The “Life Purpose” Problem

Life Purpose

My Myers-Briggs personality type is ENFP, which means I loooooove to come up with ideas. I once heard someone describe an ENFP as someone who “doesn’t think outside the box, because for an ENFP, there was no box to begin with.” Coming up with ideas can be great, until it’s time to focus your energy on something.

I’ve been struggling lately with this personality trait, especially as it relates to my professional life. Heck, I’ve always struggled with it. “Find your life’s purpose,” I’ve been told. “Try to make money doing what you love,” they say. “BE SUCCESSFUL!” America screams.

Earlier this week, I talked about this struggle with my good friend and life coach, Allison Evans, and she referenced this facebook post by Liz Gilbert. If you haven’t read it, I’ll sum it up for you. Liz thinks we’ve become confused about what it means to have a “life purpose.” She argues that how we spend our time in life should be divided into four categories: Hobbies, Jobs, Careers, and Vocations.

Hobbies

Hobbies have no pressure. They are the things you do when you have spare time. They’re not always the same – they may change every few years, or even every few months.

“You can tell when something is a hobby because your attitude toward it tends to be relaxed and playful. The stakes are SUPER low with hobbies. Sometimes you might make a bit of money out of your hobby, but that’s not the point — nor does it need to be. Hobbies are important because they remind us that not everything in life has to be about productivity and efficiency and profit and destiny. Hobbies are mellow. This is a wonderful reminder, and the concept should relax you. Hobbies prove that we have spare time — that we are not just slaves to the capitalist machine or to our own ambitions.”

Jobs

Unless your parents are rich, everyone needs a job. A job is what puts food on the table and a roof over your head. What I needed to hear from Liz is that we don’t have to love our jobs.

“Now, here’s the most essential thing to understand about a job: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AWESOME. Your job can be boring, it can be a drag, it can even be ‘beneath you’. Jobs don’t need to be soul-fulfilling. Don’t judge yourself about your job and never be a snob about anyone else’s job. We live in a material world and everyone has to do something for money, so just do whatever you have to do, collect your paycheck, and then go live the rest of your life however you want. Your job does not need to be how you define yourself; you can create your own definitions of your purpose and your meaning, pulled from deep within your imagination. A job is vital, but don’t make it YOUR LIFE.”

Careers

Careers may not always pay well, and they take lots of time and patience to become what you want them to be. And here’s a shocker: did you know you don’t HAVE to have one?

“A job is just a task that you do for money, but a career is something that you build over the years with energy, passion, and commitment. Careers are huge investments. Careers require ambition, strategy, and hustle. Your career is a relationship with the world.[…] Let me make something very clear about careers: A career is a good thing to have if you really want one, but YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A CAREER. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going through your entire life having jobs, and enjoying your hobbies, and pursuing your vocation, but never having ‘a career’. A career is not for everyone. A career is a choice. But if you do make that choice, make sure that you really care about your career. Otherwise, it’s just an exhausting marathon, for no reason.”

Vocations

Who are you? How do you breathe love and kindness into the world? THAT is your vocation.

“Your vocation is your calling. Your vocation is a summons that comes directly from the universe, and is communicated through the yearnings of your soul. While your career is about a relationship between you and the world; your vocation is about the relationship between you and God. Vocation has nothing to do with money, with career, with status, with ambition. Your vocation can be anything that brings you to life and makes you feel like your soul is animated by purpose. Tending to your marriage can be your vocation. Raising your children can be your vocation. Teaching people how to take care of their health can be your vocation. Visiting your elderly neighbors can be your vocation. You can choose your hobbies, your jobs, or your careers, but you cannot choose your vocation; you can only accept the invitation that has been offered to you, or decline it.”

I have spent years mixing those four words into one grand idea of MY LIFE’S PURPOSE. (See how important it feels? I used all caps and bold font!) Liz Gilbert’s post felt like a weight lifted off of my shoulders, and I’ve spent the last few days dissecting my interests, passions, ideas, and goals into hobbies, jobs, careers, and vocations. In my next post, I’ll let you see what I’ve come up with, and how this new way of thinking may be impacting my blog.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you struggle with finding your purpose? What do you think of Liz’s four categories?

2 thoughts on “The “Life Purpose” Problem

  1. Leslie says:

    Very helpful to read your post! I’ve been really struggling with this lately, and my mom pointed me to your blog. So glad she did! Thanks for writing 🙂

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