Purpose of life, or the lack of it?

Yesterday we were having a goals discussion at Niswey and I raised the point of a “purposeful life

Later in the day I was discussing this with a friend and he told me how most of his friends are now lost in life and do not know what to do. Read the write up he sent, you will know what I mean. BTW, he’s aged 40+

There’s a trend that I have noticed this year. I probably have seen signs of it over the past years, but this year the trend is sharper.

A whole lot of my friends are dealing with emptiness or boredom or depression. Some of them are touching 40, or have crossed 40.

All of them are financially well off. They have lovely spouses, and lovely kids. They have lovely homes and lovelier vacations. They party a lot. But once in a while they come across this feeling that they don’t know what to do about.

All of them are great at what they do….great teachers, business development ninjas, even a couple of entrepreneurs.

‘I am bored, I swear I am going to quit my job and work for an NGO,’ says my super saleswoman friend.

‘I am so unhappy man…feel like going and having an affair,’ says a one-woman man. ‘Money and family isn’t everything, is it?’ he wonders.

‘I don’t know, I have been thinking of meaning a lot these past few days. What does this all mean?,’ says a super smart guy that others would gladly exchange places with.

‘I like my life, I have nothing to complain about. My students adore me. I am the life of every party. My son thinks I am the best mom in the world. But there are days like today, when I am so low, I don’t know what hit me,’ one 43-year whatsapps me.

One close friend group has been having discussions on anti-depressants, and people in the group have run up research on ‘not having a purpose in life’ as a cause of depression.

Call it mid-life crisis, call it boredom, call it what you will.

But I really think, all these wonderful, happy, competent, brilliant friends of mine didn’t spend much time to think how would they live their meaningfully. They got excellent at their careers, made money, married the right people, and so on. But they stare at emptiness, maybe not all the time. But I suspect the frequency of it is more than before.

Which is why I hear of it from them, a lot more now.

Upto you to decide whether you want to do what you love or tell your friends at 40 that you are depressed. Your call!

9 thoughts on “Purpose of life, or the lack of it?

  1. Funde

    The title “Journey called Life” is okay but I could not find word “travel” in whole post. May be that’s the thing they are missing in their journey.

    Reply
      1. Funde

        I too didn’t mean physical travel. I actually meant how much have they travelled (do things to make them happy)?

        This is an apt post I saved sometimes ago.

        “Here’s a secret: there are four types of people in the world:

        1. People who, from an early age, know exactly what they want to do and are still doing it in their 50s and 60s. My friend Meggin is like that. In elementary school, she was already writing. By high school, she had written several novels. Now she’s the best-selling author of “The Princess Diaries.” It’s incredible because it’s so rare. A tiny percentile of people are like her. You’re not like her; I’m not either. Get over it.

        2. People who, from an early age, think they know what they want to do. They often have big surprises in their 40s, realizing they don’t actually enjoy what they’ve committed to. Many of the apparently-directed people you see are in this group. You’re feeling lost now. They’ll go through what you’re going through later, but it will be much more complicated, because they’ll have husbands, wives, kids, and mortgages. So as nuts as it seems, you’re lucky.

        3. People who don’t care about big goals. They know how to follow rules (e.g. do the homework, study for the test, do what the boss demands) and the enjoy dotting I’s and crossing T’s. They coast.

        4. People like you who are lost.

        Most young people are in that final category. Some hide it better than others. Some even hide it from themselves. Do your peers all seem more confident and directed than you? They’re not. Most of them are faking it or just aren’t as introspective as you are. Talk to them in 20 years and they’ll tell you how frightened and confused they were back when they were in college. So the first thing to realize is that feeling lost is part of being a 20-something.

        To be honest, it’s part of being a 40-something, but those of us who don’t have midlife crises tend to embrace it. I enjoy being lost, because it allows me to be surprised. I prefer to have life hit me than to hit life. Anything could happen!

        When I first started directing plays, I was terrified because I didn’t know what I was doing. My goal was to come up with a plan so that I could have some confidence. It took me 20 years to figure out that the fun was having no idea what I was doing. The fun part of directing is making it up as I go along. So I’m just as lost now as I was back then. But when you’re lost, you can either view it as a scared child, alone in the woods, or as a brave explorer, open to experience.

        We can subdivide lost people into two groups:

        1. People who are truly lost. They really do have no passions. Their emotions are blunted. This group may be clinically depressed. If you’re a member, I urge you to seek professional help. There are treatments for depression. There are ones involving meds and ones involving talk therapy (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy) that can be quite effective. If you’re clinically depressed, reading can’t help you but a doctor probably can.

        Also note that lots of people use “my career” and “my major” as proxies for their real concerns. When I was in college, most of my complaints about lofty things (“what am I going to do with my life?” “what’s it all about?” “how can I find meaning?”) really came down to panic that I didn’t have a girlfriend.

        2. People who have bought into cultural norms of what they’re “supposed” to do. For example, George loves video games. They really, really excite him, but he’s been told “you can’t make a career out of that” or “that’s not for grownups,” so when he wonders what he’s passionate about, he doesn’t count gaming and decides he doesn’t have any passions. Be he does have a passion. A passion is a passion, whether it’s a sanctioned one or not.

        Or Mary, who has bought into the idea that she has to choose a major in college, and that whatever you choose should be your passion, and that this choice is all tied up with a lifelong career. What Mary most loves is singing. But she doesn’t have a great voice, and she’s been told she’ll never make it as a professional singer. So she doesn’t even consider majoring in music. As far as she’s concerned — based on what she’s been told — she has no passion.

        Or Dan, who dreams about being a dad. No career interests him, but he really, really wants to have children. Or Amy, who longs for a boyfriend. She’s very passionate when she imagines being in a relationship, but she feels guilty because modern women are “supposed” to be independent.

        If you’re in this group then you’re not really lost. You just don’t fit well in generally-accepted categories. Well, then that’s your lot in life. If you love doodling, you can’t make yourself stop loving it and start loving banking instead. What you can do is work to arrange your life so that you can have as much doodle time as possible. You can stop confusing what-you’ll-get-paid-for with what-you’re-into.

        Some people are lucky enough to get paid for their passions. Many aren’t. It’s a fact of life, and it’s one you can cope with. I’m 30 years into an adulthood in which I can’t make money doing what I most love. I don’t even think about it any more. I have a great life. I have a day job that’s interesting and a night-and-weekend life that’s thrilling. I have a lovely wife too.

        Adrian Thomas suggests some ducks you should line up. He’s right. Do that. Then quit worrying about what you’re supposed to do. Your major? It’s not important no matter how many people tell you it is. Your passion? You have one or you don’t. Maybe you don’t have one now but you’ll have one later. It doesn’t matter. Just work to give yourself opportunities.

        One last piece of advice: how much have you traveled? How often have you ventured out of your comfort zone? Consider taking a year off and backpacking around the world. Do it with little or no money, paying for your room and board by working in restaurant kitchens or whatever. Let Planet Earth and its peoples and sights shock you into becoming a passionate person. Many young people can’t be passionate because they haven’t been exposed to enough sensations and experiences to be awakened into the possibilities of the world.

        Reply
  2. Arijit

    Agree to an extent. Not aware of the complete story in the above dialogues, but still I feel that is quite natural and inescapable.
    At 40 you carry more responsibilities on your shoulders than ever before, you see deaths of ones you had seen in 40’s as a kid, you are deep into settled life, experiments and desires that you always dreamt to do one fine day in future does not fit in the time you have then, above all you start feeling to get into the age biologically.
    Until you are mentally strong to accept the change as it comes, this feeling will come.

    2 cents!

    Reply
    1. Abhinav Post author

      “experiments and desires that you always dreamt to do one fine day in future does not fit in the time you have then” – I feel the answer in these lines!

      Reply
  3. Raunaq

    May be the phrase “LIFE IS NEVER PERFECT ” always holds true even if you pursue your passion , even if you are the richest , smartest , the most beautiful.
    There will be something missing , God has designed it that way.
    Well one thing more to be pointed out , all of them had one common thing missing “GOD”.
    i cannot relate the term GOD to each and every individual who feels this emptiness , but it can be a cause.

    Reply
    1. Abhinav Post author

      Agree, there is nothing called such as perfect life. But IMHO I don’t think its about the God element. Its about not doing what you want to do or being unable to do so is what leads you here.

      Reply

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