This is a question that everyone asks themselves at some point.
It’s a question that can be surprisingly difficult to answer because the design of our mental circuitry defaults to give us answers based on what we know or seen other people do. People in our family, people in our neighbourhood, people who look like us and talk like us.
That’s the way that it’s always been and that’s the way that societies have maintained their status quo.
The digital world has allowed us to get to know people who aren’t like us, who live in different neighbourhoods from us and look and sound different from us. It’s allowed us to dream of having different goals from those that our parents or neighbours had.
What hasn’t become universally understood yet, is how to think about ourselves and our purpose in life in a more objective way.
We’re all motivated by different things and equipped with different strengths and weaknesses. We have varying opinions of what success and worthy goals look like and how they can be reached. The weaknesses that have been the hardest for me to come to terms with, have been being an idealist, a chronic overthinker and someone who feels things more deeply than I should.
I can’t make myself stop caring about what happens to people or overthinking situations any more than someone else can stop being tall or short.
Throughout my life and during the nearly ten years that I’ve been in business, I’ve dissected certain conversations on repeat after the fact, I’ve let some people’s selfish behaviour reduce me to tears rather than pushing back, and compared myself to some people more than I should have. I’ve never wanted fame or fortune, but I have wanted security and something that I didn’t have and didn’t know how to get.
I wanted to be able to help people who were stuck in places that I’d been before and didn’t want to be again.
Bogged down and held back by feelings of hopelessness at not being assertive or dominant enough to start or grow a successful business, mostly because of the traditional definition of how someone does that. I couldn’t accept that I needed to be like the business experts said I needed to be, which was to scale my business aggressively using cheap labour and going after what I wanted even if it meant stepping over other people to get there. To march relentlessly towards financial goals as if they were the only thing that mattered in life and business. To charge as much as I could get away with by offering a streamlined one-size-fits-all service that would maximise profits.
That way of thinking has never been possible or desirable for me, but I also couldn’t give up on the dream that wouldn’t go away, the dream of being useful to many.
One day years ago, it finally occurred to me that what I had come to think of as weaknesses, could be thought of as strengths, because so far, being kind and compassionate had helped me build a good business with loyal clients. A business that had grown year after year and made me really happy. The idealism, perfectionism and chronic overthinking that the experts told me would stop me from having a good business, had become positives to me because they drove me to create the best websites I could, even if it meant sometimes going over budget. The qualities on the strength side of my ledger; logic, confidence and determination, helped me see that if I allowed more time for each project and managed expectations, I had the freedom to just do what came naturally to me.
I can’t say that I have the answers to the question of what anyone else is supposed to be doing with their lives, but I do know that finding the answers to those questions, is something worth doing.
This question often comes up when someone decides to start a business or maybe starting a business is the answer to what they should be doing with their life. Regardless, I have seen how much of a difference it makes when people consider this question and work hard to come up with likely options. Because when you start a business, you have to have an opinion on the subject of your future, unlike when you take a job in someone else’s business and they decide those things for you. Not that there’s anything wrong with working for someone provided you’re okay with accepting their version of reality and vision for the future.
My son is in his last year of school and in conversations with other mothers, I’ve heard a few of them say that their kids don’t know what they want to do when they leave school. Who could blame them, I come across a lot of adults who still don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives.
The answers will be different for everyone, but the process involves similar steps to differentiate between what’s real and what only exists in the reality that you’ve created to make sense of the world.
If I had one wish, it would be to help kids leaving school today to figure out what they were put on earth to do. To help them realise how much can be accomplished when you work out how to play to your strengths and to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do regret all the years I wasted thinking I was powerless.
I know now that I’m not, I just choose to use the power I was born with, in different ways than I imagined possible.
Do you think about what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, or are you thinking about it right now?