Nobody is born with a preexisting mission. You have a million options at your fingertips.
We hear it all the time: bloggers and motivational gurus broadcasting the idea that you should “follow your passion.” You should do what you’re “meant to do with your life.” You must “embrace your true calling.”
I call shenanigans, though. Mainly because “follow your passion” is crappy advice.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe everyone has a mission in life. Just not the touchy-feely stuff promulgated in vapid self-help books. I don’t think any of us were “born to do” anything in particular. Nobody is born with a preexisting mission. You were not meant to do any one thing for the rest of your life.
And, yet, this idea of birthright mission is propagated — as if each person has a preordained vocation that he or she must pursue. As if evolution or natural selection or whatever has spent thousands of years plotting and transmogrifying so that you can be a writer or a yoga teacher or an astronaut.
Life doesn’t contain these kinds of absolutes. No one has a predetermined destiny; no one has a singular preexisting mission that is waiting to be uncovered. Truth be told, there are dozens — even hundreds — of things that all of us can do with our lives — work we can be happy with and passionate about.
What’s important to consider is this question: What is my mission?
Many of us go through life working a job or, worse, a career, and become accustomed to a particular lifestyle — a lifestyle that involves too much spending and personal debt and consumer purchases; our own personalized version of the American Dream. We get stuck on the ladder and before we know it we’re too high up to climb down — so high that even looking down is a terrifying proposition.
That’s not to say there’s anything inherently wrong with working a nine-to-five. There isn’t. We all have to keep the lights on, right? But when we travel too far from living a deliberate life (venturing off the path as I did in my lotus-eating 20s) — and when we stop asking meaningful questions (ditto) — we stop feeling fulfilled.
Like passion, your mission is not preexisting. And it’s not always easy to find or pursue. But when you find something — anything — you’re passionate about and you make it your life’s mission, you will find great joy and reward in the work you do. Otherwise, you’re just earning a paycheck.
Ultimately, anyone can be passionate about virtually anything, so long as it aligns with his or her values and beliefs. We’re all different; that goes without saying. It is perfectly plausible to think that someone can be deeply passionate about financial accounting the same way another person might be passionate about, say, horseback riding — neither of which sound too exciting to me, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who are passionate about either of them.
People occasionally discover a line of work that brings them ultimate satisfaction (although “discover,” which implies stumbling into, is probably the wrong word). People who do what they love for a living tend to refer to their work as their mission. Not their job, not their career — their mission. Which, as I’ve said, is cultivated after many hours of doing the work — never simply stumbled upon.
I spent the better part of two decades cultivating my passion for writing, improving dramatically over the years and drudging through the drudgery. Pursuing your mission requires in-the-trenches hard work and madman-type dedication. But so does anything worth doing.
This article originally appeared on AskMen. For more articles like this from AskMen, try:
Photo: Flickr/Kevin Dooley