The biggest change in my life thanks to self-help psychology, big change, re-dream the dream change, was finding mission or purpose. It is my opinion that every human life has personal mission or purpose. We each have something special to do in the world, something for which we have a unique affinity. Mission/purpose reveals itself in one of two ways. It is either something so basic about us that we do it automatically everywhere we go. Or it is some specialty that can translate into a job or career. Our mission/purpose might be obvious to us from early in life or might not become obvious until midlife or later. I had actually been pursuing my mission/purpose for decades before it became obvious to me.
My mission/purpose is seeking life's meaning, its deepest meaning. No wonder it was hard to recognize. Even now, more than halfway through my life, when I can look back and see myself so clearly always following this mission/purpose path, it still seems too grandiose a pursuit for an ordinary human like me. Even more grandiose, I not only sought life’s deepest meaning, I found it. The years I spent studying and working with self-help psychology were essential to that find.
I began questioning life’s meaning, how life worked and why, as a child. My elders rarely had answers to my many deep questions. Sunday religion seemed to offer possible answers, yet not really. I found that religion’s answers only led to more questions. It all made me quite dissatisfied with life generally, not to mention restless, anxious, and worried. While I still enjoyed life, I also never stopped questioning its apparent lack of deeper meaning.
As I entered adulthood, I couldn’t even find personal meaning. I hadn’t yet learned about the idea of personal mission or purpose but actively pursuing personal mission/purpose give us our personal meaning. Even had I known about personal meaning, like I said, an ordinary human like me isn’t going to recognize ‘seeker of life’s general meaning’ as their personal meaning, never mind figuring out how to pursue it as a career. Yet, without the motivation of meaning to my life, personally or generally, no advanced education, job, or career was of interest to me. So I simply got an office job and got on with life. Had someone only offered me a job seeking life’s meaning....
Another thing about mission/purpose is that it often shows up first as some sort of problem. In a way, the problem is passive mission. It is mission calling us. If we answer the call, our work in resolving the problem becomes mission in action. I didn’t see personal mission in my questioning, nor in the dissatisfaction behind it. I saw a problem, a problem with me. Everyone else seemed satisfied. So I set out to try to solve the ‘problem with me’ by looking for something to help me understand the problem—me. Thus I found my first self-help psychology book.
I instantly loved self-help psychology—my mission taking action, even if I didn’t recognize it yet. Self-help psychology was hard work, sure, and sometimes unpleasant work, but always it was meaningful and fulfilling work. I didn’t want anything to do with psychology in terms of making a living, though. What I wanted was to learn about me, how I work and why. Of course, that meant also learning about others, how others work and why. And that meant learning about being human, how being human works and why. All that learning was backdrop, however, to living my ordinary life, while the living of that ordinary life gave me a lab in which to experiment with all the stuff I learned.