Having No Purpose

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Fear of Having No Purpose

A lack of purpose can create a downward spiral into apathy and even despair as the character believes that nothing they do matters. A fear in this area may push the character into frantic action as they try to find or force a purpose for their life. Alternatively, it can cause them to abdicate their own agency, leading them to sit back and do nothing.

What It Looks Like
Turning to self-help books and programs for guidance
Taking inventory and personality tests to determine aptitudes
Volunteering with differing agencies or charities
Fundraising for causes
Job-hopping to find the perfect role
Dismissing accomplishments when they do happen
Seeking outside approval or validation
Working long hours to compensate for a perceived lack of purpose 
The character having unrealistic expectations about what they can or should have accomplished by certain points in life
Dreading birthday milestones (because they accentuate what the character hasn’t been able to do)
Drifting through life with no meaningful connection to their inner self
Dismissing or belittling others’ success to feel better about themselves
Being overly ambitious 
Making decisions aimlessly, with no specific end-point in mind
Becoming defeatist, believing that nothing anyone does matters
Pursuing temporary feel-better activities that don’t satisfy (using drugs, engaging in unhealthy or unsafe sexual practices, shoppin

Common Internal Struggles
Constantly feeling unproductive or incapable
Feeling depressed or anxious about the lack of progress 
The character feeling as if nothing they do matters
Feeling lost in a world that defines success based on having a specific purpose 
Worrying that their life will never have meaning 
Wanting to contribute positively but not knowing how
Questioning their current profession and if they’re on the right path
The character comparing themselves to others and being disappointed
Dissatisfaction with the way life is going
Resenting people whose purpose is clear

Flaws That May Emerge
Apathetic, Cynical, Impatient, Impulsive, Insecure, Irresponsible, Jealous, Lazy, Martyr, Melodramatic, Nervous, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Whiny, Withdrawn, Workaholic, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Drifting from job to job looking for one that provides meaning
Difficulty recognizing their own achievements
An inability to live in the moment (because the character is too busy working toward the perfect purpose-filled life)
Starting many ventures but not following through (always moving to the “next big thing”)
Needing praise and approval to counter their feelings of doubt 
Missing opportunities to align with people who are doing meaningful things because the character is searching for their own individual legacy
Constantly being sucked into the comparison game
Developing an addiction or unhealthy habit as a coping mechanism

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
|Internalizing the message of self-help gurus or celebrities who equate finding purpose with monetary success
Seeing close friends or relatives succeed in meaningful areas of life
Being left behind by a colleague who moves up the ranks quickly 
Being accused by a loved one of not having enough drive or vision
Hitting an important milestone and feeling dissatisfied with life
A friend or relative dying, leading to a revelation for the character about how fleeting life is
The character being rejected in their efforts to create meaning (not being selected for a promotion, being replaced on a volunteer board, their business failing, etc.)
Seeing a portion of the population that needs help, but feeling inadequate and unequipped to help.


Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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