A lucky few know from a very young age what their purpose in life is, and then there's the rest of us. Asking ourselves every day what we should do with our lives, then clicking "Play Next Episode" on Netflix. I don't think we do this because we're lazy, but because the question is really hard, and there isn't necessarily a right answer for everyone. Or at least not an obvious one.
There might be a different way to look at it though.
Throughout your life you've made millions of choices, some intentional, others not so much. Regardless, these choices have made you who you are today and have lead you down the path you're on right now. A path that has given you a unique perspective that no other human being on this Earth has. And this path is leading you to your purpose.
So you're saying, "Ok, so how do I figure out what that purpose is? If i'm on the path right now, why can't I see my purpose?"
Well you don't know what your purpose is because you're not asking the right questions, and the right question isn't asking yourself, "What is my purpose?".
The questions you should ask yourself are not about your purpose, but about the path. Questions about the path are much easier to answer.
The questions will help you answer:
Am I on the right path?
Where am I headed?
Do I want to go where I am headed?
The Right Path
So the first thing you need to figure out is if you're on the right path, which leads us to the first question.
"If you could go back and do it again, would you?"
If I could go back and get that job again, would I?
If I could go back and start dating my current partner, would I?
If I could go back and study this major, would I?
If I'd known to ask myself this powerful question when I was younger I would have saved myself, and others, a lot of time, heartaches, headaches and stomachaches.
This question, as you might have deduced, isn't meant to prevent bad decisions, it helps you to get out of bad decisions and course correct the path you are on. There's no way to know if getting out is the right choice, but if the answer to this question is "No" a lot of times in a row, then you should probably go with your gut. Your gut is smarter than you think.
If you could go back and do it again, would you?
If I continue on this path, where will it lead me?
There are many ways to figure this out.
You might be wrong, but at least you're in control now.
Do I want to go where this path is leading me?
How can you see which mountain top this path is leading you to?
Do you like the view?
So every week you should be analyzing the choices you have made, especially the long term ones, and ask yourself, "If I could go back and do it again, would I?".
You don't need to write the answers down, but it helps.
So if this question does not prevent bad decisions, which question should I be asking to prevent them in the first place?
The answer is not a question. The answer is previous decisions and their outcomes or, in one word, experience. Either learned or lived. Preferably learned so as to avoid failure, but much more impactful if lived.
Any type of experience will do. Even experience at the most mundane activity is better than no experience at all. But there is something better than experience, and that is directed experience.
An experience with an identified path.
Who gets up a mountain better? The person that wonders about or the person that while wandering identifies a path leading up to the peak, and follows the path? You can very well wander about and create your own path, and you might even be able to build a faster path to the peak. But few have this ability. It is easier to follow the path others have paved before.
Trendsetters might like the idea of creating their own path, or climbing a different mountain altogether, or cavern, or ocean, whatever it may be. But climbing identified paths well leads to probable and moderate success.
Things that sound a bit off usually are.
You should love failure!
Really? Should I? Or should I rather just have a different perspective on failure? Do I have to love it? No. Just see it for what it is:
A moment to grow as a person and take responsibility for the failure.
Most people will say that it is a great learning moment. And it is. But most people don’t actually take responsibility for their failures. They just tell the people they’ve failed (employees, family, friends) that it’s ok that they failed, that its part of life, that its the only way to succeed, etc. Yes, but you might have affected a lot of lives negatively. Employees that moved across the country and left behind relationships and opportunities. Family members that were invested emotionally in you.
You might have a great perspective on failure, and failure might just slide right off, but a lot of people don’t. And you have to take responsibility for that failure.
Bad decisions lead to 3 types of aches: heartaches, headaches, and stomachaches.