I exactly know the feeling. I felt like that for years.
I started my family while studying on university. The times were rough, unemployment rate high, and life was a struggle. For a few years, survival was absorbing my thoughts. But as soon as our situation stabilized when I got job in IT after studies, purposelessness gnawed at me.
“Going trough” was the worst part, mainly because I was clueless what to do with my life. I did what society expected of me — got an education, started a family, got the job. I took care of myself and my family. But I didn’t feel any sense in my existence. Was my whole life about raising the next generation of corporate workers?
After my experience with waiting for, looking for life purpose and finding it, I developed a few insights.
When you are purposeless for years and then suddenly realize your mission, the perspective shift is enormous. If I was able to realize my purpose after a decade or so of tasteless life, everyone can. If my mission was impossible and unthinkable, but its implementation was swift and effective, the missions of others are not impossible and unthinkable either.
You see, I found a vocation to become a writer at the age of 33, nine years into my IT career, 12 years after starting my family. I had no experience, no appropriate education, and no clue how to get published.
Stupid dreams are common among humans. Every other man or woman dreams about winning a lottery; or becoming a rock star; or becoming an actor; or becoming an author.
Those pipe dreams are easy to deride
Ha! Building castles in the sky.
But what about when they actually realize and materialize in your life? That’s unexplainable. You start to look for any explanation.
I found it in Victor Frankl’s message. He was a psychologist and, coming from his knowledge about human psychology, he stated that every single man and woman has their unique pre-determined purpose on this planet. In his practice, time after time, he helped his patients to see their purpose, and time after time he observed how this discovery made their lives fulfilling.
My experience confirms his findings. I believe in them with my whole being. You have a purpose, just like everyone else.
You surely know the saying “When the student is ready a master appears.” There is merit in it.
I was clueless for long years about the reason for my existence. You so aptly described this feeling in your question that my bones ache at the memory of that period. Life without meaning is unbearable.
Yet, it took me years to discover it.
Nonetheless, when I finally found it, the realization of my mission revealed with lightning speed. It took me a bit less than two months from a first wake-up call to doing serious research of myself. It took me a bit over one month to detect my mission and hammer out my personal mission statement.
It took me less than a month to overcome a lifetime of self-doubts and start writing.
I was a self-analysis non-entity
For 16 years I avoided any deep thinking about my future, goals, and dreams. I lived just to get by. Yet, I was able to find a meaning of my life in a period of a few short weeks. I regret lost time, but I discovered also that this “lost” time ideally harmonized with my purpose.
I teach others how to change their lives. I am able to pierce their indifference, low self-esteem, self-doubts, or even some mundane issues, like losing weight because I struggled with exactly the same things for years.
For more than 16 years, I pretended that my life had no sense. Thus, I can show those who don’t think their life has a meaning, that indeed it has, and it’s in their power both to find it and fulfill it.
Your sense of mission will not come to you with a sudden epiphany and the chorus of angels. Well, it’s possible; it happened to a few people during the world’s history (e.g. Saint Paul).
However, waiting for an epiphany is like waiting for a main prize in the lottery. It’s possible, but very, VERY, unlikely. Besides, even to win a lottery you need to take the minimal action of buying the coupon.
Victor Frankl said that you need to “detect” your purpose, and I think this is an apt description of what happens when you finally get to know it.
I felt like this potential was this whole time inside me, just sealed and waiting for me to notice it existed. It still baffles me to no end: I’m exactly the same guy I was, yet tens of thousands of people read my books; hundreds of thousands of people read my answers on Quora.
How is this possible? I’m starting to believe that my “past version” wasn’t the real “me” after all. I’m starting to contemplate the thought that my real essence was suppressed for all of these years.
Anyway, to find your purpose, you must seek it
Let’s make a deal, if you never have won over $5,000 on the lottery, don’t even contemplate waiting passively for your mission; you just don’t have enough luck for that.
Many advocate for meditation as a means to enlightenment. I even know a few guys who turned their lives around thanks to meditation. You may try it.
Developing a meditation habit is almost as easy as developing a flossing habit. Sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, let the thoughts flow through your head with acknowledgment, but without engagement. Start from a 2-minute practice every day.
For me, the much better way to discover my mission was journaling. It was tangible. Dumping my inner chatter on a sheet of paper revealed a lot of BS I told myself and cleared my head enough to look past that petty whining.
Take a pen and paper and ask yourself open questions: What troubles me? What are my weaknesses? (Your brain will prompt them all with satisfaction; it’s excellent in finding your flaws, isn’t it?)
What are my strengths? (Now the brain will insist, you have none, “let’s leave a blank page.”)
What do I like to do?
About what do people ask me for help?
Don’t answer with a single sentence. Elaborate. Dump it on paper. Don’t let the stuff sit in your head. Clear it by writing everything down.
Frankly, I don’t know. When I compare my life “before” and “after,” I am amazed how I bore this load of sadness and purposelessness. Life is so much easier when I have something to look forward to.
I can offer you one quick fix, one vaccine: spend more time with people who know what their life is about, encircle yourself with them, interact with them.
We are natural sponges; attitudes are contagious. I’m sure some egghead in the next 1,000 years will explain how exactly this happens. Now, just accept that it’s true. Be around people who know their purpose, and your chances for finding a sense in your life will skyrocket.
If you don’t have such persons in the vicinity, connect with people online, read books, listen to podcasts. It works too. The influence may be a little lower, but it has the potential to change your life anyway. It happened to me. I started from reading the book.
Quiet your heart. Take a deep breath, then another. Take the first step, then another.
“You will get through this. How you get through it is up to you.” — Anonymous
Originally published at www.quora.com.
Originally published at medium.com