While I definitely consider myself to be a spiritual person, I am not in the habit of giving spiritual advice. I like to keep things practical and accessible. With that in mind, when I talk about having a “purpose” in life, I don’t mean a task or job that a higher power intended for you. I don’t pretend to know if there is such a thing. You do have a purpose, however, and finding it will make all the difference.
For most of my life I was the archetypal Gen-X Slacker: I had a hard time seeing the point of, well, everything. Very few things caught my interest. I had a vague desire to write science fiction, I liked painting, and reading about things people believed, but it was all pretty abstract to me. I floated from crappy job to crappy job, trying on projects here and there. Sometimes, like when i was working as a psychic, I was satisfied, but most of the time I was pretty unhappy.
Above all else, I lacked a spark, or as men’s writer Sam Keen would put it, I had absolutely “no fire in my belly.” It showed up in a sense of emptiness, in sarcasm, bitterness, and often laziness. Because I had nothing pushing me, I was happy to waste huge expanses of my time on things that didn’t make me happy, or even really hold my interest; television, video games, computer hacking, and porn in particular absorbed a lot of hours and energy. Not that I had a lot of that, either.
I was cruising through life. Most of the guys I knew were cruising, too. For that matter, most of the guys I meet are cruising. There is absolutely nothing wrong with cruising; the problem is that there’s not a lot that’s right about it, either.
I didn’t realize just how much more there was to me that I thought there was. When you are cruising through life, it is a lot like being in Plato’s cave watching shadow puppets your whole life. You only see a pale image of who you are and what the world can be, but because you’ve never seen anything but the shadow puppets, you don’t understand just how real and vivid things can be.
About two years ago, I decided I needed to make a serious change because life just wasn’t working for me anymore. I was sick of dead-end jobs, being treated like dirt, struggling to sell my book, and a marriage that was stuck in a cycle of long, unhappy periods between camping trips and vacations. I talked to a life coach, then I decided to become a life coach, because talking to one for just one session had made me feel more charged up and motivated than I had felt in the ten years before it.
I took some courses, and started coaching creative people because I had made every mistake in the book when it came to writing and painting, and I wanted to help others avoid the same mistakes I did.
Coaching, both experiencing and offering it, has an effect on how you see human behaviour. It teaches you that if something isn’t working for you, or making you happy, that it can be scientifically studied, adjusted, and modified until it does. I started looking at everything I was unhappy or dissatisfied with, and making more and more changes.
One of the big ones I wanted to change was how I was showing up in my marriage. My wife was unhappy, stressed, out, and often very worried of frustrated about me. I wanted to stop being a cause for concern, and start being the rock that she could rely on in story weather. This led me to studying Men’s Issues, Game, The Mythic Men’s Movement, and the Men’s Rights Movement. All these different fields suddenly had me looking at my life, what I’d done with it, and the mistakes I’d made in a totally different light. Just about every problem, every ugly secret, and every painful memory was thrown into context. It was like seeing myself in a smooth mirror after a lifetime of funhouses.
And more than anything else, I kept finding things I wished somebody had told me twenty years earlier. All the unnecessary pain… all the unhappiness and bitterness… it was staggering. I decided that I needed to draw everything I was learning – and many of my own mistakes – together into one cohesive help program. Something to help guys like me avoid decades of pain, loneliness, and embitterment. The blog which you are reading is one facet of the result.
The more I worked on The Wild Man Project in its various incarnations, the more energy I had for it. It was as if some switch had been flipped in my head: suddenly I didn’t have time to waste. Things that I had been happy pouring hours into were no longer of any interest to me. If it didn’t make me happier, healthier, elevate my business, or enrich my marital life, I had no use for it. Feelings like bitterness and apathy just faded out.
I had found a purpose for myself, and it changed everything.
When Men find their Purpose, it changes everything about them. It boosts their health and energy. It gives them motivation to break bad habits. Purpose washes away feelings of apathy and despair that otherwise plague young men. Having a sense of Purpose is a feeling that dulls almost every negative one you can have.
In the past, our culture focused on making sure every young man found his purpose early on. We gave him a family to protect and provide for; a family that gave him the respect and love he needed to want to protect it. And then we found work that he would be good at to ensure he could do so. Barring that, we gave him a sense of belonging to something greater than himself, a nation, a church, a caste, clan, tribe or estaat that gave him a purpose, and then we offered him means to protect it, as a priest, warrior, or ruler.
We no longer do that, so it is up to you to find something that engages you in that way. And of course we give so little guidance as to how to do that, its no wonder so many men end up just cruising until they stumble over a purpose (like I did)… or just give up.
As a personal life coach, I help men find that sense of purpose. This is not a simple process, and it can take a lot of time and exploration to do well. But here I would like to share with you the first step in making it happen: a simple series of questions that point you in the right direction. I recommend you take some time and write or record honest responses to these questions.
Question 1: What Excites You?
This is a more complicated question than it seems. There are a lot of high-stimulus, high-energy things that draw you in. Video games can be exciting, so can drinking and partying. For a lot of people though, this isn’t real excitement, it is just stimulation. To figure out what really excites you think of things you can talk about, learn about and discuss for hours on end. Think about things that have made you want to learn more about them. Think about things that make you feel charged up.
Question 2: What do you Spend Attention On?
What topics can you read about over and over again and not get bored at? What might people consider you an expert at? What do you join Internet forums or clubs to discuss with other people.
Question 3: What are Common Themes in Your Interests?
The last two questions helped you make some lists of things that you like doing and that grab your attention. You might find that those things have certain skills and activities in common. For example, I like writing, storytelling games, philosophy, psychology, studying religion, debate, word puzzles, music, strategy games, dancing, Men’s Interests, creativity, and fortune telling.
In those lists there are multiple activities that are about talking. There are multiple elements about helping people work out problems. There is a lot of problem-solving. There is a lot of one-on-one and small-group cooperative activities. Many of them have to do with working on the meaning of life. Some of them are very focused on relationships.
Those common themes can be like a shopping list for the perfect career for you.
Question 4: What Were You Doing the Last Time that You Lost Track of Time?
Some things, like TV, are time-sinks, and just suck up your time – I’m not talking about those. I am talking about things that you were enjoying so much or found so interesting or so engaging you forgot where you were and what time it was. When that happens you have entered as state that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihayli calls Flow. Flow only happens when you are doing something that matches your interests, challenges you, and you are confident you can accomplish. When you do something that draws you into a Flow-State it revitalizes you. Over the long term doing something that you can Flow with regularly will make you happier, healthier and more driven.
Positive psychologists like Michael Haidt (author of The Happiness Hypothesis) suggest that choosing a career or vocation that allows you to Flow regularly may be a major component of being happy.
Question 5: What Are Your Strengths?
What are you good at? What comes naturally to you? What are your best qualities and finest skills? Do you have any special talents? Working on improving, refining, and harvesting your strengths will make you ultimately not only make you happier, it will help you grow as a person.
Success is a habit. If you work to your strengths, you succeed more often in that field, which will get you in a state of mind that helps you do what is necessary to succeed in all fields.
Questions 6: Who are Your Heroes?
Who are the people you look up to, and why? What was it about what they did and how they did it that makes you admire them? How can you exemplify the traits you admire in your own life?
Question 7: If You could Change One Thing about the World, What Would it Be?
This question is always very telling to me. Ghandi once said that one should “become the change that they want to see in the World.” Meaning that if you wanted to see peace, you would be happiest and most effective as a person who brought peace with him in everything he did. If you wish the world would be happier, you should focus on being and spreading happiness. If you wish the world were more honest, then finding work that allows you to expose, share, and encourage others to speak the truth would be ideal for you.
Question 8: How Can You Make All of That Work for You?
By now you have a list of strengths, ideals, skills, themes, qualities, and interests that are part of what inspires and drives you. Now finding your Purpose is a matter of looking at all of those things together and figuring out what kind of Men use and exemplify those things.
For example: If you are good at leading, value compassion, are great at putting things in order, can persuade people to do what you like, and find patience to be one of your best assets, you probably would make a great manager, financial consultant, or organizational specialist. You would probably also find that you would be happy as a father. And that you would be at your absolute best by also taking up leadership in local charitable organizations.
On the other hand if you like being on your own, hate dishonesty, like telling it like it is, and enjoy puzzles, you might be the best person to be seeking a career as an investigator, watchdog, or journalist. You would probably be more engaged f you joined an advocacy group for a group whose problems get ignored. And you would likely find a lot of stimulation following global politics.
There are lots of choices that are attuned to what you are interested in. I don’t think any one is the right one, just like I do not believe there is necessarily a per-ordained plan for you. Anything that lets you use so many of your strengths and grow them, matches your interests, and lets you follow in the footsteps of Men you respect and admire will help you find your Purpose, and with it, a well of confidence, self-esteem, and health you never knew you had.
The most important thing is having the chance to explore it.