Decide What You Care About And Then Go Be A Student

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
  • Write articles on my blog about food science, healthy recipes, and tips for implementing lifestyle changes
  • Speak at local meetups to share thoughts and insights on health topics
  • Speak to local farmers to see if they have volunteer-based programs I could get involved with
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
  • Raise questions and concerns on my blog via both fictionalized stories and non-fiction articles, encouraging readers to think about the long-term implications of data sharing today
  • Join a local group that advocates for consumer rights and protects users from the sale and mishandling of their personal data
  • Review HIPAA and other healthcare laws to better inform my knowledge of what is acceptable and what it not
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
  • Host a monthly mastermind group, potluck, or board game night and allow guests to invite additional friend
  • Volunteer at an organization that requires teamwork, such as Habitat for Humanity or the food bank
  • Try to smile and interact with everyone I meet, even if they’re just a cashier or in the waiting room with me
Lifelong learning and personal growth I am personally committed to continually learning and growing and encourage everyone I encounter to do the same
  • Start gifting the books I finish to a friend who would appreciate it, or leave it in a public space or a stranger to take home
  • Join or start a local mastermind group for people who want to grow personally, but don’t necessarily have a business or project idea in mind
  • Lead free yoga classes, sharing the gifts of balance, patience, wellness, slow and steady growth, and self-awareness
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
  • I can continue researching and informing myself on the topics I find interesting, and then share on my blog; make effort to include action items to encourage application
  • Conduct research and then condense the most important elements into an entertaining format, such as short story; show how a character learned the same things and then made a change
  • Take my research findings to vulnerable groups of society and offer solutions to help them improve their situation (e.g., offer resources for healthy food, share the benefits of lion’s mane mushroom with those who have memory loss, teach disadvantaged kids about personal finance, etc.)
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
  • Create a schedule to make sure I call or send letters to the people I care about on a regular basis; go above and beyond to show them love
  • Invite friends over for dinner or games once per month—create a fun environment where all feel connected and can make new friend with one another
  • Try to notice people who look alone and spark a conversation; be a friend to someone who might not have any friends
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
  • Take a homeless person out for breakfast and learn their struggles; offer resources to help them improve their situation
  • Volunteer at a LGBT house for teens; listen, be present, and learn what they’re struggling with; be an ally
  • Volunteer at the Welcome to America Project to help move immigrants into home; listen to their stories and offer solutions; research which companies acknowledge foreign degree and resume, and help immigrants get placed so they can support their families
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
  • Teach a yoga class and keep an open schedule afterwards, so students can ask questions—whether related to yoga or anything else; graciously give of my time, my attention, and my wisdom
  • Speak at or start a meetup group for people focused on self-improvement and offer everything I’ve learned over my lifetime to help attendees boost their well-being and improve their outlook
  • Leave my current job, and join a company where my colleagues and employees are all committed to continual improvement; surround myself with people who will encourage me to keep learning and growing
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
  • Once per week, send an email to someone I admire to thank them for their work, detail their impact on me, and encourage them to keep going
  • Endlessly support friends who have big dreams, and offer my project management skills to help them draft up a viable and actionable plan
  • Research and reach out to local organizations who are solving important problems, and either apply for jobs or volunteer to help support a large-scale effort on a local level


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