Humans are creatures of need and necessity. We are a hodgepodge of desires that are sometimes even at odds with our aspirations. We are essentially covetous beings. We want so much we continually vacillate along the borderline between the satisfaction of a job well done, and the hunger of a new challenge. Whether it is knowledge or material acquisitions or job-fulfilment, we never seem to have enough. That is a good thing though.
It all started with our body’s immutable need for victuals. From the moment of birth we have immediately longed for “more”. A newborn may not realize he needs to feed for the first few minutes of life, but that dramatically changes as soon as a nipple slips into his mouth. He realizes how sweet milk can be (or sour?) and cannot have enough. No wonder babies look so serene and blissful. Because newborns only do two things in that life phase; suckling and sleeping. But life grows on humans. Eventually, we grow up and that hungry desire to achieve and acquire more grows with us, commensurate with other personality traits.
This is when the dilemma begins. From a young age, society unobtrusively begins asking those questions that have been slowly congealing in our brains. It is a seed planted without even the knowledge or permission of the landowner. And the ‘farmland’ is a fertile tilth for ideas to germinate. The brain is a curious organ, more so in a growing human. It thrives on information, with an unending quest to know more, and then some more. It is a quest of a lifetime, as an answer only leads to another question.
We grow up to see doctors, judges and astronauts. We see superstars and famous politicians on television and the internet. It is everywhere. People who have seemingly made it to the top of their careers. People who have figured out a path for themselves and conquered barriers on the way. They look oh so resplendent in their professional garbs. Engineers on the highways we traverse with their helmets on; airplane pilots strutting confidently into their cockpits, ready to defy even natural laws. We see a being that is confident enough to show the world what his passion is. We cannot help but be amazed. “What the mind can conceive, the man can achieve” is the slogan.
Inevitably, the questions crystallize and assume prominence. The process begins with education, that momentous institution that ultimately shapes the direction of our life till death. Our parents surely want the best for us right? They ask: “Junior, what do you want to be in life? “. You scratch your head and look from one parent’s expectant face to the other. Everybody seems to have figured out what life has in mind for them, why can’t I? Suddenly an image or two floats into your consciousness and your face lights up. “Mama, I will like to be an engineer.”
Years later, the kid is an adult now. And slowly he begins to realize that life’s path is not so clear-cut. Some people are extremely lucky. They “just know” what it is they are meant to do in life. And they are blessedly rewarded for touring their path. The rest of us are not so lucky, in fact I suspect we lie in the majority. Our desires are oft-changing, not because we do not have focus, but because we generally want so many things (more) out of life. And this can be confusing.
The road is not smooth, and the future is not always clear. For many, this is the ultimate riddle; finding their life’s purpose. How sure am I that this career is the right one for me? Do I really need to work on this project? What if this ends in failure? We are never completely sure of the outcome of any decision. As we are beset with so much self-doubt and second-guessing, it becomes paralyzing for many. Indecision and procrastination then sets in, and the fulfilment we seek from life never come.
As foggy as the future may seem though, our guiding beacons in these situations should be a recognition of our innate yearnings. A dash of faith or instinct is needed to rely upon. In Steve Jobs’ words; “you just have to believe that the dots will connect down the line”. Only this can provide the fuel needed to continually motivate us along that path, because we are ultimately creations of desire.
If you sit down and wait for life to show you what you are “supposed” to do, you may get lucky and that inspiration may come someday. But it is more likely it may never come. Inspirations are a rarity in waiting, they tend to show up only when we commit to our desires and work towards it. The key here is in “finding” your inspiration, not “waiting” for it. Some find their life’s inspiration at the first dream they commit to, others find it while moving from one to another. They discover their purpose in life by committing to their life aspirations, hoping to find it in whatever they do, not by a sudden stroke of inspiration.