What’s your life’s purpose?
Finding out what your inner mission is and how to put this into practice can be quite a battle. While coping with daily life you somehow also need to find out who you are. Hopefully those who don’t know what their true passion is yet can learn from me finding mine. In this article I’ll discuss my attitude towards the future when I was younger, what education has (or hasn’t?) done for me and my self-reflection strategy for finding my purpose.
At age 4, when people would ask me what my plans for the future were, I would vigorously tell them that I would want to become the next Oprah Winfrey. If my younger self were to be labeled, “absent minded dreamer” it would definitely suffice to define the kind of individual I was (and even till this day, that label suits me.) The (Dutch) schooling system motivated me to think about the future early on, as it embedded me in special classes for children with an exceptional IQ level.
In this system, it’s normal to pick one field and cling to it and as a child I was much inclined to dovetail other people’s behavior, consequently, the thoughts about myself in the future were heavily inspired by my environmental surrounding. Often I would overhear conversations where people would complain about how much of an idiot their manager is or how people neglect themselves because their work is so time consuming, et cetera. As a result of that, the question of; “What profession is fun, challenging and not a deprivation of my freedom?” became the central query that had been on my mind for the past 16 years. (Now I’m 20. Choosing the right path requires a lot of thought.)
The first “genuine” profession (since “Oprah Winfrey” isn’t a profession haha) that caught my interest was that of a psychologist. Before concepts like “don’t trust your neighbors” were introduced to me, everyone I would come across became a victim of my curiosity. So finding out you could actually specialize in learning about other people’s behavior for a living was a pleasant surprise. At the time, I was 10 years old, when (probably because of puberty) a depression managed to get the best of me. (For more information about this, if you’re interested, you could read the article “Suicidal Weakness”.)
Education has played an important role in facilitating me to find my purpose. What I very much enjoy about studying is connecting the dots between different fields of knowledge in order to get “the bigger picture”.
Your weaknesses aside: what role would you like to play in this oneness we call “the universe”?
“Always aim for the most beneficial,” my grandparents and parents would tell me. They were referring to picking subjects and courses that would leave me multiple ways of getting a proper job in the future. “You will have to work twice as hard,” would be the after-comment. I don’t know whether this idea is a differentia of my family or this is cultural, but I was spoon-fed with the perception that as a person of color “getting accepted by society” isn’t as easy. In this light, high-level education and good grades became the standard.
Studying “gymnasium” (Dutch Middle School until High School) was an interesting experience. I’ve met such diverse personalities during this period, in addition to learning Latin and ancient Greek which have changed my perspective on life for good. However, when I was in the middle of it, my appreciation of it began to decline. School started to feel like “a non-challenging waste of time” (although the development of this frame of reference was partially attributable to peer pressure). I much rather wanted to really make something of myself by putting my ideas for the future into practice and focus on mastering one subject instead of studying eight (or more).
Are we taught to dislike school?
Since helping others and getting the bigger picture interested me so much, I figured studying economics was right for me. In high school this was already one of my favorite subjects. It’s like mass-scale human psychology with numbers. (Also my grandfather, who I look up to very much, studied this subject.) Learning new things I consider fun, but I’m far from a model student. The type of student who prefers to let the material pile up, that’s me. It takes quite some energy to “get in the zone”, so moments to study are carefully chosen. “The zone” stands for the feeling of complete concentration and excitement I experience after getting my mind to focus on just one thing. Achieving this gives me a headache sometimes, for there’s so much on my mind.
The first block started off as an interesting experience. I had traveled to other countries before, but the setting at the university was international in a different way. There were so many like-minded people with totally different backgrounds. You can learn so much from just talking to someone who’s from a different country! Also, the switch from High School classes to lectures was a nice one. The pace on which information was given seemed higher, which (most of the time) made it easier for me to keep paying attention and not let my mind “wander off”.
My grades, however, were bad. Really bad. It affected my self-esteem. Was I too stupid? I’d pursued my old study method of letting study material pile up, only to find out that to gain confidence for passing a test, I needed more time. This became a dilemma, because studying wasn’t the only thing that kept me busy. I started my company in the same period the course started.
In the second block my streak of bad grades continued, but for different reasons. “Studying” microeconomics drove me to intense self-reflection. This was (nerd alert) awesome on the one hand, but a bit confusing on the other. I analyzed my own decision making on a deeper level, for I was incentivized to ignore “common sense” and just follow my intuition. One question kept occupying my mind: why would I continue studying at the university if this makes me feel bad about myself? Getting a degree wasn’t a priority – it was just out of interest, so I found the study pace unnecessarily high. 9 years, for example, instead of 3 years to get my bachelor’s degree would have been more convenient for me. The fast growing pile of study material left no time to work on my own business, and I wasn’t getting ready for the job market anyway. My company is my future, which weighs heavier on my mind. As a student my results didn’t represent my competence and as a boss the development of my company was way too stagnate. So I quit university. I know I’m not stupid. Reading about economics is now a pleasurable pastime.
How do/did you experience being a student?
I was heavily disappointed in not being able to stick to my original plan, which was slowly starting up my “life’s business” while being a student. This was the first real plan that was entirely my own decision. Going to “gymnasium” was my parents’ decision in essence (considering I wasn’t allowed to choose a lower level of education). After having looked out to “finally be useful” in life for so long, I didn’t expect to quit after three months. But neither did I want to continue killing my own self-esteem.
My sadness aside, self-reflection has been the true key to getting these self-insights. There are two aspects that establish my reasoning. The first one is that I want my actions in the present to be an asset for the future. Like a law in my behavior, to not waste time. (Is that a survival instinct?) The second one is that I always take the well-being of others into consideration when doing or saying something. This I consider as an odd form of egocentrism, since thoughts about my future dominate my mind, but improving society is my main endeavor.
The tactic for getting to understand yourself better, or at least what works for me, is to ask other people questions about themselves – and compare perspectives – and to ask yourself questions about yourself. (In short: introspection and extrospection.) I’m talking about the hyper-random-out-of-this-world type of questions. The questions that will result in you hearing something you’ve never heard before. Listening to (jazz) music is also an effective tool for getting to higher (self) insights.
Do you find it hard to formulate questions? No worries! The Mind Light app provides these wild questions for you, which is useful when you’re on a date, at a party or – life-saver – in a very awkward situation. (Yes, I’m shamelessly promoting my first app :D.)
[This app will be renewed and re-released whenever I have the time for it.]
My true purpose is to spread wisdom on a world-wide scale. To help others realize themselves and make the world a better place. I’m not made for “the classic 9 ‘til 5”. Instead I want my life to feel like it’s one long holiday. By creating a platform on which others can share their perspectives on life (Time Heroine), sharing my own perspective on life, assisting artists in conveying their messages, starting small projects based on specific concepts (like the I love Diversity campaign) and building a network that is meant for self-development of the individual and inspiring modern business (E.PN), my intention is to propagate a broader view on self-knowledge.
I don’t have a degree, I don’t have investors funding my projects (it’s all low-budget, currently), I don’t have any working experience. Will I be successful in life? No idea, but I want to chase my dreams and try to make a change.
Don’t we all want to see better days?
[Note: This post has been originally written a few years ago. Even though, right now I am doing something different (Time Heroine doesn’t exist anymore), my goal is similar. I keep finding new ways to achieve the same thing: a new system.]