Last Updated on May 2, 2022 by Chin Yi Xuan

Do you feel miserable in your life most of the time?

As a SPM/STPM leaver, don’t you feel directionless while deciding your next pursuit in life?

As a university student, don’t you feel that you do not belong to the degree that you are pursuing?

As someone in the workforce, don’t you feel that work is, well, just work?

No matter which stages of life you are in, let me ask you this question:

Why do you do what you do?

This sounds like a question so simple that people would have simply shrugged it off with a standard:

“Nah…no specific reason.”

Or… is it so?

If, for most of the time, you have been miserable with life, chances are, if you have yet to ask this question enough – and not being honest enough to face the right answer within.

So let me ask you this question again:

WHY do you DO what you DO?

Are You Doing This for Others, or for Yourself?

For a big part of our early life, many of us have been living it in a pre-arranged manner.

Remember the piano classes on Monday? How about those badminton lessons on Saturday morning? Don’t even mention the drawing classes on my beautiful Sunday mornings (of which, I still got a ‘D’ in my Art (Seni) in my high-school years).

School was even more rigid – “Ah, you scored well in PMR/PT3, off you go to the science stream.”

If any, I hated science subjects more than ever!

Wait, there is more:

“Wow, you did a great job in SPM/STPM, you gonna do well studying law!”

If you haven’t noticed yet, we have been living our early life that is very much planned or as according to our parents’ arrangements and societal norms. Here’s a problem with this way of living:

While it may have helped us established a sense of how to live our life, it may not be the best way to live it – for the rest of our life.

Hence, for most of us, it goes without saying that a lot of our life choices that got us miserable is heavily influenced by the norms (or expectations) set by our parents and the society.

Look, careers like lawyers or doctors may be prestigious in the eyes of society, but are you in your career because of societal status? Or are you pursuing your career because it is your passion to uphold justice and save lives?

Are you doing what you do for the sake of meeting people’s expectation on you, or are you doing it because that is what you truly want to do?

Be Selfish with Your Purpose

Now, this may sound counterintuitive but hear me out:


You have to be selfish when it comes to the purpose of doing what you do.


Too many of us, when asked of the reason for pursuing certain life choices, we put too much weight on societal norms and expectations.

“I studied dentistry because my whole family is in the business.”

“I work as a consultant in Big 4 because all my peers are doing the same thing.”

“I got to find a partner and get married by 28, because that’s usually the case for most people.”

If your primary purpose in doing what you do is to fulfill your family and society’s expectations, it is hard not to feel miserable especially when routine gets boring and when times are tough.

Having a purpose that comes within yourself make tough times and repetitive routines more bearable. You know that you are in charge of making things work. You know that you make a particular choice willingly.

You know that you are doing it for yourself.

“I studied Chinese Medicine because I want to help to treat more people.”

“I become a comedian because I enjoy putting smiles on people’s face.”

“I agreed to Joel’s proposal because I wish to build a family with him.”

Whatever you do, do it for yourself. Having a selfish purpose in what we do prevents us from burning out of societal expectations.

The question is: WHAT do you REALLY WANT to do?


Spend some time to think about WHAT you REALLY WANT. Getting clear of this will help you tremendously in getting out of a miserable life.

Be Selfless with Your Goals

This is weird. You’ve just asked us to be selfish with our purpose, yet now you are asking us to be selfless with our goals?

You see, while your purpose or intention should come from what you want or desire to do, but your actions and goals could be as big as making the world a better place. In other words:


You can be selfish with your purpose, yet selfless in your goals.


Of course, a selfless goal does not mean that you have to change the world. It could be to make the community around you – your workplace, your local club/society, your home, a better place to live in. 

It could be as small as sharing your recycling knowledge online to help raise more awareness towards the environment, or even as big as a global movement to encourage race and gender equality all around the world – all because you WANT to do so.

If having a selfish purpose prevents you from unnecessary burnout, then having selfless goals give you a sense of fulfillment in what you do – something that many miserable people do not find in themselves.

The key to getting out of misery

To be honest, it is simple to say whatever I’ve said than actually doing them in real life.

This is because whenever we try to move out and do something out of the norm, we would normally be met with resistance, not just externally but also within ourselves. Changes, well, are never meant to be comfortable.

In this instance, some people turn back to their comfort zone and continue to live their miserable life, while some break out of the zone to find their WHY in life. For you that need help in finding your WHY, I leave you with this formula:


Remember: Be selfish with your purpose, be selfless with your goals.