What’s the Point? On Your Purpose & How to Find It

I hate mosquitoes. Living in Nicaragua, though, you can’t avoid them. Spray yourself with OFF! until you’re shiny and smelly, but the mosquitoes have a way of finding their way onto your skin. You can run, you can hide, but the mosquitoes will catch you.

You’d think then that mosquitoes play some important role in our world, right? Because why else would they exist? There must be some reason that they’re here on our planet, wreaking havoc on my legs.

Truth of the matter is they don’t.

Scientists state that if all mosquitoes were erased from our planet, the animals and insects that depend on them for food would quickly bounce back and the human race would suffer from a hell of a lot less disease. Everybody wins.

So, why are we talking about mosquitoes?

Does Purpose Matter?

As gross as mosquitoes are, they bring up an important question:

What’s the point of existing without a purpose?

When I think about the word “purpose”, I’m instantly reminded of the thousands upon thousands of articles you can find on the internet (including here at TPV) on “finding your purpose” and “following your passion.” All of that is well and good but…

You know what else I think about?

Utility.

And I think about it constantly.

Take the Olympics, for example. As I watched the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony, I asked myself, “What’s the point of all this? and a few things come to mind:

  • Entertainment: The glamour, the flying children, the music, the lights… Too reminiscent of The Capitol in The Hunger Games, don’t you think?
  • Physical fitness: Gathering each country’s best athletes to compete against each other, all to be the “best in the world.” For what, validation?

But what is the point of it all? Aren’t there other ways to achieve the same things? Ways that don’t cost billions of dollars? Ways that don’t pit each of us against each other?

When you break it down to the root, the Olympics exists to motivate humans to maintain physical fitness and excellence because it helps us all as humans to be healthy. It also exists to provide distraction to viewers — distraction from the dull everyday life some of us live.

So far, mosquitoes = negligible positive utility, and the Olympics = lots of positive utility, but could be accomplished in different ways.

How would the Olympics change if the core purpose of the event was analyzed by its organizers? Would it serve us better? Most definitely.

The purpose and utility of everything around us can drive more change than we ever imagined.

Okay, but…

How Does Purpose Affect Our Lives?

But we’re not the Olympics, are we? How does this whole “purpose” thing fit into our personal day-to-day?

I still remember what it felt like to wake up on the first morning after quitting my job — as an entrepreneur, freelancer, consultant or whatever you’d like to call it.

I remember waking up thinking, “What can I do today that actually matters?”

As the years went on, about two and a half so far, I’ve jumped from one thing to the next, dabbling in web design, e-commerce, public speaking, audience building, and more. But I haven’t stuck to one thing … now, I think I know why.

How I want to help others, or the service I want to provide, has never been crystal clear to me. I’ve dabbled in murky waters trying to decipher the root of it. For example:

1. Web design: How I wish the web didn’t suck so much. I itch to fix ugly websites — or worse, one that’s difficult to navigate. Makes me want to judochop their site into something enchanting.

➜ Purpose: so people can find and enjoy information easily.

2. Public speaking: How I hate boring talks on things people don’t care to understand.

➜ Purpose: so people can find and enjoy information easily.

3. Consulting:

➜ Purpose: so people can find and enjoy information easily.

4. Writing:

➜ Purpose: so people can find and enjoy information easily.

5. Tools: A few months ago, I set out to build a new project called Devise.

➜ Purpose: so people can find and enjoy information easily.

I’ve been throwing darts with a blindfold on.

All similar, but they don’t add up… They’re not honed in on the same core, so my projects could’ve been more successful.

I know the general direction of the target, but I can’t aim with certainty. I keep missing by a few inches.

How do you find your core purpose?

Ever since I took a semi-forced break from work in January and February, I’ve been doing heavy lifting on what the point is behind my work. I’ve been asking:

“Across these different activities, what the hell am I trying to do?”

Using a single exercise, I was able to figure it out. It’s called the 5 Whys.

Note: I’ve written about the importance of this word before, and you may have heard about this exercise before, but its power lies in its usage. If you don’t sit down to actually write this exercise out, I promise you won’t get the results that are available to you. The power lies in action.

To try out the 5 Whys, follow these steps:

  1. Gather some tools for writing — paper and pen, a computer, etc.
  2. At the top of the page, write out what your project does.
  3. Below that, list out the numbers 1-5 and write “Why?” next to each number. Your page should look like this:
  4. Fill out the answer in each row.

So, I filled this out myself for each project I’m involved in, and it all ended in the same thing. Here’s the one I wrote out for my latest project, Devise:

I created Devise to help freelancers improve their businesses.

Why? Because it frustrates me when freelancers get jipped or mistreated by clients.

Why? Because it breaks my heart that it could be easily avoided, by learning to put a few systems in place.

Why? Because I don’t understand why freelancers, who try to make it out on their own by perfecting their crafts, rarely learn more about the business side of things.

Why? Because it would be horrible if they’re soon out of business, right where they started, flailing and discouraged.

Why? Because I don’t want them to suffer. They love what they do, and I want it to go well for them.

Rinse and repeat that for my other projects (my web design and consulting business, my public speaking engagements, my writing here on TPV). Each starts differently but ends up the same.

When all is said and done, what I want is to help alleviate (or eradicate) suffering.

Further Reading:

The Sure-Fire Way to Find Your Passion: What Breaks Your Heart?

The Beginner’s Guide to Meaningful Work: Step 1

How To Serve the Right People: Conquer the Boredom Test

How does knowing the purpose help?

Now that I’m sure of the purpose of the 5-6 different projects I’ve started, I can be sure to improve each one by putting my purpose at the forefront.

Maybe all mosquitoes in the world should realize that there’s no positive point to their existence and just die off. Maybe the Olympics should rethink the $50 billion it spends every two years to put on a massive spectacle.

Maybe, maybe not.

But I know that being sure of the utility my projects bring to the world will make them better for those that enjoy them.

Sorry this post was long. I probably wrote it more for myself than anyone else, though I do hope you find it helpful.

Wishing you awesomeness,

— Marcella

PS. I recently semi-launched Devise and would love your help. If you know any freelancers, could you send them in Devise’s direction at www.deviseapp.com? I’d be super grateful.

photo credit: dirka