7 Things I Learnt From Asking People What Their Purpose In Life Was

The purpose of  my life is to write stories that will make other people happy. Asking other people about their purpose is a completely different story, though. / Photo by Lukáš Šaněk at Visual Simphony.

Almost a month ago me and my boyfriend decided to do a challenge. In fact, I started my own challenge with one simple thought: I wanted to get comfortable with talking to strangers.

But then he decided to go for a 12-day walk from Prague (which later changed to Brno) to Dolné Orešany, a nice little village in Slovakia which happens to be his hometown. To add some value to his journey, he thought it might be interesting to ask people what they do and why they do it–what is the purpose of their lives.

I started my challenge mainly to lose the fear of talking to strangers. It might seem like a simple task, but talking to strangers can be difficult enough without even asking any personal questions. That little twist that my boyfriend brought in created some astonishing results and experience for both of us.

My boyfriend’s reason to do the challenge was different: he went tramping to discover what bothers people in their little own worlds and what purpose in life they have. He also wanted to reassure himself that he’s living the purpose of his life. In the end, he found out he did. And he learn even more than that: he found an answer to a question he never asked aloud, because he was too afraid to ask it in the first place. This challenge gave him personal freedom and peace of mind, and I could not be happier for him.

Needless to say, this challenge was a blast. Not only I’ve learnt a lot about myself, but I learnt a lot about people around me too. To be completely honest, though, some people I asked were not real strangers, but people I’ve known for some time, but never showed my interest in them. Once or twice I completely forgot about the challenge, so I added up two days, when suddenly asking the question started feeling natural. Now I ask this question whenever I have the chance.

One last thing: it is very important to ask people about their purpose, but also to share what your purpose is. The question really makes sense only when it turns into an interaction. Sharing is key. Thanks again to my boyfriend for teaching me that.

These are the seven things I learnt from the challenge.

  1. We’re often very self-centered. When you stop and think, what is the last time you talked to someone and asked them what they cared about at this moment? It’s so essential, yet so difficult, because we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves rather than other people. We just ramble about our difficulties and don’t let others talk (count me in). Shouldn’t we try better?
  2. Questioning people about their purpose makes them think deeply about their lives. It certainly does. Some people I asked gave a second thought about what they were doing–and realized they did it all wrong. My questions motivated them make changes in their lives, in their relationships, and in their careers. My cousin is an awesome example: he started thinking more about leaving Slovakia, moving somewhere else and finding a new job. He even wants to visit his father whom he hasn’t seen for a few years. He’s not done it yet, but he’s on his way. Isn’t that wonderful? It certainly is, high-five!
  3. Many people don’t know what their purpose is at all. Those people are usually frustrated, but not knowing your purpose is really not the end of the world. I have already found mine (next blog post, I promise) and I know it’s all about find something you’re very passionate about, something that fills you with joy. That’s all. Take your time to find it, the journey is worth every step.
  4. Asking people about their purpose gives them space for talking about what they’re good at. And boy, you should see them talk. When people start talking about their passions, you can hardly stop them. Something you considered a 5 minute talk suddenly takes half an hour–and that’s great (unless you’re in hurry, of course)!
  5. You’ll learn new, interesting information that might shock you. When you start talking to people and they start to talk about what they care about, it’s usually a matter of time and deep, genuine listening until they tell you something very personal. People who are more open will tell you their stories sooner than people who are still trying to solve their personal problems. One guy I talked to told me about miracles he’d seen happening in Mongolia. If I didn’t ask, I’d never known he experienced clinical death.
  6. Talking about your purpose makes you more motivated to work on it. So the people you met asked what you do and why you do it and you told them, huh? Now you have to do it, because you don’t want to disappoint them.
  7. Asking the questions gets easier and more fulfilling after some time. When I get into a conversation with someone new now, even with a complete stranger, it gives me so much pleasure to ask people about their purpose. It’s one of those questions that gives you a very clear idea about the person you’ve just met (the other one is “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”) and you realize you’re building the relationship faster and with much more honesty.

I have two questions for you now: What is your purpose? And would you accept doing this challenge too?

Photo by Lukáš Šaněk at Visual Symphony