For the past three years I've been constantly searching, refining and working towards what I have come to believe is a strong sense of purpose in my work. And as any sense of purpose, mine too has been driven by a feeling of urgency, of inconformity, of relentless unhappiness in search of better solutions and ideas.
Alas, I have recently learned purpose is not supposed to have a deadline. And that most deadlines we create for ourselves (not those who are imposed upon us) are fictional tactics of making ourselves feel productive, useful, worth the while. At the end of the day, however, this doesn't necessarily amount to more happiness, because happiness in this perspective turns itself into what we believe will come next, not what is happening now. Happiness, like purpose, also doesn't have a deadline. Nor should it.
Self-imposed deadlines are important if we want to get things done. Not having them might just be the secret to increase our overall well-being and therefore do the right things. The ones we believe in, outside the production line we often put ourselves into. Even though there are exceptions, and I'm sorry for all the Seth Godin fans out there, I don't believe purpose goes hand in hand with urgency. Specially because we rarely know what our true purpose is, since there is not one purpose, but volatile different types of purposes. They are not something which we impose, but yet discover. And that's a tricky shift in mindset.
Jason Fried recently wrote:
It’s hard for an interesting thing to compete for your attention if your only criteria for attention is criticality. Interesting things are rarely critical. They’re exploratory. And if you only think in terms of what absolutely needs your attention right now, you’ll never leave room for things that might satisfy your curiosity. That’s important too, just on a different level.
I think he's absolutely right. Urgency shouldn't guide us, even though we should learn to respect it in order to keep business running. The world isn't going to stop because of us, nor should it. Regardless, that doesn't mean we shouldn't stop ourselves before we start thinking our life's work fits a planning chronogram.
Curiosity in itself matters and is rarely accountable; we should be glad for that. Because a chronogram eventually will reach its end, while purpose(s) will not. They merely shift to new deadlines which we may lose track of, or better yet we should; because if all that matters is the deadline, then we're just being hypocritical by saying it's the journey that counts.