Why 'Find Your Purpose' Was The Worst Advice I've Ever Followed

by Benjamin Ritter

Find and live your purpose was the worst advice I ever decided to follow.

I'm not exactly sure where I heard it, but I knew that it was supposed to make me happy, and it did, right up to the moment I failed. Dedicating my life completely for a specific purpose caused me to miss out on a large majority of opportunities, friendships and was responsible for one of the worst time periods of my life.

Over 10 years ago, I was curled up into a ball on a couch I purchased from craigslist, face streaked with dried tears, thinking my life was over. Everything I spent the majority of my life preparing for wasn't just slipping through my fingers, it was practically gone.

I failed, lost my purpose, and I was over 2,000 miles away from home with no idea what to do with myself. After multiple conversations with my family, I moved home, tail between my legs and tried to figure out life again.

Throughout countless nights of regret, resentment, frustration and so many other emotions, I eventually stopped feeling lost and re-discovered how to find happiness. It wasn't through a newfound purpose, it was through myself. It was by saying yes to experiences I thought would hinder me in the past, and valuing people, even if they didn't align with my goals.

Living a life for a specific purpose has the ability to make you extremely happy or disappointed. The factor that leads you down either fork in the road is a sense of progress or success.

Fail, and you'll find yourself like me 10 years ago. Succeed, and you'll feel like you're on top of the world. The odds are not in your favor, and research repeatedly indicates we are very bad predictors of what will make us happy, and what will happen in the future.

I think it's incredibly irresponsible for self-help gurus, career counselors and entrepreneurs to continually advocate this message of dedicating your life to a specific purpose. Not only is failure a possibility, personal example provided, but dedicating your life to a specific purpose can actually hinder your progress and success.

Every choice you have to make when you set a purpose or ultimate goal for your life is followed by the question, "Did I achieve my goal?" and, "If not, is this going to lead me toward my goal?" You confine yourself to the limitations of your plan.

This affects your decisions to be social, form certain relationships and avoid experiences. The path to align your life to your goals will only lead you toward the life you have decided you want if you succeed, and to nothing if you fail.

The key to finding and living a life of purpose, as in most situations, is moderation.

Just like in relationships, the more you invest in something the more it becomes your source of happiness, and influences the decisions you make in life. Happiness is an emotion that comes from the moments within your life, it doesn't care about the end goal or your ultimate purpose, it cares about right now.

Let's say your time on this earth is it, and nothing comes after. There is no bigger picture. Your purpose means absolutely nothing. It exists solely to create moments that make you happy. Now, let's say that there is something more, and life continues after your time on this planet is done.

Not only does your purpose become insignificant, but you also have eternity to accomplish anything you desire. In either case setting your life to revolve around a sole purpose or overarching goal is only important because it may create happiness along the way.

We've been using great advice in the wrong way. Your purpose is just another way to help you enjoy the moments of life, not limit them. Be very careful when limiting yourself and restricting the possibilities of what can make you happy. Cherish the moments you have, instead of struggling along a path you think you need to achieve.

Love what you do, at the moment you're doing it, not because of where it may take you, but for the experiences it's giving you right now. Your purpose only matters in the moment, in the bigger picture, no matter if this is it or there's more afterward, nothing else truly matters other than you being happy.