BY Laura Kenny

If you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, you might need to think outside of your Professional Identity to get some answers.

It should come as a shock to exactly none of us that most people struggle, at one point or continuously, with the question of whether there’s any point to your life. If you’re not Beyoncé or Steven Hawking, it will come to your attention that the ripple effect of your actions can be oppressively small in scope. This is completely normal and instead of talking about it, we tend to re-watch “vines to keep me from ending it all.”

Growing up in a capitalist society, we each are told the myth, whispered even, through the lips of underpaid parents: ‘you can be whatever you want to be.’ The freedom to choose what you are, can, in fact, cause a very real choice-paralysis. This is not because you don’t want any of them, but because in reality to be ‘successful’, you must choose only one thing. This hits home during our education in this very normal interaction:

Them: “What DO YOU DO”

You: *nervous sweats*

Long gone are the days of understanding exactly what the things are that make us valuable. The cleanliness of approval we seek and receive as children has died off, the gold-star metrics of youth have faded and been replaced by a homeless cat who occasionally loves you and mostly confuses you.

Being time-poor, poor and relatively powerless in a world in which the Boomers own everything, you have to identify yourself precisely and proactively on scales of gender, sexuality, politics and race, and avocados keep getting more expensive, one might be forced to consider the question: Well what the f**k is all of this for?

This question can tear up your perfectly good 10pm bedtime with ruthless anxious questions that make you reconsider not going to church. The societal expectation is that by University-age we ought to each have a path we are set upon and to be acerbic in our handling of the other sources of meaning our lives.

Truth is, there are the lucky few who are somehow actualising their dreams of being the girl who cures cancer. What a delight for them, but it can throw your rainbow mess of a life into rather harsh perspective.

Plato and Aristotle would both say these people are representing the idea of ‘essentialism.’ They feel that they have core properties or an ‘essence’ of who are they and that being a good person is to live true to that essence or purpose. Having an essence of what you are born in to you is great if you feel you have always been destined to be a doctor and now you’re studying medicine, but if you feel you were destined to be an obscure poet or a famous musician, you’re probably crying reading this sentence.

Sadly, this view that we each have a purpose to fulfil is not the feeling most people have. Many of us feel like we could be many things, or that we’re generalists – not particularly disposed to one type of work. In practice this feels a lot like playing spin the bottle with the actual purpose of your life, and we can safely assume that if you were feeling life was a little meaningless before this, you’re now lying in the recovery position whimpering.

The way we understand our own lives to be meaningful can have, alarmingly, very little to do with what other people think makes life meaningful.

If you are looking for a sign from above (or in front as the case may be), consider this it. What metrics are you using to measure the success of your life? Where did you get them from? The data we choose to gather is the basis of our opinion of ourselves and feeling of purpose – so be discerning.

Here’s some other metrics you might not be using to measure your life that you can choose to pay attention to:

How much do you help others and how well do you listen?

How hard to do you try to live sustainably and be good to the earth we’re all killing?

How often do you change the colour of someone’s day?

How much time do you give to the people that matter most to you?

How discerning are you in your decision-making?

How happy are you day to day?

How many chicken nuggests can you smash before a 100kg deadlift?

How much do you make others laugh or see things in a new way?

You are not just one thing, so don’t measure yourself on one scale.

You Might Be Interested In...

Lonely Not Alone

I Am Busy (Therefore I Matter)

Fast Forward