Purpose, Passion, or Doing

In my last post, I wrote about purpose. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the post, and purpose a lot. I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s OK not to know my purpose. And more, that maybe I don’t need to be on a quest to find it.

I recently watched this TEDx talk about passion.

While, in my mind, passion is not quite the same as purpose, I think they are closely related in the way that I’m thinking about them. In the video, Ms. Trespicio talked about how she felt such pressure to find her passion. I genuinely understand that pressure. That’s what I’ve been feeling.

There are so many self-help books, videos, blog posts, etc. all exhorting us to find our passion. Well-intentioned parents, friends, and co-workers do the same thing. They all seem to say that once you find your passion, your life will have meaning and will be complete. Until then, you’re lost.

One thing Ms. Trespicio points out is that spending all your time searching for passion means not spending time actually doing things. And, in doing, you learn things, have new experiences, meet new people, and just maybe, will become passionate about something. Or not. But becoming passionate does not need to be the end goal. Doing things is what matters.

This video was a good reminder to me about how my life has played out so far. I have never, before recently, searched for my passion. I took jobs because I needed a job. Sure, I looked for jobs that seemed interesting. I taught myself new things because I was interested. I spent time with people I loved. I traveled to places because I wanted to experience new cultures, food, and history. Not once did I think, “what’s my passion or purpose in this?”

Through all of those things, I ended up discovering that I loved technology, computers, and programming. And that led to my career. I did not seek passion, it found me.

Now, I’m kind of tired of the thing that was such a core part of my life for so long, and it’s leaving me feeling a bit lost. I guess this is what’s causing the new-found feeling that I need to find something.

As I reflect on purpose (and passion), I see that maybe I should stop worrying about it. Instead, I should be picking new things to learn and do, new places to go, and new experiences. Perhaps, by doing that, I’ll find something I might consider a purpose. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, I’ll be doing instead of searching. And that’s fine.

The Purpose of Purpose

Is there a purpose in having a purpose in life? I find myself asking this a lot lately.

I retired eight years ago after spending most of my life in the software business. I had worked my way up to a very senior level and had what many would describe as the perfect career. But, I was very burned out and I had gotten so far away from the actual work of creating software that I felt that I had lost the reason I got into the business in the first place.

When I retired people said: “you’ll be bored” (I’m not), “you’ll miss the office life” (I don’t), “you’re too young” (really?), etc. I am not at all sorry that I retired nor do I have any interest in returning to work. I’m happy with the decision.

When I left, I had many things I wanted to pursue:

  • Coding
  • Writing
  • Photography
  • Travel
  • Reading

You’ll notice that coding (or, creating software) was at the top of the list. I really wanted to get back to my roots and create something on my own. I’ve spend the majority of my non-travel time during retirement writing code, and not really focusing on any of the other things on my list. Which gets us back to purpose. Is this my purpose?

During the earlier part of my life my purpose seemed pretty clear: provide for my family and help make sure we had a good life.

Lately I’ve been feeling a little lost and I’m trying to figure out why I’m here and what I can bring to the world. I’m not sure why this is coming up now, but it is. For the past several months this has been gnawing at me.

Is writing software really my purpose? Does that even count as a purpose? When I think about purpose, I think about contribution, creativity, helping others, and improving the world. I’m just not sure how I do those things.

Can creating software do those things? I’m sure it can by focusing on the right things. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m kind of tired of it. My whole adult life has been about software. It’s scary to think about putting it aside, as my entire identify is wrapped up in it, but maybe it’s time.

Can writing be a good purpose? I suppose so. The right words can inspire, comfort, energize, and teach. Those all seem like good things. A while back, I put aside software for several months and started writing. I created a blog to help people get the most out of their software and devices. I really enjoyed doing it, and even had a few followers that told me they were getting a lot out of it. After a time, my software projects called to me and I stopped writing. But, does this sort of writing count as contribution or improving the world? I’m not so sure.

I don’t know what the answer is yet. Right now, I’ve put aside software again and this is my first foray back into writing. I’m hoping that by at least writing down my thoughts and struggles it will help me figure it all out.