Eric Karjaluoto

Finding Your Life Purpose

Focus is easy in short spells, but harder to maintain as time passes. Anyone can get excited about a project, direction, or philosophy for a day, week, or month. When those months turn into years, though, one’s focus is put to a test, as your aspirations encounter friction, you start to waver.

I’m good at extreme focus for short periods, but ultimately vacillate. My hunch is that this behavior is common amongst those who are capable, but never “hit a home run.” So, the actor who wins an Oscar at 22 is less likely to falter from their path than the 45 year old novelist whose sales are modest. The former has to work hard to change course, whereas, the latter has no shortage of reasons to try something else—which will distract from his focus.

You might know what I’m talking about. There’s that nagging sense in your head that what you’re doing just isn’t quite right. Perhaps it’s in the kind of work you’re doing, the people you’re doing it for, or even the reason you’re doing it—you keep wondering if there’s something more. This wavering is amplified by stories of people who’ve made dramatic changes in their lives, only to have everything turn out perfectly. While it’s great they’ve found their way, I mostly see these stories as the work of journalists trying to weave compelling fictions.

One of my good friends works in theater and is also a strong illustrator. Last week, he noted that he really has to choose between the two. I laughed and said, “you already have.” He rarely talks about illustration, but is always working on a set, helping theater students, or attending festivals. He’s a capable illustrator, but it’s not his life the way theater is. Meanwhile, his subconscious actions have shown him the way, even if his rational mind hasn’t yet caught up.

Many are looking for something else, somewhere else, when they instead need to draw their gaze to their own habits. You might aspire to being a musician, but if you are more apt to pick up a pencil and sketch, you might want to rethink your course. Sure, other pursuits look attractive, but those illusions aren’t always accurate. Additionally, there’s little point in chasing something you weren’t built for. It’s the work you naturally gravitate to—warts and all—that you should probably be doing.

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