If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.
– Zig Ziglar
Purpose is a concept that is ubiquitous in the personal development and healing space these days. There are coaches that dedicate their entire practice to helping people find their purpose in life and make strides toward creating it in reality.
My own path has been, in many ways, about finding and fulfilling my purpose. Along the way I saw three main archetypes that all shared the quality of discovering purpose, each in a different way. The Quester, Adventurer, and Journeyer each have a distinct and nuanced relationship to purpose. In this blog series we will explore each of them. Because purpose is at the heart of these three paths, let us talk about that first.
To begin with, let us define purpose.
According to dictionary.com the two definitions of purpose are:
Noun – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
Verb – have as one’s intention or objective.
Both of these definitions will play a key role in how we talk about purpose and what role it plays in the personal development and healing space today.
Quester, Adventurer, or Journyer?
Overall, the Quester finds purpose in their goal. What happens along the way is only important if it serves the end goal. There have been a lot of positives that have come out of living from this perspective. We have been able to create some awe-inspiring things as a species. The questing way of being in the world has also created a lot of damage and fueled a lot of pain.
The Adventurer is the antithesis of the Quester. The next blog will focus on the Adventurer and how this archetype differs from that of the Quester. We will talk about a different way to find purpose in life and how the Adventurer archetype operates. We will also include some of the downsides to living life from the Adventurer perspective.
The final blog will attempt to capture the value from both as we talk about the Journeyer. The proposal in the final blog will be to leave behind the downfalls of the Quester and the Adventurer and capture the profound upsides of both. As with most archetypes, we hold some of each within us. There is a possibility that we can not find the perfect path to walk, but perhaps we will find trying to be a worthy endeavor. Recognizing where you are a Quester can be an interesting addition to making your way through life.
Purpose as one’s intention or objective is one of the primary ways the Quester operates. In this, purpose is created through having a goal to achieve and in any act that is in service of that goal.
The Quester has a goal that they have set out to achieve. No matter how long it takes, or what they must go through in order to achieve that goal, reaching the goal is the main purpose of everything they do. What happens along the way is secondary to the goal, and can even be said to be unimportant when compared to the goal.
In other words, the Quester has a “there” and “then” where they must arrive. Once they arrive, they will have fulfilled their purpose. For instance, someone who sets out to climb Mount Everest, will succeed only if they reach the top and make it back down alive. That is the goal and the purpose of the quest. Anything less is not what they have set out to do, and falls short of fulfilling their purpose.
Being a Quester creates a mode of operation that impacts all facets of someone’s life. Depending on what the goal of the quest is, it can dictate where they live, what they learn, who they spend time with, and how they perceive the world.
For instance, someone who is working towards a high net worth may surround themself with other people who are interested in the same goal. They may read books on how to be more impactful at work, how to make passive income, and where to look for greater opportunities. They may frequent an affluent area to start rubbing shoulders with people who have already achieved what they are working for.
This keeps the future on the top of the mind. The value of each action or activity is measured by how well it prepares the Quester for the next. Each stage is movement towards the top of the staircase. The difference for each individual comes from the goal that they hold. Some people set their goal as a career that pays well. Others set their goal as meeting the right partner, settling down, and raising kids. Others set their goal as a good retirement. Others set their goal of changing the world in a way they see value in. Others set their goals of having a ripped and attractive physique. Others set their goal of being famous. There are several different mountain peaks to reached.
This mode of operation creates a sense of continuity of purpose. The purpose is to achieve the goal. All things that help with that hold utility and therefore a sense of purpose. All things that stand in the way hold little to no utility and thus have no sense of purpose. Action itself then becomes highly valuable and takes on its own sense of purpose. What each individual does becomes paramount to either achieving or not achieving their purpose. Action and doing are then held as highly valuable. Inaction or not doing are then seen as lacking the same level of value for the Quester. This perspective often sets as a personal value system that then impacts all areas of a person’s life.
Culture of Questing
The West has adopted the Quester archetype as one of its primary modes of operation. Many stages of life are designed to prepare the individual for the next stage. Kindergarten prepares the child for elementary school. Elementary school prepares the child for middle school. Middle school prepares the teen for high school. High school prepares the young adult for college or for getting a job. College prepares the adult for more schooling or a career. Each step prepares the person for what is next to come.
As a result, the culture of questing produces a high number of Questers all striving for their personal top of the mountain. This then drives high levels of competition amongst individuals, which creates a race to be bigger and better. This dynamic has allowed for many to reach a high level of potential, as it was only in rivalry that they found their higher performance. Certain athletes, businesses, artists, and more have risen to great heights due to being placed against others who were also driven by the desire to achieve greatness.
For those who are naturally a Quester archetype, this helps them to be efficient and successful. Their single point of focus allows them to not be easily distracted and to strive for what is most valuable to them in life. Many Questers have reached their goals and it can be argued that several advancements in western civilization have come from the success of the Quester archetype. There are countless creations that would not have been possible without Questers in this world. Modern medicine, technological advances, global economies, etc. are all impactful additions to the human experience.
However, there are some salient downsides to living in a system that celebrates the Quester.
A crucial downside comes from the rivalry dynamic and high levels of competition. It creates an “othering” of people that are seen as roadblocks to the Quester’s goal. There is a deep separation of each individual and a polarization that can and has occurred in society. When there is a zero sum game being played, meaning that one person’s gain is another person’s loss, then there is little motivation to work together. This is arguably the root (or close to it) of the motivation behind war, racism, sexism, and many other “isms” and conflicts in the world. That is its own topic and it is wildly under-explained here, but nonetheless, plays a significant role in understanding the complexities and consequences of the questing culture.
Another pitfall is that a culture of questing impacts the individual’s identity. What often happens is it creates a sense of, “my worth and my value as a human are measured by what I do and what I achieve.” Someone’s “there” and “then” become less about achieving something that feels like a natural and authentic expression of the individual, and more about trying to achieve a sense of worth and value within themselves. It can become a way of trying to validate their individual existence.
Yet, another downside to the Quester society is how much it displaces the individual from the present moment. A Quester mindset lures attention into the future, always thinking about tomorrow and what needs to be done in order to achieve the goal. It also increases how much the individual thinks about the past, creating a lens of critique as to how things could have been or should have been. This in turn, can lead to a lack of satisfaction or worth in life.
Where Do We Go From Here?
As with most archetypes, we hold some of each within us. Recognizing where you are a Quester can be an interesting addition to making your way through life. The next blog in this series, the Adventurer, will address some of the pitfalls of living from the Quester perspective, show an alternative way to being in the world, and reveal another layer of our own ways of thinking and how we value ourselves and our purpose. From there we will visit the third archetype, the Journeyer, and explore the happy medium of purpose and how we can live a more fulfilled life now.