How Do You Find What You Really Want To Do?

Jul 7, 2014 / Photography / artist mindset / joseph campbell

A friend and I decided to have lunch outside. It was nice out–something that will become increasingly rare as summer unfolds. My friend was especially reflective that day, and we got to talking about choices that he made in life. He felt that he hadn’t achieved anything worthwhile. He never made any plans. At twenty, he set out to backpack around Europe. Along the way, he met a couple of girls headed for Paris, so off he went to France. Then he met an American girl in Paris, and off he went to America. He lamented that all his life, it always seemed to be like that. He never made a real plan. Something always just came up, and he followed it. By any measure of success that society might think of, my friend would surpass it. He has great career. He has a wonderful family. He has a lot of friends.

How I wish I were like him in my 20s! He followed his bliss, it seemed to me, while I clearly did not. My choices were always driven by what my parents wanted or what I thought society wanted. My choices were all about financial security. It is just now that I am trying to find my bliss.

This conversation got me thinking about how we find what we really want to do. Joseph Campbell, a great influence in my artwork, recommends reading.

Reading what you want, and having one book lead to the next, is the way I found my discipline. I’ve suggested this to many of my students. When you find a writer who really is saying something to you, read everything that writer has written and you will get more education and depth of understanding out of that than reading a scrap here and a scrap there and elsewhere. Then go to people who influenced that writer, or those who were related to him, and your world builds together in an organic way that is really marvelous. Whereas the way these things are taught normally in college and schools is a sampler of what this one wrote and that one wrote and you’re asked to be more interested in the date of the publication of Keat’s sonnets than in what’s in them.

So how do you find what you really want to do? It seems to me that what my friend told me that day, in that park while we were having lunch, is precisely what you should do. The key thing is to follow what moves you and dig deeper (and wider) from there. Read, paint, write, travel. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it ignites something within you. Find that catalyst. Find the path.

It will take awhile. My friend’s journey is ongoing as is mine. It’s clear we haven’t figured it out yet, but I really hope someday we will.

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