The Importance of Learning Yourself and the Missing Piece in My Search for a “What”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and what purpose I want to serve in this world because I have one answer that will never change, but that’s a goal that doesn’t depend solely on myself and I have to take personal responsibility for my impact on the world now, even if it’s just while I wait for what I truly want.

And I know, anyone who’s actually followed and read this blog is probably thinking “Um, you sure think a lot but don’t really DO anything….” I feel you. I really do. Finding a true source of motivation has been an elusive goal for me and I’ve never been able to reach it. Temporary motivation abounds; every new job I’ve worked excited me for a little while and every attractive idea of writing, knitting, reading tons of self-help books, or maybe even braving the dreaded extra time in college to become a psychologist or linguist or a something-or-other, has gotten me fired up for a week or two but has failed to capture my determination beyond that point.

Before I continue, I want to explain that the best source of information I’ve ever found about myself and the people around me is the MBTI, and a few fantastic spin-offs of that which are based on the same principles and psychology but have developed unique focuses and perspectives. My favorite thus far is found at–the free content is amazing and they also offer more in-depth ebooks if you are interested enough to purchase one (I was). The quick test is pretty accurate, although I have to offer a disclaimer here: I’ve consistently received the same test result throughout my life both on unofficial MBTI sites and on the real thing, so I clearly function on a very set group of preferences. That makes any test have a higher chance of accurately typing me, so it’s possible that many of these sites, including 16Personalities, aren’t as clear or reliable to individuals with less solid preferences.

Having said all of that, my type is INFP (INFP-T on 16Personalities):

Being a part of the Diplomat (NF) personality group, INFPs are guided by their principles, rather than by logic (Analysts), excitement (Explorers), or practicality (Sentinels). When deciding how to move forward, they will look to honor, beauty, morality and virtue – INFPs are led by the purity of their intent, not rewards and punishments. People who share the INFP personality type are proud of this quality, and rightly so, but not everyone understands the drive behind these feelings, and it can lead to isolation.

 The more I understand of this type, the more it makes sense to me that a lot of my lack of motivation comes simply from my desire to find something that is really important to myself, to others, and to the world at large. I’ve found ideas that meet some of the needs I have here but so far I struggle to find what it is that speaks to me in a way I can’t ignore. So I end up spending a lot of time in my own head, scanning the opportunities of the world and trying to find a match.

I’ve already been exposed to a lot of fantastic leadership and personal development content through Life Leadership, so I’ve gathered most of the puzzle pieces I need to find my motivation in life as an individual. I understand the principles and have sought to apply them whenever I get excited about something for a little while. But I think there are still things I’m missing, and it’s exciting when I stumble across something that’s new to me but fits perfectly with what i already know.

Recently I discovered Steve Olsher, whose mission appears to be helping people find their “what.” I haven’t checked out a lot of what he offers yet, but in listening to an interview he did on one of my favorite podcasts (The Overwhelmed Brain by Paul Colaianni), I found an important piece of information I’ve been missing so far. I’ve known that I should be looking for what my gifts are, what I’m passionate about doing, and where those two intersect with a way to make it a living. What has been eluding me and what I didn’t realize I needed to find, is the audience I feel most compelled to serve. It’s not enough to know that I want to be a writer of some sort, because there are so many kinds of writing I can do. It’s not even enough to know that the kind of writing I do has to directly impact the people who read it in some way. I love fantasy and fiction and I want to write novels at some point but that goal doesn’t meet my specific need to be useful, to help people be happier and feel understood. I certainly can help through that medium but it’s not the vehicle I feel compelled to drive. So, what am I missing? I’m missing the “who” in all of this. Who do I want to write for? What need do they have that I feel called to meet? Whose lives am I gifted and excited to improve? 

I can’t really explain how satisfying it was to see the suddenly-illuminated piece of information I’ve wanted for but hadn’t discovered on my own. Even though I didn’t hear Steve’s words and immediately know what I want to do from now on, I did hear the words and immediately know that my focus hasn’t been where it needs to be in my search for the “what” I want in my life. I already know the gifts part of the equation. I even know the general type of vehicle I will be using. Instead of looking for a different vehicle and reexamining my gifts to see if I’ve missed something, I need to look for who I’m supposed to be driving. Who needs to go to the destination I can take them to? Who do I need to be looking for to pick up in the first place? And I think this might be the hardest part to figure out of the entire equation because there are so many different ways people need help and I don’t know if I’m looking for something general like “everyone who feels lonely, get on this bus!” or if I’m looking for something specific like “everyone who’s ever had a parent who loved them and wasn’t abusive but also was kind of emotionally distant or unavailable, climb in my car because we’re going to a very specific place!” But I think it’s also the most fun to discover because if I know what kind of vehicle to drive an what kind of gifts I have to offer, I can just start Doing. I can start with the bus loads of people and keep an eye out for those who benefit most from the trip. I don’t have to sit here paralyzed and unsure because I can’t find out who I’m supposed to be helping by sitting in my isolated tower looking through a spyglass at the world below.

So, why have I said all of this? Mostly because it’s exciting to me and I love having a clearer direction to travel in. But also because I know I’m far from the only person out there who feels the way I do. Obviously people like Steve Olsher wouldn’t be in business if I was the only person who hasn’t found my “what” yet. I can’t offer the range or quality of information that books and seminars and people gifted to be teachers can provide. But hopefully the way I interact with this material, the way it affects me and the way it changes me, can help someone out there. Maybe I’m meant to be the stubborn person who takes forever to understand things but who shares her experiences and saves other people some time and effort in the long run. I don’t know! All I know is that if you feel rudderless in any way or just unsure of where you want to steer the ship, the best place to start is to look within and start understanding yourself better. If you have no idea why you do the things you do or feel the way you do, start there. No matter what level of self-awareness you have, there’s always more information. Ultimately your direction comes from who you are, even though, as Steve Olsher also said on his interview, it’s not about you at all! It’s not about making your life better so much as finding out how you can make others’ lives better. And I think when we’re really helping other people in a way we’re uniquely qualified to do, that meets a need nothing else in life can reach.