On Finding Your Purpose

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When he was just 22, Hunter S. Thompson was asked by a friend about the meaning of life and finding your purpose, so Hunter wrote him this letter. The letter that I can’t stop reading.

It really should be read in its entirety but here are some excerpts:

“To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself. What is truth to one may be disaster to another.

This is the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty.

The tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things…When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you.

Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES.

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

No one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it.”

Mic drop.

Or in other words, I think what Hunter S. Thompson is saying is…In Five Years You’ll Be Wrong.

Opportunities come, things change, we change. Life is about reassessing, not “set it and forget it.” What worked 5 years ago and made you happy, might not now. For me, not grinding every weekend is making me happy. A few years ago, it was the other way around. Does this mean that a goal that I pursued a few years back was wrong/wasteful? No, it served its purpose at the time helping me live out the kind of life I wanted to live in that slice of time.

We don’t always have to be paddling incessantly to some unknown island. It’s OK to just float and live in the lull.

Our struggles happen when we look at one unified theory of happiness/success, or when we get too caught up on a particular goal. There are too many things out of our control. There it too much chance. If something isn’t working anymore, change it.

Happy people don’t respond to the question, “How are you doing?” with “Crushing it.”

Happy people aren’t sitting around for the world to fall in place before they make a change. They’re too busy knowing that perfection is a fantasy and surety is a luxury they’ll never fully have.

Happy people don’t have to mask their insecurities by posting motivational quotes everyday. How many more motivational quotes do you need to start living intentionally?

As Hunter S. Thompson said, “A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” It’s not about where your ship will end up, it’s that you stocked it up with provisions and left port at all.

Living an undisciplined life is living someone else’s life.

Think less of who you want to be and think more of how you want to be.

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