So a couple days ago a friend of mine named Nicole posted a really interesting, loving, well crafted and well thought out comment. And ever since then I have wanted to respond to that comment.

But….it took me a while because, well, the comment kind of blew my mind.

There was so much good stuff in there that it took me a while to a) take it all in and then b) really dive into it and think about it and meditate on it and then c) come up with some ideas as to how to respond to it.

And the first thing that really jumped out at me was this:

Some people find a simple strength in going to a certain place for a few hours a day, yes, as a means of paying the bills, but they find their identity and purpose not completely tied up in those few hours a day.

It had struck me early on in the process that I didn’t ever HAVE to quit the job I have now. For several reasons. First of all, it’s a pretty good job. A government job. Decent pay. Decent benefits. Most of the year it’s great hours. (Basically I am paid by the day. So when my work is done I go home. Some days that’s awesome. Some days it’s not. But all last week I worked, at most, 6 hours each day. Hard to argue with that.)

This is a job that provides me and my family a pretty decent life and that isn’t backbreaking. It isn’t mentally or physically exhausting. It allows me to have a life outside of work. Plenty of time for things I love like hiking and writing. It might be a bit crazy to leave a job like that simply because it isn’t my passion. It isn’t my purpose in life.

There’s no reason that this process has to be about replacing the job I have now. It could be about complimenting what I do at work with things to do outside of work that provide me with what I am looking for in terms of purpose. Passion. Direction. Fulfillment. Those things don’t HAVE to come from work.

But do I want them to?

Nicole goes on to say:

I don’t believe that our sole purpose in life is always tied to an income.

Certainly I agree with this as well. Today I was ruminating on food. How it seems at times like my whole life is about buying, preparing or eating food. No sooner have I finished a meal than I am thinking about what I am going to eat for my next one.

Why is that?

Well, I think it is a basic human goal. We think about food at the most fundamental level. We have to eat to survive.

Our ancestors would have been obsessed with making sure they had enough food so as not to die. Now we, in the western world, have more than enough. (Despite complaining about prices almost all the time.) I am blessed to have access to food without worry. But that hard wiring still exists.

Food. Shelter. Survival. Water. Safety. We think about them all the time. I personally obsess about owning a home.

In order to gain these things I need to work. I need to have an income. I think that’s where this idea of purpose comes from for me anyway. The purpose of my life would be simply to not die had I been born somewhere else or at a different time. Now that I am fairly confident I can/will survive my mind is free to think about other things. Other important aspects of life.

The scenario exists where I have time to think about more lofty ideas. There’s food in my fridge and my rent is paid for this month. I am done work for the day. There’s money in the bank. Now what?

Do I need more?

Do I need fulfillment?

Do I need passions?

Is surviving enough?

The answer then become obvious. No. It’s not enough. There needs to be more.

But as Nicole points out those extra things don’t have to come from a job.

It would be an equation that looks roughly like: I work so I have money so I have food, water and shelter AND THEN I find my passions, fulfillment and purpose outside of work.

Is that an equation that would work for me?

I don’t have an answer just yet. Despite thinking about it a lot the last 36 hours or so. (It was probably too much to ask to figure it all out in less than 2 days anyway!)

Nicole suggests:

So, I encourage you to be very specific about your goals with this blog and this time in your life. Are you trying to find the essence of what makes you Mike? your foundations, core beliefs, deal breakers, whatever? Or are you trying to find a job or a career path that you will enjoy? These can and will be related , but I don’t think they are mutually exclusive or inclusive.

This is VERY good advice. And a more concrete plan should emerge from this advice. It’s not just about figuring out what my purpose is and then doing it. It’s more complex than that. It’s about figuring out a balance.

Life. Work. Family. Love. Passion. Purpose. Hopes. Dreams. Fulfillment.

How do I balance them all? What shape do they take? How do I combine them all in a way that works for me, my partner and our life together?

Maybe going to work for a few hours so I can come home and enjoy family and a home is my purpose. Maybe my passions can be things I do after work like taking out future children for hikes and camping trips. Kayaking. Volunteering.

It’s something to think about.

My mind was blown and now I have to figure out how I want to put it back together.

As a rough guideline the original goal of this blog was to find my purpose so I could do it as a job and find fulfillment. That was too narrow.

I think the more that I think about it, and thanks to Nicole’s comment, the goal has changed and become more broad. It’s not just about finding out who I am in those terms.

It’s about finding my purpose(s) AND figuring out how and when to apply them to my life to find the greatest balance for me and my family.

Nicole finished with this:

And another phrase that I cling to (and have shared with you before): you can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving. So congratulations on jumping in to explore life and all it has to offer for you and your family.

Beautiful encouragement and a really positive end to a great comment. Thank you Nicole. You’ve really helped to shape this journey of mine in a really meaningful way.