Finding Your Purpose

The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorus, Joseph Wright of Derby, 1795

The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorus, Joseph Wright of Derby, 1795

I read Hunter S. Thompson's Letter on finding purpose and living a meaningful life.

The biggest takeaway was his idea of not letting our goals define us, and to not even look for goals at all.

We see other successful people with their "perfect" lives and we make that our goal. We put our faith in these tangible goals, striving to be doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, business owners.

He calls it a tragedy of life that we seek to understand the goal and not the man (ourselves).

We set these goals that demands us of certain things, but it is unwise.

We are always changing. In every reaction to every diverse experience, we learn something new about ourselves; they alter our perspective and we become a different person. Is it not foolish to mould our lives to fit the contours of these goals if we're constantly changing every day?

The answer is to not deal with (tangible) goals at all.

We do not strive to be bankers nor doctors, we strive to be ourselves.

Rather than making the individual conform to the goal, we make the goal conform to the individual.

He gives a formula:

a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES.

In doing so, he:

  • fulfills a need (creates identity)
  • avoids frustrating his potential (no ceiling on his growth)
  • avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (his goal conforms to his abilities and desires, rather than bending himself to meet the demands of what he seeks)

Rather than dedicating his life to a pre-defined goal, he has chose a way of life he knows he will enjoy.

The goal is secondary, it is the functioning toward the goal that is important.

This path must be your own.

a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life--- the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual

He warns us to not look for goals, but look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and see what you can do to make a living within that way of life.

And finally leaves us with a reminder that our lives can still change.

no one HAS to do something he doesn't want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that's what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You'll have lots of company