The more you know about what you cannot stand, the better prepared you are to avoid it later.
I realize that logic sounds flawed. After all, why not simply pursue what you want and amplify it in your life to the nth degree. The argument against that lies in the individuals who spent years getting advanced degrees, and years in their requisite careers, only to find out one fateful day they feel no passion or purpose.
More than likely, you know someone like this. You may even be someone like this. Further still, you may be someone who is fully aware of their indifference to their career and not care.
However, if purpose lies on one end of the spectrum of your chosen profession and apathy on the opposite, there is no place between them where ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ live. Ultimately, it’s your prerogative to do whatever you wish. If you desire change of your own volition, then so be it. But there’s no place for being guilted or shamed into action because someone expects more of you.
You are the only one with authority to expect more of yourself and get away with it.
All this in mind, it’s not a simple thing to know what will truly feed your sense of purpose. Even when you think you have it, you may wonder if there’s something better that you’re missing out on. Which brings me to the title.
Forget about trying to define what it is you want. You don’t know. And even if you think you do, you’re probably going to doubt it. What is vastly easier to determine is what you hate and have no interest in whatsoever. A few thought experiments can play this out for you.
Imagine you were asked to design the personality of the person you would spend the rest of your life with, and you had to list all of the traits you wanted them to have, and all the ones you did not. Which category is easier to start with? Which would have more entries?
What about designing your perfect day? What happens versus what does not? Well, my perfect day would not include racism, a nuclear war, Starbucks running out of coffee, pineapple on pizza, and so on. I can populate the list of things I do not want or like much faster than what would actually make the cut. That’s not to say I couldn’t decide on what to include, but that I know much more readily what I don’t want.
And here’s another relatable example. How many times have you had a colleague or superior ask you to complete an assignment, only to communicate their idea so horribly, that Invariably they end up saying, “Well, here’s what I don’t want…”
It should come as no surprise that this person does not actually know what they want. So, they default to what they feel confident in: their dislikes and the opposite of their goal.
For someone like myself, every career, profession, environment, culture, and personality I interact with results in one of two outcomes. Do I want more of this? Or do I want less of this? My ‘less’ column has more entries but the items in the ‘more’ column have no doubt surrounding them, no second guessing, and define who I am and who I want to be.
Could I still be happy with some of the choices I’ve added to the ‘less’ column? Absolutely, and I have been. But I’m not aiming for happiness. I’m seeking purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. If happiness is a byproduct of those things then why settle for anything less?
And then of course, it’s my prerogative anyway.