What’s Your Life’s Purpose?
Reflections on the story of Coco Channel from the book The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
Most people, I believe, either have asked themselves this question or at the very least would like to know the answer. That includes me: for the first 2-3 months of 2022, this is all I thought about. I found myself wondering where I would be in 10 or 20 years and thinking that if I knew, then I can start working towards that vision.
Unfortunately but not-surprisingly, I still don’t know the answer. In fact I have not even figured out the formula to that question. In fact, I don’t think anyone has. If someone had the formula, they’d be the most famous person in the world because they would help everyone achieve their true potential. Honestly, I’m unsure whether a formula even exists.
I Decided to Do This Instead
Instead of focusing on finding the answer to what my life purpose is, I found solace in a different approach. If I’m not going to know where my life is going, then I at least want to know how to live my life now. I’ve decided to do the following every single day:
- Experience Life
- Push Myself
#1 — Experience Life
This is the most important one, and I translate this into:
- Saying yes to things: If people invite me to do stuff, I say yes more often. I try to ignore any fear or desire for comfort that would make me say no, and I focus on whether I would enjoy doing this thing or learn something new.
- Being more spontaneous: I’ve found myself happiest when I overcome the internal voice in me telling me to not do something. Being spontaneous is a state where what’s in your head and what is manifested in your behaviors are in total synchronization, and while I am not always in that state, I know I am happiest when I enter this state. So, I strive to do this all the time.
- Always shooting my shot: This expression is often used in dating, but I see it as more than that. I see it as always taking steps to get what you want in everything in life, and if it doesn’t work out, so be it. The feeling I get from shooting my shot is always better than the nasty feeling of regret I get when I hold myself back.
- Complimenting & elevating people: This is another part of experiencing life that I have adopted. I try to pick out what is good in what people are doing and point it out, and I find that doing this makes both me and the other person feel happier. This in turn creates an environment that is more inviting to new experiences.
Experiencing life has opened me up to things that I didn’t know existed. This in turn allows my mind to think bigger and not be limited by what I knew before. This also tells me that if I am discovering so many new things right now, what else is out there? My curiosity levels about everything keeps increasing as a result, and that makes me feel more refreshed every day.
#2 — Push Myself
Pushing myself is another form of experiencing life, but it is more inward. It feels more like experiencing myself. Every time I push myself, I discover that there’s a power in me that I didn’t know existed. I discover that I am more capable than I thought. Pushing myself is essentially asking myself, “can I do this for just a little longer? What can I achieve today if I really put myself to it? How much can I do?” and then answering, “let’s find out!”
I’ll give an example. Almost every week, I run the Central Park loop. This loop is about 6 miles long, and if that wasn’t hard enough, there are multiple parts of it that go uphill—especially the northern part of it. So, every time I run, I loathe having to put on my running shoes and start running. I loathe the first mile which is always painful. I loathe that next moment where I feel like quitting because I’m feeling tired and my legs are feeling a new kind of pain (every week I swear I feel something new). Then when I get to that Northern uphill which is around mile 3, I loathe it because I’m already so tired and now I have to run uphill. And then the last few miles, I also loathe it because by that point my body just wants to feel comfortable.
Basically, I loathe every part of it, but every time I complete this Central Park loop, I feel refresh. I feel thrilled that I pushed myself to do it. Sometimes I run on a Saturday after having gone out on Friday night and basically having no sleep. I ask myself, “can run these 6 miles with such little sleep and hungover feelings?” Then I find out I can because I try. I feel surprised because I realize that I could do it.
The other thing I realize is that, sometimes I slow down and that I didn’t need it because not slowing down wouldn’t have the run that much harder. So, the next time I go run, I try a little harder. I run at a slightly faster pace and I manage to do it. Every time I push myself a little more and I discover that I am more capable.
Pushing myself in one activity like running makes me wonder where else I can push myself. Can I read longer? Can I work more efficiently today? Can I talk to more strangers? Can I communicate better? Can I wake up earlier? So many questions where I can simply try and find out by pushing myself.
#3 — Reading
Reading is what allows me to live someone else’s experience without actually having to go through that experience myself. Not just that, reading provides me with tools to process life better. Reading allows me to connect the dots in a new way, and on top of that, reading is thoroughly relaxing, inspiring, and fun.
I don’t feel the need to say much about reading because this blog in itself says so much already about my experience reading. Instead, I have a ton of articles about all the various books I’ve read and how they’ve taught me something new.
Connecting All 3 Actions: Learn and Reflect
After something happens, whether it is good or bad (and if something doesn’t happen, like the case of not shooting my shot), I reflect on the experience. Did I learn something new? How did that affect my emotions? Is this something I should or would do again?
Every time I push myself, something new clicks in my head. It makes me wonder, what else am I capable of doing? It also makes me prone to believe in myself. I gain this deep, inner confidence that I can overcome challenges and maybe do something greater. When I think of something admirable in someone else, pushing myself tells me that maybe that can be as well!
Every time I read, I gain a new life experience faster and my mind develops new ways to think.
All of this, admittedly in a wishful way, I hope will help me discover “my life’s purpose”, and in case it doesn’t, that’s fine too because this makes me feel happier in my life today and now. I don’t worry so much about the future, and I am more capable of directing my attention towards things that make me enjoy each day more.
The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
So, where does this book come in in this whole life’s purpose conundrum? Well, I just started reading chapter 5 of the book titled “Become an Elusive Object of Desire: The Law of Covetousness”, and the chapter begins with the story of the famous Coco Channel.
In this story, Gabrielle Chanel, famously known as Coco Chanel, lost her parents when she was 11 years old and had to live in a convent around 1895. In this convent, she found a passion for romance novels, and one particular theme she related to was one in which a poor girl would find herself “whisked into a world of wealth through some clever plot twist”—“a Cinderella-like story”.
Eventually, she set her mind to it, worked hard and managed to achieve this type of story, but she still found herself dissatisfied. She wanted more, and one particularly striking event turned the table for her. She went into the room of Etienne Balsan, the man she was seeing at the time, and tried out a combination of his outfits with hers—a sort of new fashion creation. Through that, she discovered that “what she wanted was the power and freedom that men possessed, which was reflected in the less constricting clothes that they wore” (page 134). So, this very random act of trying out a man’s clothes was the catalyst for what Coco Chanel as a brand is today.
Though beautiful and inspiring, I will spare the details of the rest of the story. What I found most striking was this idea of just doing something random. This idea of trying out a man’s clothe, something most women of that time didn’t think of doing. She tried that and it was a catalyst to something magnificent. To me, this is the epitome of where “experiencing life” leads one to finding their purpose and even passion. It’s so subtle, but all it took was a little bit of curiosity and willingness to do things outside of what one does, so I deeply connect to that turn of events because it proves that experiencing life can help me discover my life’s purpose.
Trying to figure out one’s life purpose is easily one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing question to ask. I believe it’s up there along with questions like “what is the meaning of life” or “does God exist” or “do we have free will”; these are the type of questions that no one can really answer objectively and that frankly aren’t always worth devoting too much time into for anyone.
Instead, deciding to experience life, push myself, and read everyday has helped me feel relieved. I can feel myself direct my stress and attention to things that actually make me feel happier because they help me answer the question, “what should I do now?”
Finally, as I reflect on the story of Coco Channel, I found it encouraging to continue to experience life, push myself, and read everyday. First of all, I literally read this in a book which is kind of meta! Secondly, this odd act of trying a man’s clothes is a form of experiencing life and it led to a discovery that created the brand Coco Chanel. Finally, her story involved her pushing herself hard to create a brand that people would love and wear. In a single successful story, Grabrielle “Coco” Chanel has exhibited these 3 behaviors in such a way that it led to her utmost success in life, and that is soothingly validating.