Opinion: Finding purpose

Carley Hull is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Carley Hull

Throughout our lives we are asked an important question: “What do you want to do?” The first time we were asked this question was possibly in the 1st grade when our teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up.

For a child this was simple question. That day, I wanted to be a mailman and a ballerina. This was an A+ answer at the time. A few years later in middle school, we were asked a similar question. This time the teacher tells us to pick our dream job. Mine at the time: an artist. This is acceptable, but not praised like the kids who picked teachers and policemen.

In high school, the question evolved to, “What are you going to do with your life?” This time it’s not just teachers who asked us, but parents, friends and family. My answer was that I wanted to write books, but I was told I needed to pick a real job and I say something like an engineer or a physical therapist. In truth, I hated math, and physical contact with strangers was basically my personal nightmare.

Because I was told my answer was unacceptable, I decided I didn’t know the answer; I told people what they wanted to hear. Fast-forward to my senior year of college and the same question persists. The answer now: I don’t know.

Being honest with oneself is not only troubling, but completely terrifying. The simple question of “What do I want to do?” is constantly in the back of my mind and as graduation approaches, I feel pressure to finally find an answer. In reality, I was trying to answer the wrong question all along.

Searching within yourself for an answer can be hard, but what it comes down to is finding your purpose. If you feel you don’t have one, like I did, finding a purpose is a start to solving the answer to that persistent question.

In the Tedx Talk by Adam Leipzig called “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes,” the movie producer, executive and distributor, as well as one of the founders of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, challenges his audience to answer this question.     

While thinking a complete stranger could give me advice seemed completely irrelevant to my problems, the talk really hit me. Not in a life changing way, but it got the gears turning.

In his talk Leipzig asks his audience five questions to help them learn their purpose:

1. Who are you?

2. What do you love to do (something you are qualified to teach others)?

3. Who do you do it for?

4. What do they want or need?

5. How do they change as a result?

For me and other college students, I think the first three questions are what matter. It is fairly easy to identify what you love to do if taken out of the confinements of a definitive career. But in truth, what you love to do can be shaped to fit that part of your life in some way. I know that I am Carley. I love to write and I do it for me. Unfortunately, I do not yet have an answer for four or five, but I’m working on it. I have the basis of my purpose and I have time to figure the rest out. I don’t need to answer that question. As for the rest of life, I can rest assured that it will fill in as I go. The rest of life should filter in from there if I stay true to what I want. So who are you, what do you love and whom do you do it for?