Recently I’ve been thinking about methods for identifying your life’s purpose, and I keep returning to the simplest method. Just ask yourself, what would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money anymore?
I’m going to borrow a paragraph from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, from an article titled Living Twice. Below, Goldberg describes the seemingly backwards priorities that writers have regarding their creative process:
You’re more interested in living life again in your writing than in making money. Now, let’s understand–writers do like money; artists, contrary to popular belief, do like to eat. It’s only that money isn’t the driving force. I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck and no time to work at my real work. Think of it. Employers pay salaries for time. That is the basic commodity that human beings have that is valuable. We exchange our time in life for money. Writers stay with the first step–their time–and feel it is valuable even before they get money for it. They hold on to it and aren’t so eager to sell it. It’s like inheriting land from your family. It’s always been in your family: they have always owned it. Someone comes along and wants to buy it. Writers, if they are smart, won’t sell too much of it. They know once it’s sold, they might be able to buy a second car, but there will be no place they can go to sit still, no place to dream on.
The entire article spoke to me, but the line that resonates to the core of my being is “I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck.” When I read that, my mind clicks in agreement — Yes, that’s the story of my life. Exactly!
I’ve had a lot of different jobs. None of them have been awful, but they haven’t been wonderful either. For me, work has always been a love-hate relationship: I love appearing outwardly normal and successful, and it’s great having money to spend on food, bills, and hobbies — but I HATE wasting so much of my time doing things I’m not interested in!
It’s a cycle: I’ll spend a few years working, and I’ll save up some money. Then the moment I’ve got enough money stockpiled to hold me for a while… I run like mad!!
Right now, the notion of retirement is a foreign concept to me. I think that Brian Johnson’s Think Arete Manifesto describes it best: “Work our asses off doing something we’re not passionate about so we can accumulate enough money to pay the bills from our stress-caused illnesses while we bitch about what we should have done when we were still young.”
I’ve sprinkled my life with several, short-lived “mini-retirements” where I do what I want, when I want, while I’m still young. Maybe these temporary retreats that I’m taking are only a year or two, and maybe people look at me like I’m a worthless lazy bum. The thing is, spending my time doing things that are important to me is THE MOST important thing to me. More important than money, at least until it runs out.
My biggest fear is a life wasted. Consequently, I’m constantly thinking about whether or not the things I’m spending my time on are worthwhile. If three years on the job has turned my workday into a game where I see how much of the day I can spend doing nothing, then it’s clearly time for me to move on to something else.
For me, and I suppose for many writers, time spent writing is more important than money. When you take away my time to create, even if it’s in exchange for a decent job that pays well, it’s painful for me. I see it as so much time lost.
So if you’re wondering what to do with your life, just think about how you’d most like to be spending your time. What would you do if you were naturally wealthy? What would you do even if you didn’t get paid to do it? What is more important to you than money?
Whatever it is that’s most important to you is your passion in life — and your PASSION in life is what you SHOULD BE DOING with your life. Now go do it.
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