations to come. And still others just want to enjoy the short, undetermined period of time they have. Sometimes these ideals are important, sometimes they are just time-killers.
Stop focusing on what you’re meant to be doing in this world and just start doing something. Do what is important to you! Because, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, who has the right to say what is and what isn’t important? The answer is no one but yourself.