Even though I’ve wondered what my purpose is, I never thought it was important to find it. I thought that I’d find a job doing something I like and I wouldn’t have to worry. It didn’t seem like a big deal. I used to think that I could live happily without a defined purpose but, truthfully, I haven’t felt fulfilled in my job for a long time.
I see now that the importance of having purpose in your life, shouldn’t be overlooked. Allowing your purpose to dictate your decisions makes life more fulfilling. It’s also easier to say “no” to things that don’t align with things that drive you.
On stage, we aim to create entertaining characters. Whether it be to make people laugh, cry, or have some other effect on them. Actors seek out the point of view, or the objective of the character. We are trying to find their purpose. We ask: “What’s this character trying to do?”, “What motivates this character?”, “What drives them to say and do things?”, “Why are they behaving like this?”
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
Of course, this is easier in improv than real-life because we can just pick some arbitrary point of view, such as my character wants feel validated or my character wants the other person to hand them a vase. In life, it’s never as simple as always wanting someone to hand you a vase (that might be a little weird, too). We can see how that character would act. All of their decisions would revolve around getting the other person to hand them the vase.
Having a clear and compelling purpose helps the audience understand and relate to the character. The audience is better able to predict how this character may react and they’ll laugh when their expectations come to fruition.
Conversely, if we change the character’s behavior without reason midway through a scene, the audience will be confused and it’ll be hard for them to keep their suspended disbelief. Often this happens because the actor has not established their character’s drive.
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy
As an actor, understanding what drives a character makes it easier to play them. The decisions we make about how that character behaves, feel natural and come easily. These choices grow as we embody the character, and understand their motivations.
Adding or raising stakes to the scene becomes easier, too. We know what’s important to the characters so we’re able to exploit this by placing them in situation that’s tougher or creates an internal conflict. If we create obstacles around what the character is doing, it’s not as compelling or tough to sustain a scene than if we create obstacles around the character’s internal motivation.
“The big picture doesn’t just come from distance; it also comes from time.” – Simon Sinek
So, how do I find my purpose?
I can’t tell you because I don’t know. After 13 years of being a web developer, It only recently occurred to me that I might have another purpose.
Lately, I’ve been consuming Simon Sinek’s books and TED talks. Simon calls your purpose, your “Why”. He states that when we make decisions and take action from our “why”, we feel more fulfilled in life. In one of his books, he walks through finding your “why”. After reading his books, I know why finding your purpose is so important.
If you haven’t already checked out Simon’s TED talks or books, please do. I have links to his talks and books here.