There is something especially touching about the earnestness of a young person’s search for purpose. I have the great fortune of knowing young adults in their early twenties who hunger with every fiber of their being to express their unique essence and be of service to some particular corner of the world. There is a sense that once they figure all the details out—who, what, when, where, and how—all will be well. They will have found their purpose, their reason for being.
But the more life experience (e.g., hard knocks) I accrue, the more I realize that finding one’s purpose is just the beginning. Because once you start walking down that path, life will happen, and it will feel like a test. Unless you have managed to find the secret of grace, you will begin to go down this particular rabbit hole: Just how badly do I want this? What am I willing to sacrifice to chase my dreams? Am I good enough for this work? Am I earning my keep (i.e., do I deserve to take up space on this planet)? …Yeah, this is perilous territory. Here be dragons.
To avoid this slippery slope, it isn’t enough to ask Why You Do What You Do, because wrapped up in our noblest motivations are all kinds of hidden drives that are really quite destructive to the psyche. (See: doing good to earn one’s keep.)
The real question to ask yourself is How am I showing up for the work? I’m done with classifying certain jobs and industries as “good” and “noble.” For who am I to judge anyone’s life or career path? What matters is whether or not we bring our best selves to the work we do daily. Try this one on for size: Do you bring love to your job and the people around you?