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The Power of Working Toward a Specific Purpose

posted in: Hourly America | 16

It’s hard to believe that three short months ago, Heath and I returned to the mainland from the great expanse of Alaska.

the power of working toward a specific purpose

For over two months now, Franklin the RV has been parked. So parked that his cab battery died over a month ago and we don’t even care, because we aren’t planning on moving him any time soon (although that might change if autumn doesn’t get to Texas soon).

This is the most stationary Heath and I have ever been in our marriage. Without the unknowns of travel, we’ve had a real routine and consistent work–and maybe we’ve watched 6 seasons of Big Bang Theory too, there would be no way of knowing.

In some ways, it’s wonderful to be settled into a routine. We can kayak on the lake, spend time with friends, grow closer with the community in our RV park, and enjoy plentiful selections of fresh, local salsa at HEB (the real reason why we all live in Texas). We’ve settled into a smooth rhythm.

But there’s been something different  about our lives that I couldn’t quite put my finger on lately. We’ve still been traveling–flying to San Diego last month and exploring central Texas with Heath’s first trip to Schlitterbahn just last week–so it isn’t that. We’ve still been learning new skills and trying new things, like filming weddings, learning video editing, and working with new clients. We’ve been able to reconnect with old friends in town, filling the void of community we experienced on the road.

Life is just as busy and exciting as it was before. But something subtle was off. I noticed three small things:

1. I hated waking up.

Apparently, I’m not a morning person. Heath knows this better than anyone. He makes my coffee for me, turns off the fan, and lights candles just to coax me out of bed. (I know, he’s like a real life Prince Charming).

But despite his endless sweetness, I found myself more sluggish and exhausted in the mornings, simply not wanting to drag myself from bed and start working. There were days like this on the road, but lately I’ve been even more lazy than usual, despite having a longer, more clear to do list each day.

2. I watched more television.

Heath and I don’t watch much television compared to the average American, but we do have our occasional Netflix binge. In the past few months especially, I’ve found myself pulling up Netflix more and more, getting lost in watching reruns of my favorite shows. Whenever I started feeling stressed about work or money or finding something new to fix in the RV, I sank into the couch with an episode of a comedy and got lost in the story line.

3. I found myself thinking “What am I even doing with my life?” 

This is a common thought for most 20-somethings. While on the road, I had a carefully crafted pitch about our honeymoon adventure in our RV. I could brag on my husband, on being on national and international television, on learning to be brave enough to leave our home and travel across the states to make a documentary. I had an answer to this question.

Since returning from Alaska, people often ask what Heath and I are up to. Or, even more difficult to answer, “Is the documentary done? Can I watch it?” Which makes me want to sob and lament the millions of hours of footage still unwatched. Okay, realistically, it’s probably less than 100 hours of footage I keep putting off working on, but it feels like Everest.

I often found myself reflecting on what I was working on and where my life was going, wondering if I had any idea where I was headed.

As I was pondering what the next step is for Hourly America, I realized why these past three months after Alaska have been so mentally difficult compared to our year of traveling the country.

For the first year of our marriage, Heath and I had a clear purpose, a clear goal, of something we were working toward together: visiting all 50 states. Every day we had clarity of what we were doing and why. During that year, we kicked butt and took names, so to speak. We accomplished more together during our honeymoon than I ever could’ve imagined.

I underestimated the power of working toward a specific purpose.

Without a distinct goal to work toward, I was more lethargic, easily distracted, and less motivated. I wrote and blogged less (I haven’t written or published anything in over three weeks) and I didn’t even notice. Without a goal for my writing, there was nothing to work for, so why bother?

Without a greater purpose to work toward, everything I worked toward felt ambiguous and less fulfilling.

No one ever tells you this about life. That life is easier, better, and more satisfying when you’re working on something bigger than yourself. When you choose a goal–like filming a documentary about what work looks like in America–you know the why behind your actions. Emails and phone calls and research and editing are all easier because you know it’s all leading you to something greater.

This week, as I try to write again and get back into the saddle so to speak, I’m pondering my purpose behind my work and my decisions.

Do you ever think about the purpose behind your work and your actions? Do you have a clear, written purpose for your life?

Follow Alyssa Padgett:

Travel blogger

Second half of Team Padgett and full-time traveler in our Winnebago Brave. I blog about our travels, how I run our production company from the road, and the ridiculous things Heath does on a daily basis. My husband thinks I'm funny.

  • The truth is, if you’re gonna binge, Big Bang Theory is the way to go! 🙂

    There are some good insights here. Do you feel like you’re any closer to finding that “purpose” again? I wonder why editing and piecing together the documentary doesn’t feel like enough?

    I have a general idea of purpose for myself but not specifically right his moment. I’m working on it! As are you 🙂

    • We had never watched it before! Heath’s mom had 6 seasons on DVD…They lasted us like a month!

      You know, I wonder that too. Heath and I are both pretty de-motivated about the film and I think that’s mostly because the film doesn’t pay us anything and it won’t be released in a while, so there isn’t a clear, immediate reward. I’ve heard once before that it’s a sign of maturity to be able to delay gratification…so maybe we’re just not mature enough yet! 🙂 ha.

      What’s your purpose? Do you have like a mission statement written down that you refer to ever?

      • So you guys have to find a way to reward yourselves for progress on the film, right?! Maybe your Netflix password should be “DidYouEditFilmToday” 😉

        No mission statement here but that’s a damn fine idea! I think my general purpose is to help people and spread love, I just don’t know specifically how I want to do that long-term. Maybe it’ll always be evolving instead of one specific thing though. Parenting, being a friend, sending snail mail, welcoming those who feel like they don’t fit in, etc.

        • Hahaha, that’s an awesome idea!

          That’s a good mission, but I think specifics are so necessary. Cause I’m over here like I wanna inspire people but the how is such a big piece! Definitely always evolving though and probably never just one thing.

  • Lauren

    I believe you and I are in similar boats. I’m in my first year of marriage and the first six months saw rapid change with me taking a new job, moving cross country back home, and my husband going back to school full-time. Now he is busy and has a very defined purpose and I find myself binging on Mad Men every night. The rut needs to be over before I reach the end of the series! Hopefully a fresh fall season will bring some new perspective for us both. 🙂

    • Mad Men, eh? I might have to check that out. Currently binging on Gilmore Girls… 🙂 I think you’re right, the change of the seasons always seems to bring something new. (Although the high in Austin today is 95 so who knows if fall will ever come here)

  • Jann Rayner Tresham

    The same is true when you retire! I went through an adjustment period and finally figured out that I needed both a flexible routine and daily/weekly goals or I did nothing. Weeks went by in my first year of retirement with absolutely nothing accomplished. Lucky for you that you learned this lesson young!

    On another topic. We’re thinking of traveling with our trailer to Texas from Oregon for Thanksgiving. Can you recommend a good/inexpensive RV park?

    • You know, with as many retirees as we hang out with, I can see a lot of similarities there! We are practically retired. Ha!

      We live at the Camper Resort on Lake Travis (which is northwest Austin) and it’s lakefront and pretty cheap, but there aren’t very many open spots in the winter. There’s one park in downtown Austin (if you want to be in the city) called Pecan Grove I believe that if you called now you could probably get a spot. Or there’s La Hacienda, which is by far the nicest RV park in town, and they are near us by the lake as well. There are others, but those are the three I’ve heard good things about!

  • Nice post! It definitely helps to have a goal or purpose mapped out. Otherwise we can feel a bit adrift. But I have no doubt you’ll find your way!

  • Donna Werner Boehm

    No matter your age, you will always have times of wandering (and wondering) if you are on the right path. Life is a journey: take a wrong turn, get lost…it’s all part of the magic of discovery.
    P.s. Will you be watching the wedding? Penny and Leanard are getting married!

    • We are on season 7! I can’t believe they are getting married! We need to catch up.

  • Melinda Szabo

    I just found your blog through your trip from a guest posting of Heath’s for Billy Moyer.

    That being said, you have just articulated what I have been feeling this past 6 months but more so in the last month. I don’t have a goal or a purpose because I’m afraid to commit to the future. I’m afraid of making a decision on a path and finding out I missed out on my “purpose”. Your blog has given me not only the words to articulate how I have been feeling but also has given me the strength and resolve to find a goal for at least the next 5 years. Thank you!

    • Melinda, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I’m so glad something I said could be helpful. What’s the goal you’ve decided to work toward?

      Alyssa

  • Today, I have discovered your blog and spent quite some time reading your adventures. Really inspiring! And of course, I wish you good luck organizing you next big project. I am sure you’ll do great.