Dec 1, 2022

On Expanding Purpose

It’s kinda a cliche by now that you only grow when you go beyond your comfort zone, but it’s a cliche is partly due to that although we intellectually understand it, but we still could not fully embrace it in our life.

One trick that I use to push myself to do something uncomfortable is to expand the purpose of the action. In other words, do not look at action as a single-purpose activity, but is something that could provide tiers of benefits, depending on the scenario. By using that, I can assure myself that I will always gain something from investing my time, and thus more likely to act on it.

Take an example of giving a technical talk. The tiers of benefits that I can gain from giving a technical sharing are:

  1. enjoys the feeling of being “on the stage”
  2. deepens my understanding & knowledge of the topic
  3. improves my reputation as a software engineer

With that, although the most uncertain purpose (improve my reputation) is out of my control, I know that I would definitely have my moment of on the stage and learning more about the topic.

Note that “expanding purpose” is not just a mind trick to make myself to feel better, having that mindsets also means I would do things differently. Knowing that I want to take the opportunity to improve my understanding means that I would do more deeper research on the topic, and thus making that time investment more worthwhile. Incidentally, usually this also improves my chance of achieving my other goals.

Another common example is applying jobs when your current job is not terrific, but comfortable. (On side note, I think this is something that you should do every two years, regardless how you feel about your current job).

Clearly the best case scenario of applying jobs is to get a better role that offers you better compensation, but if I expand the purpose of that, I can come up with the following tiers of purpose:

  1. getting to know the skillsets that are sought by the industry
  2. brushing up my interview skills
  3. learning the interview processes
  4. learning more technology when doing assignment (which is a mini purpose-expanding)
  5. getting a good job offer

And the result of that is although job searching is still an exhausting process, but I can still enjoy it.

Thanks for reading!

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