The third module in Elizabeth Gilbert’s What is Creative Living? online course build upon previous lessons, asking the student to consider what and who they care about. It’s lucrative to set our eyes on a grandiose dream, but the lesson suggests that we break down those larger goals in to our core beliefs, and then actionable steps.
Don’t wait for a big idea that will change the world. If you read biographies of history’s most successful people, the vast majority had several major failures before achieving success. Before striving to solve world hunger, we should start by feeding the homeless in our own community. If you want to build the next Amazon, start by tinkering with drop-shipping, app design, or marketing.
Most successful people were a student before they become a trailblazer. These individuals had a reason to get up in the morning before knowing how they would change the world. Long-term success requires the disciplined commitment progress–even if the steps are small, they add up across time.
Limit the grandiosity and begin with humility. Decide what you care about and then go be a student of that. Keep the day job (if necessary) and spend your free time learning from someone you admire.
What population do you want to work with? What makes you feel like you have purpose? You don’t have to wait until you’ve given a TEDtalk or written a best-selling book to answer these questions. Start in your neighborhood, serving your neighbors, and see where that leads you.
Move from the big picture passions to concrete personal interests that you can use as a starting point for new creative projects. Think about what makes you feel light and excited. Ask yourself: Am I serving my own soul? Continually check in with yourself and choose to practice humility, grace, and service.
The grandiose thinker might ask: How do I get a bigger platform? The granular thinker would respond: By serving the platform you already have. Do you have five followers on WordPress? Serve them. Do you have a food bank in you neighborhood that could use your help? Serve them. If you care about your current community, the value and light you radiate will attract more of the same.
The Purpose Map exercise is meant to transform big ideas into smaller, actionable projects.
First, set up a table with the the following horizontal headings: “What I Care About,” “Why I Care,” and “How I Can Start.” Add the vertical headings: “Issues I Care About” and “People I Care About.”
Start by filling in the issues that you care about and then think about the type of people you care about. Next, figure out what sparked your interest in this issue or how your own personal narrative intersects with the topic. Finally, pinpoint tangible ways you can begin supporting causes you care about today,so you can test what you like or dislike.
My Purpose Map
|What I Care About||Why I Care||How I Can Start|
|Issues I Care About|
|Informing people about the benefits of healthy food and ensuring widespread accessibility to fresh, locally-grown produce||Knowledge about and access to healthy foods should be a basic human right, and small dietary changes can greatly improve someone’s well-being and longevity||
|The long-term implications of emerging technology, particularly in healthcare||Modern technology is exciting and convenient, yet involves the collection of vast amounts of sensitive data, which—in the wrong hands—could one day be used about the person who entrusted their doctor, government or another service to protect||
|Fostering real connections in a world filled with pseudo-friendships||I have several friends who I could call in the middle of the night for help and that’s something I wish for everyone—social media is a great tool, but it’s torn apart the fabric of society and threatened the future of true, lasting friendships||
|Lifelong learning and personal growth||I am personally committed to continually learning and growing and encourage everyone I encounter to do the same||
|Research and share ideas in a digestible form||I love research, analysis, and finding ways to share ideas that resonate with people and encourage them to apply what they’ve learned to improve their habits, thought patterns, or lifestyle||
|People I Care About|
|My family and friends||I believe that relationships are the foundation of a good life, so I’m committed to investing time, energy, and resources to ensure I can maintain these awesome relationships||
|People who are not able to advocate for themselves||I was shy as a kid, so my intentional actions left my voice unheard, but so many people are subdued when they try to speak or don’t realize they are being wronged; I think elderly, lower-class, immigrant, drug-addicted, LGBT, and so many more minorities need someone to stand up and speak on their behalf||
|People who are actively trying to improve their lives||I like sharing ideas, but become frustrated when someone repeatedly acts for advice, but takes no action; I care about people who do the work necessary to evolve into the best version of themselves||
|Those working to solve big problems in the world||Whether they’ve shared an inspiring TEDtalk, discovered a new vaccine, or developed latrines in third-world countries, I closely follow people who are passionately focused on whatever their “thing” is and using their skills to improve the world in their own unique way||