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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

What Is Your Mission?

Photo by Adam Dressler

You were not meant to do any one thing for the rest of your life.

Yet this idea of birthright passion is promulgated throughout our society, throughout the Internet in particular, as if each person has a preordained vocation he or she must pursue—as if evolution, natural selection, or whatever—has spent thousands of years plotting and transmogrifying so you can be a writer, a yoga teacher, or an astronaut.

Life doesn’t contain these absolutes. No one has a predetermined destiny; no one has a singular preexisting passion waiting to be uncovered. There are dozens, even hundreds, of things you can do with your life—work you can be happy and passionate about. Hence, “follow your passion” is crappy advice.

What’s important to consider, then, is this question: What is my mission?

Many of us go through life working a job or, worse, a career. We become accustomed to a particular lifestyle, a lifestyle that involves too much spending, personal debt, and consumer purchases—our own personalized version of the American Dream. Then we get stuck on the corporate ladder, and before we know it we’re too high up to climb back down, so high up even looking down is a terrifying proposition. So we keep soldiering forward, onward and upward, without ever asking the important questions.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with working a job: we all have to keep the lights on. However, when we travel too far from living a deliberate life—when we stop asking difficult questions—we stop feeling fulfilled.

Like your passion, your mission is not preexisting, and it’s not always easy to find or pursue. When you find something—anything—you’re passionate about and you make it your life’s mission, you will find great joy and rewards in the work you do. Otherwise you’re just earning a paycheck.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.