TED Conversations

Elizabeth Rivas

Struggling Student,

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What is your purpose in life and how and when did you come to realize it? In what ways are you now living towards your purpose?

After having lived for 21 years I would have assumed when I was younger that by this time in my life, surely I would have figured out my purpose. Of course, this is not the case. I have been thinking more and more about my life in terms of my true purpose. I may have a general idea where I want to go in life, for example, I am planning and studying hard so that I can successfully transfer to UCLA, my dream school. I also know that I enjoy working with children, learning about the biological sciences, writing poetry and fiction in my free time, and sharing my ideas. I was hoping I might be able to learn how members of this wonderful community called TED has come to learn their true purpose. Share with me with your lightbulb moments about the exact moment when you realized you found your calling? Or maybe share your not so lightbulb moment. Maybe it took you years and years to discover your calling in life. Either way, I am eager to hear from you and how you not only learned what it is you want to do with your life but how you are implementing those desires today


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    Apr 15 2013: What are some of the things you already do that bring you the greatest joy? You have mentioned some interests. Do you see any underlying features or themes?

    I think some people think in terms of a purpose in life and some think more in terms of things that they feel like they would always like to be doing. Many people try a range of things over years and hone in on something over time.

    One of my daughters knew exactly what she wanted to do when she was maybe ten and stuck to that course until she was about twenty four and then switched to a path in which she thought she could more fruitfully use some of the skills she had developed over that time. Often multiple fields use the same fundamental skills and some offer more opportunity than others.

    My other daughter had a research opportunity between her sophomore and junior years in college that set her course.

    For some people, purpose and career mean the same thing and for others it is an approach to life that runs through their work, social interactions, and so forth. For example, for some people, it might be taking every conceivable opportunity to lend a hand. Or it might be to record the life experience visually, or something broad like that.
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      Apr 15 2013: I get the greatest joy from knowing I've helped inspire someone to follow their dream or even just to believe that tomorrow will be a brighter day.I've definitely noticed an underlying theme of helping others though.

      I would see myself being in both of those groups because I see purpose as something that will help me maneuver through life and also just help me continuously do what it is I love to do.

      That's true and I agree with you that there's the same basic skills in many different fields but then again there's more chance for opporunity or growth maybe in some more than others. I know that I'll be more happy in something I can improve and grow upon.
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        Apr 15 2013: It seems you will be able to work your greatest joy into any career and life in which your days involve some social interaction, as any life that involves interacting with others will provide such opportunity.

        You probably don't want to be squirreled away in an activity that is just you and equipment, working solo for long periods of time.

        Maybe it is hard for you to decide a direction because what appeals to you most will be a characteristic of so many pathways you might take!
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          Apr 17 2013: I think I would go insane if I had to work in a cubicle. I don't understand how people do it. I would much rather be out and about and exploring the world thank you very much! Haha yes, I think you figured it out for me. I am troubled because the careers in life that appeal to me and the directions I want to go in have similar characteristics. I think I shall try and use this to my advantage :-)
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        Apr 17 2013: I have never worked in a cubicle, but these days working in a cubicle means working in a room, typically, with lots and lots of people! I am told it is much less isolating than traditional offices.

        Of course people in a workplace don't stay all day in their cubicles.

        One of the TED talks about creativity and play shows lots of work spaces in the Silicon Valley that look kind of like indoor amusement parks.

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