There are 10,000 tools out there to help you discover your life purpose, and more coming into your inboxes every day. I didn’t want to offer you another one. Even if by some miracle I could create a new and unique Life Purpose Discovery™ tool—and I bet most life coaches could do it in their sleep—that would just make 10,001 tools.
And here is the thing: I have developed a real aversion to tools. Well, for the most part. I still love my trusty kitchen timer. I am crazy about my Akerworks swatch gauge. And one day they will be prying my heavily customized Bullet Journal from my gnarly hands. (Editors’ note: thanks for the product placement, Max!)
But mostly—and maybe this means that the Day I No Longer Need My BuJo is nigh—I have gotten more and more interested in simplicity. Does this tool or technique promise to make me a better sweater? Well, I am in! Hit me with your tool ASAP.
KonMari for the Soul
What I no longer want are tools or techniques that promise to make me a better person. And I really don’t want to pass those on to you, either. Instead, I have begun scanning the horizon for reasons to empty my toolbox.
And boy am I finding them. Do I need 14 accounts on different social media platforms just to keep in touch with the people? No? Okay, bye Facebook.
Do I need six accountability mechanisms to write one newsletter every week? Or could I make do with one writing partner and that same kitchen timer? Well, make it so!
Must I meditate, practice yoga, do morning pages and write gratitudes every day to calm my spirit? Or could I simply be a witness to the emotional weather passing through, which takes—according to science—all of about 90 seconds? Yes? Yes.
You could say I’ve been on a KonMari mission of the soul. I’m cheerfully tossing out 98% of self-improvement tools and techniques and along the way I seem to have ejected the idea of self-improvement altogether. For example: NOTHING BAD HAPPENED WHEN I STOPPED MEDITATING.
The day after I stopped meditating, I was kind of the same. The next day, and the day after that, too. I didn’t turn into a horrible person. I didn’t turn to drink—nothing that extended past Negroni Week, anyway. I didn’t lose my way at all.
And so it is with “life purpose,” the Self-Improved Person’s co-pilot. When I saw that those tools and practices that are meant to reveal my soul’s big plan— the spiritual retreats, the guided meditations, oh the endless books and workbooks—failed to spark joy, I became suspicious about the idea of life purpose itself. Was there anything real to lose? Was life purpose actually a thing? Or was it … more of a notion, albeit one that has spawned a big spiritual industry?
The Purpose-Ridden Life
Back when religious observance was compulsory, and the choice of religion more limited, the question of life purpose must have been largely settled for us from the jump. If your life’s purpose looked like sitting on a gilded throne and leading a feudal nation-state, OK, divine law. If it looked like your lot in life was to toil in the fields, well, many would say it was God’s will.
This is all less cut and dry now. There are more religions and perhaps less religion. There is more social mobility—not always upward, of course. There is career counseling, and there is working from home, and there are side hustles, and there is the gig economy, and none of these is the same as a life purpose. (Puritans may disagree.)
Anyway, without all the “spiritual” practices, I seem to have KonMari’ed my life down to 1. activities that sustain my physical situation, like paying bills, doing laundry, and dusting if someone’s coming over, and 2. activities that have no purpose other than pleasure, like watching Russian Doll a second time (Netflix; recommended), playing with the fam, and organizing my nail polish by color, and 3. activities that—praise hands!—cover both bases, like writing.
KonMari says, “Don’t worry about regrets! Just know you’ll have them, haha!” (Not an exact quote.) But I am noticing that I have no regrets in this category. I cannot say I feel the lack of life purpose as something missing. I only feel more spaciousness, just like Marie Kondo would want me to.
So now that you know how non-religious and non-spiritual I am, you may take this self-care idea I offer with a grain of salt:
What if there is no pre-defined life purpose? What if you don’t need to spend your precious life searching for one, because there isn’t one to discover?
The idea that there’s something very, very specific that we need to accomplish in our time here, that others are depending on us to figure it out and then perform it—the world needs your gifts! the gifts that only you can bring! —gosh, how very stressful. And I just can’t bring myself to believe that stress is the purpose of our life here.
I like this idea better: No one, no person or nation-state, actually needs you to do anything. Really, any self-care guru who gets up by noon can tell you that there are a million ways to meet every need humans come up with.
So how might life be if your only “job” here on earth is simply to show up and participate, just as you desire?
In order to consider that, I think you have to trust that you’re already good.
And as your resident self-care expert, I can tell you for sure that you are.
Good in every way.