Friday, December 18, 2015

A Passionate Life, Part Two: Thoughts on Purpose and Success

In Part One of this article series, I discussed the importance of finding your passion, the use of logic and sound reasoning as it relates to going to college and financial considerations. I also talked about the importance of teaching our children to not only find their passion for a particular subject matter, to realize that this should not be limited to college related career paths, and to live within their means as much as possible. The current cultural standard of going into massive amounts of debt at the highest and most prestigious Universities to earn a Bachelor’s degree, and then only to get an entry-level position with it, is not a sustainable model as it currently stands. It will be interesting to see how the next generations approach the problem of the declining value of a college education in terms of the increased number of people who hold a bachelor’s degree.

But what if you have already gone to college? Or you have already chosen a career path? Perhaps you are even 20 years into it, what can you do to have a passionate or even successful life at this point?    

Passion and Careers

 In Part One I defined passion as:

“A relentless need to do something, a very active drive, and it is not a passive interest or mild curiosity.”

The first question you have to ask yourself is does what you do, your job, meet this criteria? If not, that is actually ok. While it is a wonderful thing to have your career built around something that you are extremely passionate about, the reality of modern life, the responsibilities that we have, sometimes makes this, at least for the present, not practical. I understand this, I am fortunate to be thinking about these things at an early stage of my life so that, hopefully, my career can revolve entirely around the artistic and creative projects that I love and am very passionate about accomplishing. Doing what you love full-time requires an enormous amount energy, time, patience (working on this one), and may require some financial investment. This lifestyle may not be for everyone for number of reasons, one of which are your personal values and how you define success in your life.  

Defining Success

How do we define success? Is it having the newest products, technological gadgets, nicest cars or boats, huge homes, children, designer clothes, most money in our banks accounts, perfect financial security with large investment portfolios, prestigious jobs, accolades and awards, high levels of respect, the most popular, looking the best, or being the most talented? I could continue… but you get the idea. Every person defines what is important to him or her differently, but did you notice the trend that all of these desires have in common (none of them are bad goals in and of themselves)? These goals will profoundly shape the types of choices that we make, where we go or went to college, what career we choose; however, and this is the thing to notice: almost all of these goals are all about the individual, about me and what I want out of life, what I expect to get, living the American Dream, what I feel entitled to earn in life.

Living a creative and artistic lifestyle, which I am passionate about, may not get me all of these “successes” that I listed above. I may not ever have the biggest home, the newest car, or the most financial security. But are those things, while important to some people, and some are even necessary for living day to day, the ultimate goal for my life? I discovered that a radical shift of perspective occurs when we stop thinking about ourselves in terms of success and we start thinking in terms of our life’s purpose. When I stop focusing on trying to achieve this abstract even distant idea of success, and focus instead on living in the moment, doing the activities that I know I love: teaching piano lessons, painting, blogging—I am essentially choosing to center my life on projects that can have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of other people. When I do this, I am suddenly much happier and not a “grumpy muffin” as my wife sometimes calls me.   

What is Your Purpose in Life?

Really, what is your purpose in life? I don’t know if most people really think about this much, maybe they do, but I know that I do… a lot. Having a meaningful life is important to me. I have mentioned my personality type is a “creative dreamer” or an ENFP using the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator[1] (I really need to do a blog post on the amazing topic of personality types), and people with my personality are likewise very concerned about their place in the world and their purpose in it. 

Here are five questions that you can answer to maybe get a little closer to understanding your purpose in life—I am not sure where I saw this on the Internet, but I found it helpful so I thought I would share it here with you:

Who are you?

What do you do (role in society)? If you are not sure ask instead: what do you feel very qualified to teach someone else?

Who is your target audience or community or customers?

In what ways does what you do interact that audience?

How do they change from what you do?

Notice that these last three questions are not about you, but are about other people. I don’t think our purpose in life should be self-serving; instead, it should focus on those around us. If we want to find meaning and purpose in life, if we want to feel happier, and to feel like we are important, we should desire to have a huge and overwhelmingly positive impact on our local communities. Or else, I ask, why even bother to do anything at all?

My Life's Purpose: Answering the Five Questions

Let me give a quick example of how I answer these five questions: I will try to keep these answers brief.

Who are you?

Who am I? Well, I am many things… but in the end I am just: Charles.

What do you do or what do you feel very qualified to teach someone else?

Again I have many answers that I could put here based on my varied interests, but I will narrow it down by asking the second half of the above question: “what do I feel qualified to teach” and the answer is: I teach Music.

Who is your target audience or community or customers?

I teach Music to both Children and Adults in my local community.

In what ways does what you do interact that audience?

I interact with both Children and Adults in my local community through instructive piano lessons each week.  

How do they change from what you do?

My students grow in their knowledge of music and how it works, become excellent musicians both technically and artistically, with performance experience, increased self-confidence, joy and appreciation, self-motivation, problem solving abilities and more.    

If you put that all together, I have a killer life purpose:

I am Charles, and I enable both children and adults to find great joy, self-confidence, and skill mastery in the art of piano performance though the instruction of music each week. To me, this is meaningful, and when I focus on others and define my life by my purpose rather than my level of “success,” I am happier person and a more productive part of my society –and that is the ultimate success.

Finding Your Passionate Life

While no one can tell you what are passionate about, only you can know that, perhaps this exercise of defining your life purpose will enable you to live a happier life as we enter a new year. I know that I am passionate about art in all its forms, and I sincerely hope that you will be inspired by what you see each week on this blog. Perhaps you can try being more creative and artistic in your life, and who knows, you may find that it is your passion as well, but even if it is not, or even if you have to keep the subjects that you are passionate about at the hobby level rather than as a career or college major, go out there and focus on your life purpose, give it your 100%, and feel successful in life because of it!

Because the today is the opening of Star Wars VII, can’t wait to see it, I will end with the famous quote from Yoda:

“Do or do not, there is no try.” 


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[1] While there is some scientific debate on the accuracy of the Meyers-Briggs personality profiling method, it has helped me to understand myself in a more direct way, get past some of my natural defensiveness about what I am really like and how I process the world around me. I was enabled me to understand other personalities in a more complete way. As I child, I often wanted to know the motivations for why people did the things they did, what was the intent behind their words, how did they process the world, how did they think, and why? When I stumbled onto the Meyers-Brigs Personality Types, it opened a window into other personalities—people’s minds. I have become increasingly adept at personality typing those around me so that I can communicate more effectively with them and anticipate their tendencies and preferences. 
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