If you’re in the digital nomad space, you’ve likely questioned your life’s purpose at one point or another. You may have even been thinking about your purpose long before you took the plunge into the remote lifestyle. There are books, podcasts, and speeches that can help you figure out if you’re living an intentional and purposeful life. Some even promise to help you figure it out in five minutes or less.
Few people immediately recognize what it is they’re supposed to be doing. Some search their entire lives and in the process become massively successful all without answering the questions of “why?” Why do I do it? What am I really trying to accomplish?
In the end, it’s not about the success of achieving specific goals. It’s about finding a balance and living a life that serves you and that you feel good about. As many successful people can attest to, you see true balance when your life’s work and your passions align.
If you’re already making a decent living, in a place you enjoy, but you still feel unfulfilled, it might be because you haven’t dug deep enough into the purpose behind your day-to-day actions. When you haven’t pinpointed a specific “why,” it’s easy to lose sight of your goals. Instead focus on what it is you’re doing wrong and what you should be doing instead.
To stay focused and keep yourself grounded, start by asking yourself the big questions. Even if you don’t have an answer right away, keep asking yourself every day until you do.
The first question requires a bit of introspection and a fun journaling exercise. Close your eyes and imagine it’s ten years from now. You’re living your absolute best life. Every day is a dream, and you can’t believe your life is the way that it is.
What does that day look like?
Write down everything you’re doing from the minute you wake up until your day is over.
Now take the proverbial remote and fast forward your life as it currently exists. You’ve been continuing to live your life the way you live it now and focusing on the same tasks that you’ve been focusing on. With this current trajectory, will you achieve the perfect day you journaled about?
Time to dig a little bit deeper, and ask yourself “why?”
Why would a day like that be your best life? What makes it so great? Answering this question is usually not as easy as identifying what that day looks like because it forces you to dig deeper. Maybe it’s because the day involves total freedom and that’s what you seek. Your ideal day might include doing nothing but activities that you love, and that’s what makes the day perfect.
Do your day-to-day actions support where you see your ideal life in ten years? If the answer is no, then it’s time to ask yourself why. Then it’s time to figure out what changes you can make in your life now to ensure that in ten years, your life looks the way it does in your journal. Once you identify what you want it to look like, it’s one step closer to answer the question of “why?” What makes that day perfect for you?
This one exercise might have been enough. You now know what you need to do to get from point A of where you are now, to point B, which is your ideal life. Congratulations! That was easy, wasn’t it? On the flip side, you might be even more confused than ever about your purpose and your future.
So you’ve identified the ‘what’. You know what you want your life to look like. But you’re still unsure of the ‘why’. Another good thing to focus on when in search for the why, is the ‘how?’ How will you get from point A, your current life, to Point B, your ideal life?
When searching for the ‘why’ many people take a look at the Japanese concept of IKIGAI. IKIGAI, at its core, is designed to help you identify a lifestyle that balances spirituality with practicality. It emphasizes that balance is found at the intersection of your passions,talents, and what people will pay you for. IKIGAI forces you to ask yourself the following:
What’s something that brings you complete, unfiltered joy?
Think about one thing that you could talk about for hours. Remember back to a project that absolutely lit you up inside. Answering these questions, you might start to feel some existential frustration. From my own experience, the things I’m most passionate about and can talk about for hours are things that I would feel shallow and unfulfilled to do as my life’s work. The point of the exercise, at this stage, isn’t to immediately decide what your life’s work is. That will come later once you answer the rest of the questions and see where your answers overlap.
What are you good at?
This question is a two-parter. First, identify what it is that you think you are good at. Then think about the things that other people think you’re good at. If you don’t believe them, you may be dealing with imposter syndrome (a great read on this topic can be found here) . Receiving praise and compliments from other people about things that you do is the purest form of social proof, especially when the person giving you the feedback has no stake in your life or no reason to lie to you. Write down all of the things that come to mind as your talents.
What does the world need more of?
When I started my self-employment journey, I pitched every service under the sun. I assumed people needed everything, but that wasn’t the case. I began offering unique skills where I noticed companies had gaps and eventually noticed trends in what it was that people really needed.
Sure the world also needs more money and more philanthropists and people who care about the environment but be careful of forcing your “why” to meet things that you think people want to hear or what you think you need to be doing. It’s okay to stick to tangible and practical ideas for the sake of finding your own unique purpose and building a life where you’re providing people with a service that they need individually.
What can you be paid for?
People can get too focused on what they’re good at and how to capitalize on that they forget to ask themselves if it’s something they even enjoy. Being able to find the balance between things you love doing and things you’re good at is an excellent way to hone in on the big questions of what it is you can do to live a life of purpose.
WIthout even knowing it, you might be living to appease others, and never fully realizing what it is that makes you feel fulfilled in your career and your life in general. People work hard to satisfy their bosses, their families, their significant others…but don’t really know what to do to make themselves happy while still helping other people. Finding that balance is tricky.
If you had trouble answering any of these questions, don’t worry, but also don’t stop doing and learning new things until you do have answers. Read new books, take a course, talk to someone who does something completely different than what you do. The people who are able to confidently answer the questions of why it is that they do what they do have often gone through a lot of phases of self-development before getting to the place of balance that they’re in.
Also published on Medium.