Over the last year and a half, I've read a lot of books and blogs in a search for my next path in life. I've tried to find my "WHY" with Simon Sinek, I've tried to find my passion, and "screw finding your passion" with Mark Manson. I've tried dabbling in categories I have no right dabbling in. I've talked to pretty much everyone I know to get some glimpse into how they derive purpose, fulfilment, achievement and meaning from their work and lives. Some people just have it figured out. They found the one thing that makes them tick and they would do it even if they won the lottery. While others just do what they do because that's what they are doing and it brings money in the door and funds their hobbies which really make them happy.
My wife and I took 3 months away from work to care for her mom in Taiwan. Unfortunately, her mom passed away from her battle with cancer. We've been back to the regular grind of life for three weeks. Last night, my wife admitted to me that she doesn't know what she is living for, what is the meaning of her life.
For some background, my wife is a star at work. She hasn't had to apply for a job in 5 years, but she has had 5 jobs. Everyone she works with sees how easy it is to work with her and how much value she brings to the company, that they headhunt her to their teams offering her more responsibilities, money, and occasionally promotions. She has won several performance awards which allowed me to join her on the annual company cruise where the top 1% get to eat their hearts out. She even won an additional award recognizing her as a top achiever even among the top 1%.
So now my wife and I are in the same boat. She's come back to the life of working without knowing what she is working for. So the moment of truth happened to me. I had to summon all the knowledge I had gained in the last 18 months to provide some words of comfort.
Meaning and fulfilment, passion and purpose, these are not things easily obtained. The reality of life is that by being useful to others, we create meaning and purpose if we are useful to others we feel fulfilled. And sometimes, and certainly not always, our usefulness is in something we are passionate about, but seriously, don't count on it.
Some of us have the drive and motivation to pick our passions and make a living from it. But for the rest of us, we take whatever chips fall our way. For me, I was useful in insurance underwriting for a short period of time, that's just where I fell into place. I had the drive and motivation to make a change. I went back to school, spent the extra year of hard study and $30,000 plus a year of lost wages so that I could learn about finance and stocks.
After 4 years of working the long hours of finance, I got burnt out. But I was useful. It gave me great pride to tell people what I did for a living. It gave me purpose and meaning and part of that was also it gave me a nice paycheque. It made me feel like I was on equal ground with my wife and contributing equally to our family.
This was my answer. All my research into the subject of meaning, purpose, passion, fulfilment, and all I can come up with is "Be Useful".
Is it really that simple?
I don't really know. All I know is I always try to be useful to my family and my friends. If I can do something to make their lives easier whether I'm asked or not. I try to do it. This is especially true with my wife.
Many blogs and books on happiness have said to look within yourself to find happiness. And I believe this is partially true. If you are useful to others, don't necessarily expect them to praise you and give you a gold star. You should be useful to others but find your own definition within yourself of why you believe you have been useful and derive your happiness from your own belief.
This is a work in progress, but this is as far as I've come.