The Purpose of YOU

Crews Varner
April 10, 2023

Happy Monday everyone! I plan to get a blog post out every Monday so that the people that enjoy my ramblings have something to look forward to every dreaded Monday. Although, Monday definitely gets too much hate, but that’s a discussion for another time. For those of you just joining me, welcome to Design Dose! Glad you could make it.

This week we’re asking ourselves one of the most daunting and enigmatic questions, especially for young adults like myself. What am I doing here? It almost feels like everyone has their way of answering this question except for us. Everyone has something that they’re good at, something they’re passionate about, or some direction in life they’re headed down. Why don’t you? What are you doing with your life?

These are questions I’ve relentlessly asked myself and have been the root cause of spiraling, depressive thoughts. Before you fall into that same line of thinking, I want to reassure you; You are here for a reason, and we’re counting on you. The reason we may not feel like this is true at times is that the value we bring to the world is often invisible. We can’t see it, so it must not exist. To see the full value of your deeds, it takes an outside perspective. We’ll never understand how much we impact people because we can’t read their minds, but practicing empathy towards ourselves helps us see ourselves through the lenses of others. The value you create for others is probably greater than you think it is.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin discussing finding tangible results in our quest for purpose. We’ll talk about this within the context of creatives, but it’s still a great starting point for anyone trying to understand themselves a bit better. Probably.

Finding your purpose for many is a long-lasting war of trial and error. Before you can even begin to pursue your desires and thus your purpose, you first must find what you enjoy doing. I recently discovered that I had a misconception about this process. At one point, I wanted to become a grandmaster at chess. I watched professional matches and absolutely loved watching the strategy involved and how fast each player was because they’d already played out hundreds of different moves in their head, so they always knew what to do next. Feeling the adrenaline of motivation to one day become amazing at chess, I began learning and playing daily to improve. I quickly realized something: this sucks. I hate chess. Why do people play this? Having to keep track of so many different possibilities on the board at once was excruciatingly exhausting. When it comes to finding your place in the world, make sure you’re happy with the process, not the result. My issue was that I was too focused on becoming great at chess, I didn’t stop myself to consider that I didn’t enjoy playing chess at all.

This applies to artists and designers at almost every turn. In our fields, we see the work that others create and think to ourselves “I wish I could create that”. We easily get caught up in the result and we don’t think about the process of actually getting there. When you’re scratching your head, thinking about your purpose on this planet, don’t let envy and status distract you from what’s important, actually doing. If you’re going to dedicate your life to a craft, you need to love the process, even if the work you create isn’t that good.

If you create amazing work but hate the process, you will eventually get burnt out and quit. However, if you love the process but create poor work, you will stick with it and eventually create beautiful work while still enjoying what you do.

Now we’re starting to understand what to look for in our purpose. It’s easy to assume that you need to be naturally good at what you were made to do right out of the gate. Not necessarily, in fact, that’s rarely true for anyone famous in their field. People following their passion often are terrible at it for a while starting out, maybe even for years. However, because they loved the action itself, they kept with it even when they were told by others that their work was no good. We don’t see the decades of hard work artists put in to make a name for themselves in any industry, but like we talked about before, just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I want to touch on a particularly frustrating aspect of purpose-finding that creates an especially-large stumbling block for creatives. Let’s say you’re working on a digital painting and after putting on the finishing touches, someone comes along and offers criticism towards one part of the painting. No worries, we can just head over to that layer and make any necessary changes. An easy fix that can be made along the way. Now, let’s say you’re working on a physical painting with actual paint and paintbrushes. After putting the finishing touches on, someone again comes along and offers criticism of the piece. You can’t simply Ctrl + Z a physical painting (until that technology is invented one day). Once that painting is complete, there’s not as much you can do to adjust it. You’ll just have to start over and learn for next time. This is how purpose-finding works. When we’re trying something new, seeing if it's the right fit for us, and we realize we’re just not enjoying the process, we have to start back at square one. Move on to the next thing. This is a genuinely discouraging process for many because starting over and resetting your progress is disheartening. You spent all that time learning something new and after quitting it feels like a total waste. But was it?

Recently, I tried learning Korean because I wanted to try learning a language that didn’t involve Latin characters like I’m used to with English. I gave it a solid try but eventually quit. I may go back to learning it one day, who knows, but I didn’t enjoy the act of learning a language. There was obviously tons of vocabulary to memorize, grammar practices to learn, and pronunciations to butcher endlessly. I would eventually be a more well-rounded human if I committed to learning a new language, which is why I might pick it up again, but if I don’t enjoy it and I don’t need this skill, what am I in it for? The attempt was far from a waste of time, though. Because of my genuine attempt to learn Korean, I now better understand basic Korean signage and grammar, and I know that if I went to another language and tried to learn that, there’s a high chance I probably won’t enjoy it either. The reason I disliked learning Korean wasn’t specifically because of the language, but aspects that apply to learning any language. This was a huge step towards narrowing down what I want to do with my life and the person I want to become. Not a waste of time at all!

Here’s what I’m not saying; try something new for 2 weeks and quit if you don’t enjoy it immediately. Especially in our modern world where our dopamine receptors are fried and our patience grows shorter by the day, finding your purpose is going to take well-deserved time and dedication. When trying something new, give it an honest and long attempt. Learn the ins and outs of this thing. How does it make you feel? Do you feel like you are contributing to yourself and others in a meaningful way by doing this? How is this going to challenge you as a person? Are you loving the process even if your result isn’t good yet?

If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. No harm done, no one even noticed that you tried it, so no embarrassment there. Because you were willing to try something new, and more importantly fail at it, you learned more about yourself and where you see yourself in this huge world. Find what brings a smile to your face, what you’re passionate about, and chase after it relentlessly.