6 Questions to Discover Your Most Meaningful Pursuits

Author's Note: This article was originally published on Becoming Minimalist.

It's easy to get caught up in the minimalist lifestyle. The idea of removing the meaningless to make room for the meaningful makes plenty of sense. Before long, garbage bags line the edge of the road and the backseat of the car is loaded up with boxes for Goodwill. But as we finalize the details on our latest eBay auction we sit back and wonder, "now what?"

What was the point of this exercise? What is the "meaningful" that we're supposed to be making room for? While some people are born knowing precisely what they must do with their lives, some of us live in a constant state of misdirection, unsure of our purpose. Every shiny thing we try, we soon discover, is not what we thought it would be. It's not our "meaningful."

Unless we start with answering "why?" for ourselves, minimalism is just another shiny thing that we'll give up when it doesn't fulfill us. On the other hand, if we discover our "why," minimalism becomes the tool that will empower us to chase it. Here are six questions that I answered to discover the meaningful things I was making room for.

 

1. What currently leads to most of my happiness and fulfillment?

This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and greievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
— George Bernard Shaw

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered a principle wherein 80% of results stem from 20% of the causes. Therefore, if we could pinpoint the 20% of activity that supplies 80% of our happiness and fulfillment, we could begin taking steps toward maximizing our time and resources within the 20% and moving away from the 80%. Be intentional about breaking down what makes you happy and leverage your minimalist lifestyle to make time for those activities.


2. What concern or problem do I feel most compelled to solve?

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. illuminated the heart and soul of defining our "why": others. In a world where individualistic concerns are championed, the world-changers and the misfits must unite around a cause larger than themselves. It is there that we will find an answer to our "why" that wells up inside of us and motivates us to make a difference.


3. What would I spend my day doing if I knew I couldn't fail?

After answering this question, answer a second - what is the worst case scenario if you attempt it now and fail? I would be willing to bet that most of you will discover the worst case scenario isn't all that bad. If we give our fears a name, they tend to shrink. They're like the wizard behind the curtain - only an illusion.

There are two types of people in this world. There are people who see the thing they want and there are people who see the thing preventing them from getting what they want.
— Unknown


4. What do I get so consumed with that I forget to eat or sleep?

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.
— Ella Jane Fitzgerald

Purpose is found at the convergence of passion and service. What makes each of us unique is the sum of our individual experiences, traits, skills, interests, and aptitudes. We must tap into the practices that fulfill us and find a way to marry it with our cause (see the answers to questions 2 and 3). There we will find our "why".


5. What does my perfect day look like?

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
— Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

Outlining a clear picture of our "why" in practical terms gives us clarity and direction instead of a vague, romanticized goal. It allows us to dig into the details and honestly ask ourselves what we desire. With this clear destination in mind, we can be proactive in our journey.


6. What is one step I can take this week toward realizing my "meaningful?"

A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world.
— From a church in Sussex, England, ca.1730 (quoted in Getting Things Done)

Now that we have named our values, burdens, fears, passions and goals, we have a better understanding of why we do what we do. Thought we may not have all of the answers now, we have a place from which to start. At this point, it's crucial to give ourselves a few small wins in the beginning to build momentum. Write down at least one step you can take this week toward your purpose. It could be reaching out to a friend, writing an outline or setting aside $100. The important thing is to start.

Okay, you're a minimalist... now what?