How to Find Your Purpose

by Craig McBreen · 32 comments · Breaking out, Creativity


WarriorWhat is your purpose?

If you were sitting across the table from me, could you answer this question?

You might conjure up something just to have a reply.

Or stare at me blankly.

You might tell me to shut up, but that would be rude and wouldn’t help your case.

Well, I wouldn’t blame you, really. We don’t need purpose.

You knew that. But if you’re reading this I imagine you would like to make a small dent in this digital wonderland.

You have this big, fat problem though. Spinning your wheels daily, stuck in a sea of “overwhelm,” filled with marketing advice, guest posts, to-dos, products and ebooks … Pure drudgery.

The fun has evaporated. The gusto long gone.

You’re also buried in an avalanche of 10,034 unsolicited opinions and counting.

Discouraged and restless.

Been there. So experienced that. And to me, that gets to the root of this giant-sized problem most of us have.

We envision something, go in with the best intentions, but end up in a stagnant pond wondering what the hell happened.

Misdirected by everything life tosses our way, and often misguided by the opinions of others AND our own lofty ambition.

When I was a kid I worshipped Ray Harryhausen If you have no clue who he is, take a look here. Yes, almost laughable compared to today’s special effects, but as a kid in the 70s this was pure magic.

Ray

I lived in a bubble, because I was fat, awkward, and painfully shy. An only kid who invented his own games, worshipped a stop-motion animation god, and was perfectly content alone in my room. Now I often wonder what was so wrong with that.

At the time I viewed myself as a worthless zit that desperately needed popping.

If I had learned to be comfortable with who I was instead of loathing myself, I think I’d be better off today.

And strangely enough, this is where I get back to our so often abused word of the day – Purpose.

Yes, PURPOSE.

STOP and think about why you are reading this post.

Do you sometimes feel like a lone wolf who can’t make “it” happen?

Feeling a certain lack of clarity?

Stuck in the endless churn?

Well, part of the problem might be “it.”

Maybe you’ve been chasing your tail for eons because your “it” is fighting against every fiber of your being. And getting back to the real You is all you need.

For years I fought the kid I was because I thought there was something terribly wrong. Turns out there wasn’t, but as I matured, my “it” was increasingly based on someone else’s vision of what I should be.

So maybe this is less about Purpose and way more about you being You.

REALLY. Think about your world and what you’re trying to become. Is it about your vision or someone else’s?

If your current trajectory feels at odds with your core, maybe it is time for a change. A reinvention.

I’m in my late 40s, have a wife and two teenage boys. I run a consulting business, have a mortgage, and people that rely on me to put food on the table.

Buuuuut, my business of doing things is going to change dramatically. It’s another “shit or get off the pot” moment. I’ve had a few.

You? Right now you could be on the verge of something great, but you’re stuck in a depressing quagmire.

Well, don’t throw in the towel. TODAY is DAY ONE to end the madness. So take a deep breath, relax and retool.

Yes, today …

1. Right now, stop and ask, “why?”

Before you log onto another social network, write another post or craft a comment, ask: Why?

Are you doing this for freedom?

If you want out of the system, it’s not hard to plan your escape, sell all your shit and move into a shoebox. BUT this post isn’t about tiny houses, tossing all your possessions, and a minimalist lifestyle.

No, It’s more about regrouping, with vision.

Tim-Ferriss

Maybe you want to be the next Pat Flynn, or would love to decipher the Tim Ferriss code.

Why?

You feel the need to monetize. To build a Krypton-sized email list.

Why?

To write a book.

Why?

Could be, you’ve spent so much time reading advice you feel like you’re buried in quicksand.

But you still want to arrive on the other end and give yourself a high-five.

Well to me, the quickest way to stop sinking is to start asking … WHY? Today, tomorrow and every day. It might be the best habit you ever develop.

Sit down each and every morning. Stop with the Twitter, don’t open your email and realize Facebook will survive a few hours without you.

Get out pen and paper and write down 10 detailed reasons why you want to build an online presence.

Keep asking, Why?

Come up with different reasons and explore. Then tomorrow, start over. If you really feel stuck, you need to do this every day. Ideas will come, business plans will hatch, and you’ll feel reborn.

You might devise something you had never envisioned. Or take another’s formula, flip it on its head, and make it that much better.

Just exercise your noodle daily and stop with the churn.

2. STOP thinking like a blogger.

The top bloggers? They’re entrepreneurs, authors, speakers first. There are exceptions of course, there always are, but obsessing over metrics, guest posting or comment count with no direction will lead down blind alleys, where nothing ever comes to fruition.

As part of your “Why” exercise, start thinking about a burning problem only you can solve. And use those precious a.m. hours to turn yourself into an idea factory.

You might just find the burning problem is all about you, freedom, and how to break the chains that bind you.

There could be a revolutionary product or novel residing in your cranium, but without the daily exercise, you’ll never flesh it out, especially if you whittle away those precious hours on Facebook.

3. Learn what to stop doing.

As you exercise your upper-story processor and keep asking, you’ll quickly discover the things you don’t want to do. In fact, this beautiful “not-do” list is one of the greatest benefits if your daily brainstorm.

A blitzkrieg on the tasks you hate or don’t do so well. As you slowly pass them off to someone else, you’ll soon realize how much they crippled you.

But for now, just focus on writing them down. I’ve been running a virtual business for years, so will be writing about finding the best freelancers to make your life easier.

4. Take off the blinders.

Watch several of these videos in sequence and see how you do. 

Go ahead try it. It’s fun!

The gist is that people often completely overlook the seemingly obvious. There’s a reduction of awareness we all experience every day.

Our digital domain compounds it.

We misinterpret and jump to conclusions. And we often have blinders on, seeing things in black and white.

If you don’t shake things up … well, it’s like you have a pair of lead boots on.

The hackneyed phrase “thinking outside the box” means something here. So, change your habits. Try disrupting and see where it gets you. Be a misfit and make some noise by doing your thing. Enter a new world.

Turns out finding your purpose (or whatever you choose to call it) might just start with embracing disruptive thinking and killing off the habits that bind you.

Take off those lead boots and see how high you can fly. See you on the other side :)

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Suddenly Jamie April 3, 2013 at 9:26 am

LOVE this, Craig.
The “Why” exercise is an excellent suggestion. Just pretend you’re a persistent four year-old, right? Why? But, why? No, but, really … WHY?

I’ve always been a “why” kind of person. I remember an essay I wrote in the 6th grade asking why we all had to go to school, then college, get married, have kids, find a job, etc. etc. etc. Even back then, I was guessing there was something more, something that didn’t adhere to the cookie-cutter type of life that seemed so prevalent.

If you asked me that question (“What is your purpose?”) in person, there’s a good chance I’d either laugh or cry. I feel like I’d really like to have a purpose, but I haven’t quite nailed mine down … yet. I think having purpose fuels our creativity. When we know WHAT we’re doing and WHY we’re doing it and WHO we’re doing it for, the HOW suddenly starts to fall into place and the WHEN goes from being “Someday” to being RIGHT NOW. That’s what I’m looking for. Something to focus my energy, creativity, and talents.

I think “why” might help me get there. I’ll work on that.
Thanks, as always. Great stuff.
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Craig McBreen April 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hey Jamie,

Thanks so much, and yes … kids are not afraid to ask questions and they gravitate towards things they truly enjoy.

Wow, sixth grade … I was still hiding in my room ;)

Yes, a purpose fuels creativity, as long as it’s all yours. I’ve changed my daily practice pretty drastically lately and it’s starting to pay off, so will continue to ramble about this stuff.

Thanks!

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Suddenly Jamie April 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Ramble on. I love it! :)
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Craig McBreen April 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Let me know if you ever get sick of it!

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Julie Barrett April 3, 2013 at 10:18 am

Excellent points, all. I do feel like I have a grasp on the jist of my “purpose” but just barely. It seems like there is a process involved, first becoming aware, then taking baby steps, then somewhere along the way (hopefully) discovering what you’re here to do in the process. For some people it’s more of a “being” than a specific “thing”, it seems, but I do think I have one or seven “things” that haven’t come into being just yet. Getting quiet and asking why is surely helpful…the noise out there is just so LOUD.
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Craig McBreen April 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hi Julie,

Thank you, Ma’am.

“For some people it’s more of a “being” than a specific “thing””
– I’d say your spot on, and just going through these basic routines might just clarify that. Helped my stop chasing my tail.

The noise is so loud, and it’s only getting louder. This stuff has helped me, so hopefully it will help you and others.

Thanks for stopping in.

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Mary Stephenson April 3, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hi Craig

I like your idea of “Why” . Shall have to practice that for awhile. I wrote the word down so I would not forget to ask myself often.

There are days when I just want to throw my hands up and walk away from everything. But common sense sets in and I get busy. I have taken into account lately what I no longer have my heart into and have dropped it. Then in the back of mind I know that if certain factors change I will be on a different path, maybe one I would prefer. Got to test the process first. But I have also thought even if I went a different direction, what would I continue with and so for now I will continue with more emphasis on what I won’t give up.

I think the “why” will always change from day to day or month to month. We are constantly changing and some ideas have to die.

Thank you for a solution to what I have been thinking about lately.

Mary
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Craig McBreen April 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Mary,

I do it every a.m. The “so that” exercise helps to. “There are days when I just want to throw my hands up and walk away from everything.” – I’ve had a couple of those days already this week ;) Just part of the routine and something to push through.

“We are constantly changing and some ideas have to die.”
– Yes, and then you wonder why the heck you were so focused on them in the first place.

Let me know how it all goes for you.

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Kaarina April 3, 2013 at 11:56 am

What’s the old saw? Keep asking ‘why’ until you find the actual root of the problem, not just the symptoms. We are sooooo on the same page right now. Cheers! Kaarina

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Craig McBreen April 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Hi Kaarina,

Just call us the common sense crew ;) I finally came to my senses, otherwise I might have needed a couple of whacks on the head.

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Kaarina Dillabough April 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm

You and me both! Here’s to the common sense crew:)
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Craig McBreen April 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Cheers to that!

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Joe April 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Holy Sinbad. I was also a long standing member of the Harryhausen fan club myself. What he did and the career he put together was simply AMAZING.

My purpose has very little to do with what is on-line. Those little blog posts I write are strictly for fun. My purpose is being a first class spouse, parent, and friend. To create a warm and safe home for my family. To walk sandy beaches with them at every available opportunity.

I read your posts because they are written well and make perfect sense. Thanks for all you do. :)
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Craig McBreen April 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hey Joe,

Ha … holy Sinbad! Cool to know you were a Harryhausen geek too, and yes, what he did was amazing.

Well, I’d say you have it figured out and we need more like you … many forget the important stuff. I also like the sandy beach part, but most of ours are rocky ;) I sometimes miss the east coast sand.

Thanks for the kind words, Joe. Really appreciate that!

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Stan Faryna April 3, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I often wonder why…

Why are we confused?

Why are we confused about the why when the why has never been out of our reach?

Actually, it’s not even something we can escape. It’s in our design. It’s ontological…
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Craig McBreen April 4, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Hi Stan,

That continual search for purpose as part of the human condition, eh? My problem is I just wasn’t built for multitasking. Argh! Can you tell from my recent posts? ;)

Thanks for stopping in, Stan. It’s been a while.

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Stan Faryna April 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I have a sneaking suspicion that the problematic is the how. How to live out the authentic “why” can seem to be such a daunting challenge. Or, worse, unending challenges.

And so we look for inauthentic whys with all their easier (and self defeating) hows. It becomes quite a mess. And then we are lost.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjYjKNGt18k
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Craig McBreen April 5, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Life is a series of unending challenges … felt like I was lost for quite a long time myself ;)

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Sheila Berqguist April 4, 2013 at 1:29 am

Very interesting article. I have felt all of these things on a regular basis and am tired of feeling that way. I think I have fallen into a trap of trying to follow what everyone else says I should do and not doing something that allows me to be me. This has given me the inspiration I needed to get on the right track.
Loved the videos…it’s so true that we get so involved in details that we don’t notice the obvious!
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Craig McBreen April 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Hi Sheila,

Thank you and so glad it helped!

I fell into the trap just like everyone else, but I finally woke up ;) Sounds like you’re on your way to clarity too.

Yes, those videos are something, huh? Esp. with the two women talking.

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Ralph April 4, 2013 at 3:34 am

Those gorilla videos are a blast.

I knew about the gorilla but the player leaving and the changing background got me. The two ladies talking blew my mind. When you are looking for it, you can see it but if you’re not……I am riding a wave of paranoia now……thanks a lot, Craig! Hahahaha.

Your article leads me to think about personal perception.

As much as we think we understand what’s going on with someone we don’t until we spend time really digging in. I think I know something about a blogger or on-line personality by what I perceive but there is no way of knowing how real that is until I spend some quality time with that person. Just like the gorilla thing; when you know about the gorilla you think you have it nailed, then the curtain changes and you miss it. All I mean by that is that we tend to make a lot of assumptions about people and then follow their lead without digging deeper.

I am all for making my own way instead of following and I really am a strong believer in purpose. The “why” is a big deal to me. If we really want to understand something well we do need to observe and research to get the real answers, don’t we? Sure, we all need to make our own way but was Barbara Grizzuti Harrison wrong? In some way we all need to be connected to other people (or ideas) that have similar passion in order to test our methods.

I realize your thoughts are not black and white and applaud you for that. You make a great point of following your own thought process which is fantastic. In my mind it’s the right thing to do but, for me, also making solid connections and investing in those connections is critical to my success. I suppose that’s why we need to read many of the posts here to get the “big picture.” :-)
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Craig McBreen April 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hey Ralph,

They sure are. The two women blew my mind too. Amazing how much you miss. Working on taking it all in every day, man! ;)

“All I mean by that is that we tend to make a lot of assumptions about people and then follow their lead without digging deeper.”
– I’d say you nailed it.

With this post I’m not saying to turn off everything, but to whittle down your list and streamline your priorities so you’re not in a constant state of “churn.” So easy to get caught up in that. Dig deeper, as you’ve stated, and learn from the best.

Definitely love to make great connections and meet cool and knowledgeable people such as yourself. I also do follow some of the blogging A-listers (don’t tell anyone), but but my list has been whittled down significantly.

Thanks, Sir!

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Peter Sterlacci April 4, 2013 at 5:21 am

Once again Craig. Once again! Are you living inside my freakin’ head! This is exactly what I am experiencing. Man o man. Without getting into details I recently let go of a paid gig I took 2 months ago, simply because, yup, it was a paid gig. BUT…. it made me miserable and literally gave me a massive case of tendonitis. When I kept doing a similar WHY exercise I discovered the only reason WHY is should not give it up before I got too entrenched was because, yup, it was a paid gig! I have been an struggling solopreneur for 2 years and as nice as it was to have $$ it was not in alignment with my mission. So, I left the gig. AND that nasty tendonitis, yup, it disappeared that day! Thanks again for another post that makes me think you actually do live inside my head!
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Craig McBreen April 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Hi Peter,

How did you know I wrote this post while thinking about you? ;)

Well, cheers to your decision! I’m sure it was a very difficult one to make, but if a job is interfering with your health in any way, I would say it is time to move on. If you can make something work for short period, that’s great as well, but sometimes you just need to cut and run … I’ve sure been there!

Thanks for the kind words. Onward and upward, my friend!

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Jens P. Berget April 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Awesome post Craig. I’m still asking myself why, and I am still trying to find my purpose. The thing is, right now, I am asking myself how do I know that I’ve found my purpose? I am very satisfied with my job, and I get to meet a lot of brilliant people and the projects are a lot of fun as well. And, that’s when I’m asking myself, is this it?

I don’t think it is, I just need to figure out the next step. On the other hand, I need to figure out where I am going first :)
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Craig McBreen April 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi Jens,

Thanks! I am as well … just gaining more clarity by the day. I think as humans we are just restless and we’re always looking for purpose (it’s built in). Most people are probably never completely satisfied and we keep reaching … but I do think a certain level of peace (and clarity) comes in when you turn off more than a few “channels,” stop trying to do everything, etc.

What’s helped me? Every day … taking the time to write down the things I think I did well (in everyday life and business) and what I can improve on. Then keep writing out ideas. That morning brainstorming session with yourself can work wonders! Maybe you’ll devise the most amazing pizza pie ever. That’s still on my list :)

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Ameena Falchetto April 5, 2013 at 3:25 am

Yes! Loved this Craig!
My pint-sized dictator is constantly reminding me of the importance of WHY!
Finding your why is so much more important that your what and how .
As you know I loved the part about stop thinking like a blogger – I’ve always gone on about the difference between being a blogger and a person who blogs for business. All comes down to the question: Do you blog for dough, or for show?
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Craig McBreen April 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Hey Ameena,

Great to see you here!

Ha … “pint-sized dictator!” Love that :)

I’ve enjoyed the posts you’ve written on this topic as well. Think more like an entrepreneur and less like a blogger, unless you’re in this purely for fun.

Thanks again!

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Ryan Hanley April 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Craig,

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Stop thinking like a blogger.” I think I do this far too often. I’m making moves on this…

Great article dude… Thanks for pushing.

Hanley
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Craig McBreen April 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hey Ryan,

It’s another way of saying jump off the hamster wheel (where you’re doing nothing but cranking out content). We’ve all been there.

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Mike April 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I work for a digital publishing company who has identified that succesful marketing starts not with the “how” and the “what”, but rather the “why”. It is transforming our organization, and we are all being tasked with understanding and articulating both our corporate and personal “why” statement. This was all inspired from a Ted Talk video that I wanted to share with you. http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/en//id/848
Enjoy!

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Craig McBreen April 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Hi Mike,

Nothing more important than to keep asking, “why,” even if we sound like precocious children, right? ;)

Sounds like some exciting times over at your organization. I do this kind of exercise all the time … always want to keep learning and growing and providing the best.

Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

Have a great weekend!!

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