Purpose: The Most Important Thing You Can Do With Your Life.18 min read

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So many people feel a void in their lives regardless of their financial status, relationships, health,  looks, or accomplishments. Billions of people have faced, are facing and will face an existential crisis. And, often, they all boil down to one question, “Why am I here on Earth?”.

The question has been pondered and debated for years with no clear conclusion. However, almost everyone can agree that the question becomes almost irrelevant immediately after you start doing something you think is meaningful in your life. It is almost like the question of what to eat; seldom is it asked until we’re running out of food in our belly.

If you back up a bit, you will realize that just as the question of what to eat is solved by simply eating food, the answer to the existential questions is better answered with action rather than thoughts

Hence, the more accurate question becomes, “What should you do with your life now that you are on Earth?” 

The Most Important Thing On Earth: Life

As far as we know, life is the only thing that exists that we’ve found solely on earth. It is even more true for a complex, intelligent, and conscious life like ours. So, to a great extent, it is in line to say your life, and that of all other humans is the most important thing on earth.

It is even more interesting when you understand that we are the result of billions of years of the evolution – expansion and chaos – of the universe. Like Carl Sagan once said, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

And, even moving away from the marvel of our physical composition, each living person is also an amazing result of ideological and cultural evolution. The language, dress, beliefs, ambitions, and fears all stem from centuries of iteration. There is nothing about or around a living person that is not extraordinary

“We are the product of the immense torque that propels this universe. We are not individuals but a great accumulation of all that lived before.”  

– Tanya Tagaq

What’s Your Purpose on Earth

Having established that whenever you gaze at your reflection in the mirror or water, or encounter anyone, be it in your living room or on the streets, you are literally witnessing a miracle, it becomes embarrassing to admit that most of those marvellous beings, perhaps including yourself, have no clue about what they are meant to do with the life they have on Earth.

It is just like the increasing difficulty in answering the question, “What is the purpose of a phone?”. At first, simple Telephones were used for calls and calls alone. But today, we have smartphones that can be used to make calls, play music, record videos, browse the internet, compile codes, do calculations, capture biometrics, and measure temperature, distance, weight, humidity, acceleration, orientation, and so on. To a large extent, what a phone does is up to the user and not the manufacturer.

So also, the purpose of our lives is up to us to pick because we are capable of almost an infinite number of things. You could spend the rest of your life, playing soccer, welding metals, writing books, designing websites, hunting, farming, boxing, teaching, driving, cooking, flying, researching, fucking, and so on. Whatever little thing you can do for a minute can be done for a lifetime, and you can feed your yearning for purpose with it.

I like how Robert Green puts it. He says, in his book Mastery, “You must dig for signs of such inclinations in your earliest years. Look for its traces in visceral reactions to something simple; a desire to repeat an activity that you never tired of; a subject that stimulated an unusual degree of curiosity; feelings of power attached to particular actions… You have nothing to create; you merely need to dig and refine what has been buried inside of you all along. If you reconnect with this core at any age, some element of that primitive attraction will spark back to life, indicating a path that can ultimately become your Life’s Task.”.

”[Masters] excel by their ability to practice harder and move faster through the process, all of this stemming from the intensity of their desire to learn and from the deep connection they feel to their field of study. And at the core of this intensity of effort is in fact a quality that is genetic and inborn — not talent or brilliance, which is something that must be developed, but rather a deep and powerful inclination toward a particular subject.” – Robert Green (Mastery)

In other words, your purpose is simply what you’ve found or accepted and limited yourself to doing. (We will talk more about how to find your purpose in a subsequent section). 

It is possible to find purpose in doing more than one thing, and the thing that gives you a sense of purpose can change over time

However, it is important to keep in mind that you live with other precious humans who also have infinite things they can choose to do. So, what happens when everyone starts acting how they like without considering how it might affect others? The answer is “chaos”. 

And, that is why society often rewards you for doing the things that make life better for others and punishes you when you harm others.

“Try to leave this world a little better than you found it and, when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.”

– Robert Baden-Powell

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How do I start making the most of my life?

But, even the realization that we are meant to leave the world a little better than we met it is not sufficient. You must also believe that what you are doing is meaningful. 

This belief is important for two reasons. The first is that it helps you stay committed to it, and the second is that it keeps you happy. For instance, whilst millions of people are happy working as clerks, answering calls and booking appointments, many would rather commit seppuku – i.e. suicide by disembowelment – than do that.

And, while being a movie star, footballer, or even a CEO is often celebrated by society, some people simply can’t do that. There are people who if they do not find themselves under a car fixing it, in a ring punching and getting punched, or in some war-torn country feeding starving children and almost getting blown to smitterings they will feel like they have totally wasted their lives.

Like, Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”. 

Don’t let how much is to be made or what people are saying get in the way of your decision. Sure, you can give some serious thought to that, but you should also consider that there are success stories in almost any field of endeavour, and that success is also subjective.

There are very successful and happy tailors, chefs, writers, models, dancers, singers, and so on. What is expedient is that you look inwards to see the things you are drawn to, test out a couple of your interests, and then focus on that which brings you the most fulfilment. 

No way is easy. There are often hurdles and limitations to what you can do and to what extent. But, often, the struggle is enough to fill the heart.

When you contribute to humanity by doing things you have a knack for and have honed your skills in, you can say that that very activity is your Life’s Task. As you immerse yourself in your Life’s Task, your yearning for a sense of purpose fades, much like hunger subsides when you have a loaf of bread.

To make the most of your life,  first, uncover your purpose by embracing the things that spark a genuine interest within you. Next, dedicate yourself to mastering the skills necessary to turn that interest into a service to humanity. This mastery will unlock a deep wellspring of joy and meaning, naturally leading you to develop a passion for your chosen endeavour (aka Life’s Task or purpose). And, you can have many Life Tasks, filling your life with lots of adventure and greater purpose.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

– Pablo Picasso.

Steps To Picking A Purpose [The Hard Questions]

Several factors, like financial worries and the influence of culture and media, can complicate the search for your purpose. Making matters worse, many people have been raised to believe that passion and purpose should come naturally and feel good, which is often not the case. As we discussed in the previous section, it takes significant dedication to become so good at something that you develop a passion for it. 

Ultimately, the difficulty in finding a purpose isn’t so much finding what you enjoy, but what you are willing to struggle for. For example, many people love dancing, but not many people can dedicate as much time to dancing as Michael Jackson did.

Struggling to pick a purpose for yourself? Do the following;

Find your natural inclinations:

As Carl Newport puts it, “The opposite of a career passion is not a lack of passion; it’s a lack of clarity.”. You have to get curious about yourself to gain clarity.

To do this, ask yourself questions like;

  • What truly makes me come alive? When do I feel most energized, engaged, and fulfilled?
  • What am I naturally drawn to? What activities, topics, or causes do I find myself gravitating towards?
  • What are my unique talents and abilities? What am I good at? What do people compliment me on?
  • What are my values and beliefs? What is important to me? What principles guide my life?
  • What am I curious about? What do I enjoy learning about and exploring?
  • What do I find myself doing regardless of money? What can I do for the rest of my life if money wasn’t a factor?

Explore and experiment with your different interests:

As Angela Duckworth puts it, “Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t.”

Don’t know where to start? Start by asking yourself;

  • What are the different ways I can contribute to the world? What needs or challenges exist that I feel I can address given the time and resources?
  • What are different career paths, projects, or causes that align with my values and interests?
  • What are the small steps I can take to explore different possibilities and gain experience? How do I get the necessary skills or tools?
  • How can I connect with others who share my interests or are working in fields I find appealing?
  • What fears or limitations are constraining me? Can I overcome them? How can I overcome them?

Take action and commit to it:

Practice makes perfect” isn’t just a saying. Experts generally spend more time in deliberate practice than novices, and this strengthens their brain pathways with myelin (a fatty substance which improves the speed and efficiency of electrical impulse transmission along nerve cells), allowing for effortless skill execution.

So, it is important to ask yourself; 

  • Do I want to do this for the long term? Am I just doing it for money or some other transient reason? Will I give the hours necessary for myelin to form?
  • How can I practice regularly? How many hours can I dedicate each day, week or month?
  • How intensely can I practice? 
  • How can I create a support system that will encourage me and help me stay accountable?
  • How can I measure my progress?
  • How can I learn from my mistakes and setbacks? How can I improve?

These questions can be tough and confusing, and you may not have all the answers at once. The magic lies in being both open-minded and spontaneous

Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes. After all, you can never truly discern until you experiment. So, don’t hesitate to experiment extensively. 

Once you discover your ikigai – that which fills you with a profound sense of purpose and is valued by the world – stick to it. Resist the temptation of being swayed by the allure of money or social status. Don’t hope to find a magical purpose that will be easy.

Remember, the secret is in finding something you’re inclined to, then leaning in despite the pain and discomfort.

“When people say, ‘What should I do with my life?’ or ‘What is my life purpose?’ what they’re actually asking is: ‘What can I do with my time that is important?’”  

– Mark Manson

[5 Best] Books That Will Help You Find Your Passion and Purpose in Life

I’ve found these books to be very helpful and practical in finding and developing my passion and purpose in life.

Mastery, by Robert Green

In this book, Robert Green argues that true passion doesn’t strike like lightning. Instead, it ignites from the furnace of dedicated effort and unwavering pursuit of excellence. He urges readers to choose a domain, any domain, and dive deep, embracing the challenges and enduring the pain of mastery. He explains that as we hone our skills, a profound sense of purpose emerges, not as a whim, but as a reward for our dedication. To Robert Green, our Life’s Task is our purpose.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Carl Newport

Carl Newport challenges the conventional notion of “following your passion.” He argues that true passion often arises from the ashes of hard work and dedication. Instead of waiting for a fleeting feeling, Newport advocates for developing “rare and valuable skills” that make us indispensable. He encourages readers to embrace the “craftsman mindset,” pursuing excellence in their work and finding satisfaction in the process itself. According to Newport, the key to a fulfilling career is to become so good they can’t ignore you.

Deep Work by Carl Newport

In this book, Newport emphasises the importance of focused, distraction-free “deep work” in cultivating meaningful work. He argues that this intense engagement allows us to unlock “flow states” and experience true satisfaction. By eliminating distractions and dedicating time to deep work, we can learn faster, solve complex problems, and contribute significantly to our chosen field. Newport reminds us that “what matters most is not just what we do, but how we do it.”

The Leader Who Had No Title, by Robin Sharma

Robin Sharma, in his inspiring book, uses brilliant storytelling to teach readers that the seeds of purpose can be sown anywhere, regardless of titles or positions. He asserts that leadership is not a privilege bestowed upon a select few, but a potential that lies dormant within each of us. By cultivating inner strength, taking responsibility, and serving others, Sharma argues, we can all become leaders, making a positive impact and discovering our own unique purpose in the process.

Ikigai, By Hector Garcia

Hector Garcia, in his exploration of the Japanese concept “ikigai,” guides the readers on a journey to find the sweet spot where passion, mission, profession, and vocation converge. He argues that by aligning these four elements, we can discover a “reason for being” that fuels our passion and drives our purpose.

Conclusion: Seek Enlightenment To Unravel Greater Purpose

If you travelled back in time and met someone from the Stone Age, it is very unlikely that they will say their purpose is anything remotely close to being a programmer or biochemist. To a caveman, the scope of what he thinks his purpose can be is extremely limited despite having the capacity to do much more.

But, don’t feel bad for the caveman. The same is also true for you and everyone on Earth. Very soon, what one can take on as their purpose will be far different from what is possible today. 

Why?

Enlightenment unlocks new possibilities. 

For example, as our knowledge of space exploration expands, more people can find purpose in understanding the universe, spreading life to other planets, and solving Earth’s environmental challenges. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) can fuel passions for revolutionizing medicine, finance, and agriculture. Similarly, CRISPR technology has the potential to cure genetic diseases and empower individuals to combat superbugs, thereby finding a purpose in this field. New knowledge in automation and quantum computing will also unlock exciting possibilities and inspire new purposes.

That is why, very enlightened people, say Elon Musk, have quite extraordinary things that give them purpose. For instance, he finds purpose in things like accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy (Tesla), making humans a multi-planetary species (SpaceX), and expanding human consciousness (NuraLink and his works with Artificial Intelligence).

You may not end up having a passion for building Anthrobots – i.e. tiny biological robots from human cells – but you can discover many fascinating things you can do if you take some time to broaden your intellectual horizon.

Keep in mind, that our lives are as convenient as they are today is a direct result of the advances we’ve made thanks to our enlightenment.

If life, particularly advanced life, holds supreme importance on Earth, then safeguarding and furthering its existence should become our central purpose as a species. This means we need more people to be enlightened so they can contribute in more meaningful ways. 

“I came to the conclusion that we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask. Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment.”

– Elon Musk

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