Fortunately these days we don’t have to worry every waking minute about Mongols invading our land or locusts devouring our crops. With our slow-pour coffee in hand, a bag of unique resources within us, and avenues to touch the world at our fingertips, each morning we can look out over our inviting cityscapes and ask, “What will I do with this day?”
We can spend it trying to take the perfect selfie, being promoted to a corner office, or getting the most Instagram followers. Or we can choose to live with a slightly different mindset. We can base our lives around the idea that:
I am not here
For what I can get from the world,
But what I can give to it.
I think I stumbled on this realization in my adolescence, and it enriches my life more each year, even into my mid-30s. For example, it helps me be content in my singleness and not scared to grow old. I think that’s because now I see each day not as a right I’m entitled to, but a gift which I can use to help people. I’m rarely bored or directionless, because I wake up with a purpose each day and with ideas focused around how to achieve it. And now I feel nearly fearless in social interactions because I attempt to be less worried about what I will get from them and instead what I can give.
We have only one life, guys, with only so many days. And if this is our opportunity to give the world a masterpiece, we don’t have time not to pursue any purpose God has for us.
I know we are each very different, and if your way of life is serving you well, then by all means, rock it. But if you find yourself continually battling some strange, quarter-life discontent, maybe give this a shot. Below, I’ve put together some gritty life hacks that I’ve stumbled upon over my 37 years.
1. Nail down your purpose.
A lot of times this can mean finding who you want to help and how you want to help them. I think we are often called to help people who struggle with what we have struggled with. Maybe you’ve struggled with self-image for a long time. You probably now have some tips to help people struggling with the same thing. Or maybe you feel your purpose is raising a family, partly because you wished for a better family growing up. I have always struggled with faith and how to be a Christian in this culture, but through the struggle I’ve found some interesting answers. And now my main purpose has become trying to help others who struggle with it as well. Finding a purpose is powerful, because then every step can be strategically used to move us in a focused direction.
2. Maximize your tools.
I think our tools are maximized in the Venn diagram where our passions (what you love doing), talents (what you’re good at), and opportunities (situations and relationships) overlap. The uniqueness of your combination of tools is what gives you the power and potential to fulfill the specific purpose that God has built into you. If you’re a programmer, you love good denim, and your friends all happen to be in the boating industry, maybe you can design an app that sells denim swim trunks to boaters (which clearly has world-wide implications for social change).
3. Trim off the things that don’t contribute to your purpose.
Stuff like TV, unhealthy relationships, and sleeping all day can cut the legs off our purpose. I mean, we need things like community, money, recreation and rest, but it seems like when I trim off unhelpful distractions and am strategic about what I include in my life, I feel like I have more energy and drive, I have a better me to give to others, and I hit the pillow feeling I spent myself well that day.
4. Get good at saying yes—and no. When opportunities come up that could contribute to my purpose, I try to say yes and jump in, working out the details as I go. But when people ask me to do things that would move me in the opposite direction, even if they’re nice things, I usually try to delicately and graciously say no. I know someone who was asked to be on the board of a kids soccer program, which would totally be a boon for their rep, but their calling was to minister to adults through art. So they kindly declined. We are not called to do all-of-the-things. Even if they are good.
5. Try not to do things just because others do them. If something’s right for most of the population, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Like, it’s cool to have a dog, but you know they need walks, and visits in the middle of the day, and they eat Ikea rugs, right? Is being able to post selfies of your canine spooning partner really worth not writing your world-changing novel for? I try to be aware of whether I am doing something just because others are doing it, or because it feeds into my purpose. If it doesn’t somehow feed my purpose, I try to trim it out. I try not to let others’ choices distract me from the purpose God has put in me.
In today’s culture, it’s easy to find ourselves directionless and unhappy, but I think part of the solution is to operate not out of a mindset of what I can get from the world, but instead what I can give to it. And that takes pursuing our purpose on a daily basis, in real, tangible ways.
Even if it’s giving smiles away each day because you know that’s what you’ve needed before, start there. We’ve all got time for that.