My boss once called me into his office on a Friday afternoon. I entered the office and sat down.
The Boss Man said, “Seneca, we’ve had numerous conversations about your numbers, and frankly, I’m not seeing the improvement we’ve talked about. I really thought this performance improvement plan I put you on would turn things around, but it hasn’t. We’re going to have to let you go.”
I hated this job. I mean, really hated it.
My body hurt. I was becoming physically ill from this shit job.
Being let go felt like I won a million bucks.
My boss escorted me out of the building and shook my hand. “Thanks for the opportunity,” I said.
I couldn’t contain my excitement. I wanted nothing more than to leave that circle of hell.
But when the adrenaline dies down and the excitement fades, what happens next?
Well, you might jump off right into another job if you know what you want to do.
But something else might happen, too.
You might enter the void: the void of not knowing your next mission.
Having a mission and finding meaning in work is vital to every man’s sense of self.
Your scenario might be different. Perhaps you were laid off or fired by surprise. Or maybe your girlfriend decides she doesn’t like you anymore and leaves you.
Shit happens. How do you make sense of it all?
Before picking up that bottle of Jack and washing away your sorrows, I suggest a different approach (Jack is always good, though).
Here are 5 ideas for finding meaning and purpose when you are lost. I’ve used these during the most difficult times in my life. They’ve helped me, and I know they’ll help you, too.
1. Finding Meaning Through Self-Ownership
When you find yourself hitting rock bottom, you’ll probably ask yourself the following questions:
-Why is this happening to me?
-What did I do to deserve this?
The answer is this: it’s all your damn fault. All of it.
It’s probably not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. The first step in finding meaning in life is to take ownership over it.
Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. – Viktor E. Frankl
No one is coming to save you. It’s on us — The good, the bad, and the ugly.
If you haven’t done it yet, look yourself in the mirror and repeat the following: “I’m responsible for every aspect of my life. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
2. Embrace The Void
In David Deida’s The Way Of The Superior Man — one of my favorite books ever — Deida talks about purpose and meaning as being a series of concentric circles with a core in the middle. Each circle is a layer of purpose, with your deepest purpose being the core in the middle.
Deida says, “A man must be prepared to give 100% to his purpose, fulfill his karma or dissolve it, and then let go of that specific form of living. He must be capable of not knowing what to do with his life, entering a period of unknowingness and waiting for a vision or a new form of purpose to emerge.”
The vision will come to you, your job is to get the hell out of the way. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to get lost. Get to the woods. Take a trip. Go someplace you’ve never been. The fewer people, the better.
When I was lost, I decided to go to upstate New York and stay at a friend’s farm. I drank beer in the woods, I wrote, I cleared my mind. I came back with a vision.
If beer and wild adventures in the woods aren’t your thing, try the other suggestions at 50waystogetajob.com (I recommend starting with the “finding my purpose” tab).
3. Create Your Own Hero’s Journey
I believe that stories have the power to change the world: starting with the stories we tell ourselves.
Author Wayne Dyer has a quote I love that says, “When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.”
You can change your life by reframing the meaning you give it.
One way to do this is to create your own “Hero’s Journey.” The Hero’s Journey was created by mythologist Joseph Campbell. It describes a pattern that almost every myth or story takes. It looks like this:
The first and hardest step of the journey is “The Call To Adventure.”
This is that little voice in your head telling you what to do next. Listen to it, then get started on it.
Reframe your struggle. Become your own Hero.
4.Listen To Your Gut
In Arnold’s Six Rules, Arnold says “Trust your gut.” What do you feel in your soul to be right for you?
Pay attention to the things that are emotionally stimulating to you. For example, I used to get really excited about discussing and thinking about libertarian ideas, so I went to D.C. to work for a libertarian think-tank. It was a great experience and I learned a ton. In other words, following my gut served me well.
Steve Jobs was a fan of this philosophy as well.
You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs
5. Look To Sankofa
Sankofa is a Ghanian symbol meaning “Go back and get it,” or “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” It reminds us to look back and understand where we came from to understand our future.
What does your story mean? What is your Sankofa? Look back on your experience and reflect on what you’ve learned. These are the concentric bands of purpose that have fallen off, leading you to a deeper purpose.
Finding Meaning And Taking Massive Action
Finding meaning and purpose when you feel lost is difficult: it requires deep reflection, self-care, and sense of faith that the path you are about to embark on is the right one. It’s a scary process.
You might realize things like:
I need to get up and move to a completely different city.
I need to end certain relationships with people.
I need a completely new career path.
Once the answers reveal themselves, that’s the time to take massive action.
Your Hero’s Journey is waiting. Go kill it.
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