I want to make the world a better place. Who doesn’t? However, I’m a little stuck on how to end all wars and save the environment and get the giant pandas to mate.* Of course, being overwhelmed like that might mean I’m thinking too big. After all, the world is made up of lots of little things, so maybe I can start there.
You know that story about the little boy throwing starfish into the ocean? He’s walking along a beach littered with starfish, and he’s tossing them back in so they don’t dry out and die. Someone comes along and asks the boy how he can possibly make a difference if there are thousands of washed-up starfish. Then the little boy throws a starfish into the ocean and says “it made a difference to that one.”
Maybe that’s a clue as to where to start. I want a career I can be proud of, but rather than putting my efforts towards saving the world, maybe I can improve life for just one person or one small group.
I invite you to focus on what has made a big difference in your life and think of how you can pay it forward. For me, I have always been shaped by books. My lifelong love of reading has led me to improve my language skills, stimulate my imagination, think critically, and imagine what it’s like to be another person.** My favourite skill of mine just happens to be writing. So, maybe I’ll write books.
Now, I’m not going to to kid you. It’s always been in my plan for me to write books. I’ve been writing since forever, and I have spammed many a publishing company, begging to let my scribbles grace their slush pile. However, my focus there has always been on myself. I love writing and I want to be a published author. Me, me, me. Not that that’s unjustified – after all, the best career is one where the person is following their passion. However, I always felt kind of guilty about it. Shouldn’t I be delivering water bottles around rural Africa or something? And then, I felt even worse about being completely honest with myself – I don’t want to be what’s considered “a good person?” I admit, I don’t want to go around the Third World delivering medicine, and I don’t want to join the UN’s peacekeeping forces, and I don’t want to do… well, anything like that.
Isn’t there some sort of syncretic answer, where I can be a good person and help people, but I can still do what I want and what I’m best at? Sure, why not?
I can write stories that make people think. I can make people care about one another, or at least understand one another better. I can lift someone’s spirits by writing something funny, or offer someone solace by depicting tragedy in an honest and unglamorized way. I mean, it takes an awful lot of work to get THAT good at writing, but at least this is a challenge I’m up to.
By all means, live responsibly and considerately. Be a good global citizen, regardless of your career. What I’m saying is, your career doesn’t have to be a choice between “helping people” and “doing what you want.” Find out how to do what you want and use that to help people. Maybe that’s the secret to figuring out your Life Mission. You have to follow where your instincts are pointing you and figure out how to use that special skill for the betterment of the world. You can help save the world without “saving the world.” Now, if only someone can get those pandas to mate.
*One or more of these issues can be solved by Barry White music.
**In other words, I have learned how to see both sides of an argument and how to be more compassionate.