Do It Because It’s What You’re Here To Do

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Dogged attachment to a specific outcome all too often screws us…

Scenario #1:

Hey, why are you writing a book?

Because, I want to get published. Then people will take me seriously. Millions of people will know what I’ve got to say. And they’ll see I’m an author. And I’ll build a huge career writing and speaking and traveling. This book is the key that will unlock my dreams. Oh, and Mr. Waddlesmith from 10th grade who said I was a no-talent moron…who’s the dummy now?! #suckit!

And, what if you write the whole book and nobody wants it?

Well, um, uh, then it’ll have been a year out of my life that I can’t get back. A massive letdown. Think of all the other stuff I could’ve done. It’ll suck. Big time. I’d be a total failure. Son of bitch, that Mr. Waddlesmith was right! #screwed

Scenario #2:

Hey, why are you writing a book?

Because, I’m a writer. I feel like that’s what I’m here to do. When I write, I feel. I light up. It’s like I’m doing what I was put here to do. Not all the time, but often enough to make me want to keep coming back and doing more of it. I feel a sense of alignment and purpose. And, besides, I’m pretty fascinated by this topic/story line and it’d be amazing to be able to spent a year doing a really deep dive on it and learning more. Oh, and I’ll have a book at the end, which is pretty cool too. #fulfilled

And, what if you write the whole book and nobody wants it?

Well, I guess that’d be a bit of a bummer. But hell, I’ll still have spent the last year doing what I’m meant to do and learning about something very cool. Including myself. Hopefully, someday I’ll get good enough at the craft for people to want to buy what I write. But even if they don’t, it’s still something I’d do just because of what it gives me along the way. #stillfulfilled

* * * * *

There's no there there

Viktor Frankl’s famed book, Man’s Search For Meaning opens, a few pages in, with a powerful statement:

“Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue….In the long run, success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”

What if “meaning along the way” became your leading metric?

What if the only there that mattered was here now?

Something to ponder. I know I am…

With gratitude,


(photo credit: CC Chapman)

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34 responses

34 responses to “Do It Because It’s What You’re Here To Do”

  1. Karen says:

    Lovely post Jonathan and such an important reminder that it IS the meaning along the way that matters. Yes, the outcomes can be delicious but if we’re not doing what we’re meant to, that which stirs our soul, it’s not likely to stir anyone else.

    Deeply appreciate your writing, thinking and conversations. Keep pursuing the meaning along YOUR way – we are the better for it.

  2. David Ross says:

    Jonathan, how do you consistently manage to tap THAT PLACE within me; that raw, wonderful alive place. I have been planning a book, and your words touched a deep, wonderful chord. Sure, I want it to be a success (whatever ‘success’ means in this moment) but more than that, its like I can’t NOT do it. You know the saying, ‘no matter where you go, there you are’. Its the journey that matters, that wonderful journey where we can feel something authentic and real, then if somebody likes the result, great! Oh, man, what a beautiful thought. Thank you [again] for sharing.

  3. Stacy Walsh says:

    Funny, smart and witty. I look forward to reading more.
    Best of luck to you!

  4. Carla Golden says:

    Thank you Jonathan! This speaks to me so loudly. I am a writer and I love the process, the revelations while in the process and the clarity after articulating my heart’s message. It is my innate art form. I love when my writing touches and/or helps others, however it seems to always help me and I am grateful. I too love Viktor Frankl’s work and his quote you chose is spot on. I need to remind myself of that more. Following my bliss….best, Carla.

  5. Mr. Fields,

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful words of wisdom, inspiration, and reflection about living with meaning, purpose, and beyond. For years now, I have believed in the power, value and meaningfulness of writing; with me, it started as poetry back in middle school and onward, then it turned to academic essays and research papers, which have continued to this day and beyond in the future I envision for myself. Nowadays though, I have truly embraced my passions and interests, aligning my life with them towards living with meaning and purpose in being of help to others, and have started writing a Blog about Psychology and Philosophy as a Psychological Thought Leader/Contributor towards enhancing peoples’ lives and helping others access their potential.

    I absolutely agree with you and Viktor Frankl about the association between Success, Happiness, Meaning and Purpose. My choice in life is to live with meaning and purpose in the moments while working towards the future. I aspire to be a professional of Positive Psychology, Coach, Educator, and Writer, look forward to learning, growing and maturing via the unique wisdom that you and many others in the world promote with meaning and purpose. My thankfulness and gratitude are beyond words, Mr. Fields, and I’m excited to start reading your books, “Uncertainty” and “Career Renegade”. Hope to continue learning from you and to be of help to you as well however I can going forward.

  6. Christopher says:

    Victor Frankl Live:

    It is interesting to think about doing something simple because “I’m supposed to”, coming from a gut-sense of what my life is supposed to entail, but not from any other metric. Somehow, our gut (and the meaning out of its rumblings) does seem to know best.

    Much gratitude Jonathan!

  7. stephen q shannon says:

    Jonathan, Mark me up as being in the yes pile. “….success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”. Obsessing, as so many of us do, is clearly contraindicated, isn’t it? Easy to recommend, tough to absorb and live. As a career trainer, in lesser language, I push and shove and perform heel biting…”Go about your business and wait not by the phone or e-mail in-box for the interview…for the call for a second one and on and on”. Let the pot stew while you are positively engaged investing in you. It works.
    sQs Delray Beach 10 23 2013

  8. Leckey says:

    I was reading a short while ago in Simon Sinek’s book his differentiation between achievement and success. Success is adhering to your WHY, your purpose, while you accomplish the WHAT of your WHY. In your example, Jonathan, that means the WHY is the writing, and the success is sticking to it even though the WHAT, the results, which are vastly unknown and may not appear in the shape our mind expects, are not immediately apparent.

    Fancying myself a writer, this was poignant. Thank you!

  9. Love this! It’s so true. When we do things just because we want to do them now, because we feel like they uplift us and like this is what we’re meant to be doing, it feels like a million doors open for us. This genuine authenticity, this “just being” without pursuing anything in particular is so refreshing. It has the power to stop self-doubt, critics, and disappointment in their tracks. It’s so easy to slip into the ego-driven quest for success, but awareness brings us back to the reality that success is in this moment right now – in simply engaging in the fulfillment of our deepest desires.

  10. Terry Nugent says:

    Great post. Many of us who write do so because we are compelled to express ourselves, and find fulfillment in the very act of written expression. Doing what you love is certainly a wise choice. Of course it is even better if you are expressing a vision, a point of view, or a narrative that will benefit an audience, as is the case with this post.

  11. Kevin Rhodes says:

    You have a beautiful soul, Jonathan, and my life is enriched not only because you share it, but because you would think your thoughts and feel your feelings and write them down even if I never knew about you or them – which is the point, isn’t it? I have reached the place you describe in my own life, and it’s peaceful and free, abundant and delightful beyond anything I’ve known. And yes, I had to pass through rough handling in the land of “Hey it’s better to write a cheesy book and sell the hell out of it than to write one just because your soul rejoices in it” in order to get here. “Meaning along the way”? Yes, let’s do that.

  12. I so appreciate the grounded realness of this post. Causes me to think of the ideas let it be what it is and force has the potential to only result in exhaustion unless it’s based on purposeful action and even then it may not result in the outcome you desire.

    At its essence, I guess it only makes sense to love what you do and let the rest unfold as it will. Easy to think, not so easy to practice.

  13. Sara Stroman says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    This post is amazing! Thank you! Last week I attended the ABC Kids Expo in Vegas with my current employer and heard lots of talk of success. A lot of it had to do with business growth and monetary gain. Two things that are important to me, but not my definition of success.

    The quote you posted “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue….In the long run, success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.” rings true to me because it states what I think so many people fail to realize. Success can be many things, different to different people and what matters is sure what legacy we leave behind, but that we are happy with the types of success we have achieved ourselves. I am successful every day. Sure some days, I slack off and others I am highly motivated and productive, but each day brings me closer to success because I know what I consider success.

    So many people think success is how much money they make, or have, or things they buy and it keeps them from happiness and success. My success has nothing to do with these things. It has everything to do with how I feel. And how I feel today is different from tomorrow, but either way, I am successful because I feel and relate to others in that moment.

    My doctor yesterday told me that if he aligns my back and heals me that’s great and he’ll feel good, but what really matters to him is my being there and his being there so we can fix the problem. That resonated with me deeply and I think gets to the core of what I think and how I will approach my “success” moving forward.

  14. CJ Schepers says:

    Whew! Thanks Jonathan… this was JUST in time! I needed that…

  15. Jonathan,

    Great distinction. Let me piggyback on it.

    Scenario #3.

    Why are you writing a book?
    [Same answer as Scenario #2)

    And why are you writing this book?
    Because the topic matches the contribution I am committed to making in the world. Not only do I get to do something that is deeply engaging and puts me in a flow experience, but I get to be of service in precisely the way I was born to do. Writing anything interesting to me is engaging – while I’m in it, I feel amazing. Writing about this particular topic is also deeply meaningful. After I’m doing writing, I not only have great memories of the flow experience, I feel connected to a higher source of purpose. I am serving the way I am meant to serve.

  16. This is great. I was writing my 5th ebook about completing our projects when I wrote that one of the best things about any creative work is that it works us. We become more whole and more fully ourselves through the act of creating – and finishing – our creative projects.

    What we gain from the process is so much more than what the world gives in response. Better, we control how much time, energy, attention, soul and grit we put into it. Because what we put into it parallels what we glean from it.

    Being able to pay attention to our growth along the way gives us the rewards. Thanks for pointing this out, Jonathan.

  17. Show Up. says:

    […] up. Doubts, failure, success, none of that matters. You show up as you are and start from there. Do it because it’s what you’re here to do. Start […]

  18. Very true. Our happiness and sadness actually depends only on our expectations. If you were expecting the world and you only get a little bit you’ll be sad. But if you weren’t expecting anything more than personal satisfaction and on top of that you get a little bit extra, you’ll be over the moon!

    And when you do things for the sake of doing things they turn usually turn out to be much better. Pearl Jam write songs coz for the sake of making music not to please a particular fanbase. Johnny Depp acts in a movie and then walks away taking no part in post production let alone worry about how the movie did.

    Make art because your soul needs to connect with the universe and express itself. Expect to feel that wonderful connection during the process of making art, and nothing else.

  19. Jonathan, I like that you included “Not all the time, but often enough to make me want to keep coming back and doing more of it” as part of your second scenario.

    As a recovering perfectionist, I still find it much too easy to engage in self-talk that sounds like, “I must feel passionate about this ALL the time, or it must not be for real.” I think it’s important to acknowledge, as you have here, that even the most inspired people with the most personally meaningful goals have days when they’re just not firing on all cylinders. And that that’s not merely okay, but to be expected.

    I love the way this post flips the conventional wisdom on its head, reminding us that success should be a by-product of meaning rather than the other way around. 🙂

  20. I teach an upper-level college seminar about the search for meaning and purpose across the lifespan. We cover Frankl as one of our cornerstone readings. It can be difficult to pursue meaning for its own sake because, at times, meaning and pleasure are wholly disconnected (as Frankl himself makes clear, of course), but I 100% believe that it’s worth pursuing. And psychology research backs us up. It’s a gross understatement to say that I love this post!

  21. Rebecca says:

    Perfect timing, Jonathan. I’m about to submit a book proposal for a book I have been highly encouraged to write and as I keep going deeper into the proposal sample chapter I realized I’m simply doing it because I love writing and because I just know…you know…like you know that dizzy feeling when you fall in love…the subject means so much to me. Impeccable and thank you.

  22. Tim says:

    Thanks for this Jonathan. Very timely for me as well.

    I’ve purposely detached and let go of a lot this past year including my previous belief of what success looks like for me.

    Now my focus is being totally present with the “now” and giving everything I am to the present moment.

    Sometimes it’s a big struggle and it feels like maybe it’s not the right way – like I should be doing more things, accomplishing more, striving more etc.

    But then I relax and realize that all the striving means nothing if it leads me to a place of feeling unfulfilled.

    It’s good to read an article like this from someone who has accomplished things that previously, I was striving so hard to accomplish.

    The joy and fulfillment are not in the “attainment” of a thing but in the “process” of doing a thing because it’s just what feels good and right.

  23. […] Do It Because It’s What You’re Here To Do from Jonathan Fields at […]

  24. Wonderful post. Thanks!

    My personal challenge for my work: enjoy every moment and live for the real meaning.

  25. Must be something in the water…the same message keeps coming up over and over today. Do the stuff you love, and BE it. I’m down with that. 🙂

    The other side of that is to value your work enough to promote it effectively. Writing beautiful stuff is, well…beautiful. But if no one reads it, you’re cheating the world of the opportunity to grow…and yourself the opportunity of reaping the rewards of your work. Yeah, I’m talking from experience. 🙂

    I enjoyed this, Jonathan.

  26. […] Do It Because It’s What You’re Here To Do from Jonathan […]

  27. David says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    thanks very much for your slant on this. Have missed having your stuff to contemplate.

    I’m very much on Tim’s page ( see above)at present and struggling to shake it.

    For the past year I have trying to find the switch that gets my energy and focus rocking again and gets me excited to take on the next thing.

    And to see it through to the end, if there is “an end” or a launch or whatever 🙂

    But like others when I let go and just dive in I feel the buzz. It juices me and I laugh more.

    Just hope its relevant and on point.

  28. […] There Is No There There.  Is There?  Letting go of outcomes and going for meaning now. […]

  29. Otiti says:

    This is something I experienced while trying to expand my writing practice. The days I thought I “had” to write and get my hours of deliberate practice in were the days I struggled the most.

    But the days I showed up and let my pen take over, the days I merged with my breath and my paper and pen, the days I showed up curious to hear what my heart had to say . . . THOSE were the days I grew in sharp bursts of colour and light.

    We’re so busy trying to get there that we rarely if ever enjoy here. I think our greatest challenge and accomplishment would be to live each moment fully present in the moment, keenly attuned to our souls and bodies and energy waves melding with the Universal Consciousness.

    We are what we choose to experience. May we all have the grace to experience the deep joy and radiant beauty of living in the present moment.

  30. Hi Jonathan

    thanks for the article. I agree with the two scenarios you mentioned and the quote by Victor Frankl. It opens up my mind as I need to learn to focus more on stuffs that I enjoy doing without focusing so much on the outcome. Thanks again.

  31. Crystal P says:

    I love this article. It’s perfectly timely (that I found it today) because I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this month, and I’m not happy at all with the quality of writing, and i keep needing to remind myself that writing a novel in one month isn’t about quality, it’s about having fun and having the determination to finish something. I do love to write, but I’ve never finished a novel before, so that’s my goal.

    Thanks for the lift!

  32. Thanks for putting that into words. You made me want to write, because I like to write!