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Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life
aka: Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life

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"Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in the world. To not know why you're here. That's just an awful feeling."
Elijah Price, Unbreakable

Some people receive the Call to Adventure, but others are left waiting by the phone.

Some will be lucky enough to quickly find a thing they can do. There are others who have to search a little bit more. The person who is Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life is searching for what they could be good at or what would spiritually satisfy them and will try every possibility, even the most outlandish and odd. Obviously, with little or no success. If for some reason they succeed in their new field, they will still feel empty and will quickly abandon the effort at the first chance, going back to the pursuit of their "destiny".

Alternatively, the character indeed had found that satisfactory goal of life in the past, but life circumstances had irrevocably separated them from it. Broken-hearted, they try with other things, often without success. In this case, they will abandon whatever they're doing if there is even a minimal chance of going back to the way it was.

If it's a musical, expect this to be expressed with an "I Want" Song or a Wanderlust Song.

As the first tab below may suggest, there seems to be a specific Japanese variant of this trope, the "(Male) Ordinary High-School Student burdened heavily by ennui at the lack of individual freedom and excitement offered by the modern Japanese lifestyle," who usually gets swept up into wacky hijinks, which frames a Wish-Fulfillment fantasy for the audience to relate to, but occasionally they have to cope with that dull world in some way. This variant of the trope is particularly likely to display overt symptoms of clinical depression without them being considered in that light.

This is what happens when those that Just Wanted to Be Special and would have Jumped at the Call never get the opportunity. They just never found their Goal in Life. Compare Living Is More than Surviving, the basis of this trope where a purpose beyond survival is necessary for life. Contrast Straw Nihilist, who believes there is no purpose to find in life and endlessly rants about it, and The Anti-Nihilist who tries to find one knowing there is no inherent meaning and/or who appreciates life for what it is. Compare and contrast Allergic to Routine. Contrast Unfulfilled Purpose Misery, where the character knows what their purpose is, but not being able to carry it out causes problems.

Truth in Television for almost every person at some point in their lives. People who long for a sense of purpose are targeted by military recruiters, cults and protester organizations, because being part of an organization can give a sense of purpose. People with Depression are particularly prone to this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akumetsu: This trope is what at least Niikura Shou was experiencing when he discovered his origins and Akumetsu the clone army was born. Most other Shous are only shown after a lot of brain-sharing, body-replacement, and Akumetsu's launch, so they aren't really individuals anymore, but him at least, and probably Hazama too.
  • Unlike other Earth Science Club members, Mikage Sakurai in Asteroid in Love never has any Goal in Life and not even career goals. Being a twelfth grader, she finds that distressing.
  • The Pope, of all people, has this problem in Berserk. Having led a comfortable, sheltered childhood, he joined the church mostly out of lack of ambition for anything else, rose through the ranks by doing what he told to do, and ended up claiming the Papacy by virtue of being the last man standing after all the other competitors were done sabotaging each other. By the time he enters the story, he's in his twilight years, and wishes as he waits for death that he'd done something of any meaning in his life. Unfortunately, that's when Sonia and Mule arrive, leading the unknowing Pope into Griffith's hands.
  • Bleach: Ichigo Kurosaki experienced this during the Time Skip after sacrificing his powers to defeat Aizen. Despite assurances to his friends and family that he was happier as a normal person, all of them understood he was lying to himself. It's no surprise to anyone when he blindly latches onto the first opportunity to gain power again.
  • Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass was shown to have elements of this in the first episode, before he got his Magical Eye. He even threatened suicide early on when the prospect of becoming an Ordinary High-School Student again was almost forced upon him by the person who gave him the initial opportunity to change his fate. When his memories were rewritten by the Emperor at the beginning of R2, he was shown to have reverted to this feeling of crushing boredom, tired of high school but convinced the adult world wouldn't afford him any opportunities to live up to his potential, since important jobs were generally reserved for nobility. In both cases, he resorted to high-stakes gambling in order to make things interesting. Luckily, encounters with C.C. changed all that.
  • This is Yagami Light's state of being as Death Note opens. He despises the state of the world, finds no challenge or meaning in anything, has no hobbies, views his highest ambitions as a matter of the course of time, and yet always does everything perfectly, like laughing at jokes that aren't funny told by people he may even loathe because good, clean-cut students socialize, and studying for exams he could pass in his sleep. He shows symptoms of a clinically depressed possible psychopath, with reputation-defense and control issues to beat the band. And his egomaniacal tendencies begin to dominate his personality after he finds his purpose in conquering the world by fear and murder once he got his hands on an Artifact of Doom that removed the consequences from hurting people.
    • That being said, we see another side of Light during his Memory Gambit: having relinquished possession of the Death Note and losing his memories as part of an elaborate ruse, Light changes considerably. He's more optimistic and idealistic than even before getting the Death Note yet also more mature in accepting certain aspects are outside of control though still wanting to do the right thing. Light not only helps L in finding "Kira" but also works to try and rein L in.
  • BlackWarGreymon spends most of his time in Digimon Adventure 02 running around and destroying things for this reason, though this is mostly stemmed from his agonising over What Measure is a Non-Digimon?. Eventually, he does find a purpose... if a very short-lived one.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Cell becomes a minor example after reaching his perfect form; he candidly tells Trunks that now that he has attained ultimate power, even killing Goku, the purpose for which he was created, has lost all meaning to him. The Cell Games are his way of figuring out what to do next. He finally discovers it through an epiphany caused by his near-death and rebirth from self-destruction: that Dr. Gero hadn't created him just to kill Goku or destroy the Earth, but to be the end of all living beings in the universe, a role Cell embraces wholeheartedly with joy.
  • Golden Boy:
    • This ecchi anime series has the hero's lust for women. Every episode he meets some new ridiculously attractive woman and goes on an epic-level mission to win her favor. It inevitably ends with him having somehow managed to win her heart, leaving her ready and wanting... and watching him as he heads off into the sunset, off to win his next prize without even having claimed the last. (Oh, Japan.)
    • In the manga, one of the girls of the week shows the dark side of this trope. During her arc, she gradually falls out of love with her master and in love with Kintaro because he will not break no matter what she does to him. So after he leaves because he has learned what he wanted to that arc she decides to chase after him to find a new purpose. In her efforts to track him down she runs across some of the people he helped in the past. She systematically broke them to find out if the purpose they gained from meeting him could be one she could use.
  • Rakka from Haibane Renmei is a recently hatched Haibane. She spends the first several episodes looking for a job to do and trying to find her place. She ends up getting the very special job of cleaning up inside the wall that surrounds the village and picking the leaves which Haibane halos are made out of.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Golden Wind: Abbacchio had lost all his motivation in life ever since he indirectly caused his partner's death and lost his career as a cop. The only moment he ever feels to be at ease is when he's serving a purpose from a higher figure without question.
    • Stone Ocean: The sons of Dio hold a desire to find their potential in the midst of their pasts. After Pucci informs them of the bloodline they came from, they're convinced their awakened Stands is what they've been waiting for.
    • Steel Ball Run: After becoming paraplegic, Johnny wanted to regain a sense of purpose by entering the race. A large part of his character consisted in him re-learning to ride a horse without the use of his legs.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • The heroine of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha was like this when we first met her (and very much like this in the manga supplement of the cinematic adaptation), despite the fact that she was nine years old. When a boy ferret from another world asked her for help, she rushed to help him. Hers isn't so much a case of Jumped at the Call as it is already at the springboard looking for it. By the end, she's found her place in life and we now know her as the most badass Magical Girl in history.
    • Played for Laughs in the Sound Stage for the first movie where her daughter Vivio is worried that she'll never find her purpose in life because she isn't desperate enough.
  • Macross Delta: Hayate Immelman, the male protagonist. Prior to the events of the series, he spent most of his time going from job to job and planet to planet finding a purpose but to no avail. He only finds it when he accompanies Freyja to join Delta Flight, due to realising his life's purpose is to fly. This is, however, Averted in Passionate Walkure, where Hayate was already a member of Delta Flight before meeting Freyja.
  • Medaka of Medaka Box was the perfect human. Everything she tried she could do, she could outdo any adult in any academic study at the age of one, she had and could read libraries and she aged physically faster than her older siblings. This meant she had no clue how normal humans worked and didn't understand what failure even was, having never experienced it. By the time she was two, she was dangerously close to losing all connection with humanity, not being able to see a reason for anything anymore. Then she met Zenkichi, who told her that she existed to make people happy. This became her reason for existing from then on. When she fails for the first time when Zenkichi beats her in the school president election, she nearly snaps and breaks down on the spot, thinking her reason for existing is no longer there and is unable to function without it.
  • In Naruto, this is a major theme for most of the more sympathetic antagonists. Haku, Gaara, and Kimimaro all have shades of this, with Haku and Kimimaro finding meaning in being tools to their masters (while lampshading this trope as the reason why they are happy with their situation), while Gaara is so lonely and desperate to find a purpose that he constantly tries to "prove his existence" by killing people. Even the bigger arc villains like Orochimaru and Madara have shades of this, with their Start of Darkness showing them desperately latching onto an idea from someone else in order to find happiness/achieve their goal in life while at their lowest point.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji gets assigned to save the world from aliens starting in the first episode, but he still feels like he doesn't know what his purpose in life is. The show becomes about this. Midway through the show, he discovers that piloting the Eva gives him purpose, and the last two episodes are all about him now trying to find meaning without it. Other characters have arcs like this too.
  • New Game!:
    • Unlike her coworkers, Yun isn't quite sure exactly what does she want to work on. She does like artwork of little critters, animals, and monsters alike, it has been noted she joined Eagle Jump on a whim.
    • While she was in high school, Nene was unsure of what she wanted to do in life and went to college while she figured things out.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • The main theme of Mewtwo's story. After concluding that its early life was not at all to its liking, it decides to make its own purpose — first as a genocidal supervillain bent on world domination, then, when that turned out to be a bad idea, it settled as guardian of the clones it created. The last we see of Mewtwo, along with various cameos in the opening credits of other seasons and movies suggest it's taking up traveling the world.
    • Serena didn't know what she wanted to do for her Pokemon journey for most of XY's first season — her mother pushed her to be a Rhyhorn Racer, but she didn't really like it. She eventually decided to be a Pokemon Performer after meeting Shauna.
    • Chloe had heavy insecurities about what she wanted to do — her father is a Pokemon Professor, but for a while she didn't really care for Pokemon. After meeting Eevee (who has an inability to evolve, with other characters wondering if she has this problem as well), she becomes a Trainer and eventually develops an interest in Contests.
  • Autor from Princess Tutu starts to do this when it turns out he's not "chosen" to be Drosselmeyer's heir. He even lampshades it in one scene, when he marches through the streets of his town grumbling to himself "What was I born into this world for?!"
  • The titular character of Puella Magi Madoka Magica has this as her fundamental character problem. Though it gets eclipsed by later events, she was quite willing to become a Magical Girl just to have a purpose.
    • Homura was also this, being a socially isolated orphan who spent half her life in the hospital. Part of the reason she protects Madoka so adamantly is because—painful as the task is—it gives her a purpose to strive for and center her identity around. (In the finale, when this goal is actually achieved, she freaks out and starts crying.) Homura's character arc ends with her finding a meaningful purpose that isn't dependent on Madoka or anyone else and asserting it as she fights Wraiths.
  • Hinted to be a common trait of Ashikabi, prior to meeting their Magical Girlfriends in Sekirei. The majority were in one manner or another failing in life and lacked direction or purpose prior to meeting their Sekirei, but this is best exemplified by Minato and Mikogami. Minato was the Ordinary College Student type that was failing at life, and feeling lost until destiny fell on him, while Mikogami was a Lonely Rich Kid with controlling parents, who desperately wished for "something amazing" to happen.
  • Hachiken Yugo from Silver Spoon has this as one of his major problems.
  • Hisashi Mitsui from Slam Dunk, who was a talented basketball player until a knee injury got him out of the courts. He eventually becomes a delinquent and gang leader out of pure grief; but when circumstances (and the messianic intervention of a certain professor) give him a second chance to come back, he willingly and gleefully abandons the thug lifestyle. Perhaps too willingly.
  • Maon from Tamayura has this, making her hop from one hobby to the next.
  • Yuliy from Tenrou Sirius the Jaeger has shades of this personality. Because his hometown and his family were destroyed by the Vampires, Yuliy stated that his only reason to live is to kill the Vampires that destroyed his hometown and that he doesn't know what to do with his life without this goal.
  • Nozomi, from Yes! Pretty Cure 5, is like this at the start of the series, though she finds something to do by the end of the first episode. She's mentioned to have joined a series of different clubs, always ending in disaster. This is mostly credited to her rather short attention span, but when she actually decides to do something, she'll see it through it to the end.
  • Yusuke Urameshi from YuYu Hakusho is a bit of a darker example in that ultimately only fighting ever seems to bring happiness, but even that feels empty. He finally dies saving a kid and becomes a "Spirit Detective" but even then he still does not know.
    • Eventually he builds up a network of allies, revolutionizes demon politics for at least a while, opens a ramen stand, and gets married. Somewhere in 'having loads of buddies,' 'being a major political presence due to being able to punch mountains to death,' 'starting a family,' and 'not needing to worry about spending his time wisely because he's probably immortal,' he seems to find a happy place. And yes, there is a very bad case of Power Creep, Power Seep going on here. In the first volume, he got blasted into outer space by the ghost of a little girl.
    • This is a guy who began the series with only one friend (the girl he ends up married to) and she spent most of their interactions yelling at him. The moments when he started treating Kuwabara as an ally, saved Kurama's life, and trusted Hiei for no good reason respectively set him up to completely change everything at least as much as dying and getting superpowers ever did. And he'd never have survived long enough to recover from his second death without his team.
    • This comes full circle in the anime, where during his final fight of the series with Yomi, Yusuke realizes that he still doesn't have a purpose beyond his anger and that this is a problem since he is no longer angry. It takes a scolding from Raizen for Yusuke to finally realize what his purpose is: protecting his friends and reconciling his identity so he can be happy with Keiko.
  • A darker example happens in Zombie Loan, where Reiichirou Chiba becomes so jaded with his boring life and how predictable his future will be that he kills himself. At which point he comes back to life as a superpowered zombie and becomes a serial killer. He is an extremely happy character. So, yeah. Cruel, psychotic bastard, but quite happy. So... he did kind of get his wish.

    Comic Books 
  • Annihilation: Conquest: This is part of the reason why Gamora is upset when saved from the Phalanx, since being part of them made her feel like she had a purpose again, after being spurned by the cosmic higher-ups under undisclosed circumstances. Her ex-boyfriend Richard Rider uses this to convince her to join the Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Aquaman: This is why Black Manta joined the Suicide Squad. During Forever Evil (2013), he briefly believed his Arch-Enemy Aquaman to be dead, and realized he hated it because killing Aquaman was all he had. That meant he was nothing without his enemy, so killing said enemy is the one thing he can't do because it would leave him completely aimless. This realization horrified him, so he joined the squad in hopes it would give him structure and something to focus on that wasn't killing Aquaman. When that failed, he escaped and went back to antagonizing Aquaman because he doesn't know how to live any other way.
  • Batwoman: After being discharged from the army under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, Kate Kane spends years of her life aimless until she is inspired by Batman to become a vigilante.
  • Bloom (2019): Ari wants to leave his hometown, but he can't afford university and his music dreams start to look unlikely. He's left wondering what to do with the rest of his life while resenting working at the bakery. Hector is this to a lesser extent, especially after his grandmother dies and he ended a relationship.
  • Played for massive drama in The Boys, in that it causes most of the plot. Black Noir was created as a superior clone of the Homelander in case he ever went off the rails and had to be taken down, but that never came about. Black Noir, who wasn't quite sane in the first place, started recording himself committing atrocities, including raping Butcher's wife Becca and sending the results to the Homelander, gaslighting him into thinking he was responsible but couldn't remember doing it. Leading to the Homelander staging a coup of the United States, finally allowing Black Noir to carry out his purpose.
  • Destiny, NY follows the further adventures of Logan McBride a former Chosen One who was born to fulfill a prophecy... and fulfilled that destiny at age thirteen. Twenty years later, she's a depressed lesbian writer struggling to find some way to prove to the world that she didn't peak in her teenage years.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Donald Duck has "found and mastered his true purpose in life" about a billion times now. No matter if it means facing danger or going against common sense, he will keep trying again, and again, and again, convinced the next time will be it. What if that doesn't work? Next time surely will!
  • Earth 2: Jay Garrick barely graduated college, and his girlfriend left him to follow her dreams. While he sits on a hill thinking what to do with his life, the Roman god Mercury lands by the hill. With his dying breath, Mercury transfers his powers to Jay; giving him the speed of a god and he becomes The Flash.
  • In Frozen: Breaking Boundaries, Anna is uncertain what her purpose as a princess actually means. She then starts trying to find a job for herself.
  • At the outset of Hawkgirl (2023), Kendra is trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life now that she's no longer attached to a team.
  • Destruction, the prodigal of the Endless in The Sandman (1989), decides he wants to try creation for a change, but despite enthusiastic dabbling in painting, poetry, sculpting, flamenco guitar, sidewalk chalk art, gourmet cooking, etc. the results are invariably mediocre: he can't seem to find his calling.note  Subverted by him still being cheerier than most of the other Endless save Death, and far more content than he was before he left his office.
  • Nate Grey has this problem as a core part of his character; he was created to destroy the Apocalypse of his world, and not only did he succeed (he beat seven shades of excrement out of him and left him on a platter for Magneto to rip in half), his world was destroyed and he ended up adrift in the main 616 reality. His life's purpose was completed, and his powers were killing him (because Sinister, his creator, hadn't wanted him to stick around to finish him off once he took over), meaning that he spent most of his time wandering aimlessly, helping people and trying to figure out how to fix his powers and find a place in a world that didn't really know what to do with him. Eventually, he found his calling as a 'Mutant Shaman', embracing his outsider status and going a bit Crazy Sane in the process, but as Captain America correctly identified, he still had this problem - and explicitly compared him to the Sentry as someone who needed a bit of direction in his life before something tragic happened.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Deconstructed in Anachronism. Sonia's inability to find her purpose and achieve her dreams puts a strain on her mental health. She feels like a useless deadbeat with no purpose. Her grandmother's talk doesn't help.
  • In The Good Hunter, Talbot points out that Cyril is still looking for a purpose, then advises him not to let that search be the only thing he lives for. He's right about Cyril being somewhat lost, but he doesn't know that Cyril does have a purpose in life — to be left alone in peace and achieve a serene state of mind (that is, not being shell-shocked). It's just that trouble looks for him always. Should he come into terms with his role as the Hunter that answers to bloodshed, he'd have to give up his purpose.
  • Subverted in the Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic The Joyous One. Ludwig leaves home in order to "find himself." However, it turns out that "going out to find yourself" is a euphemism for leaving due to problems with your reputation.
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail Chloe Cerise wants to find out what she wants to do in the future because she's tired of everyone making her get a job with Pokémon because of her dad's job. Unfortunately the second chapter reveals that she has no hobbies at all, not helping that she refuses to leave her comfort zone and is paralyzed with the fear of just deciding what to do that her own mother can't figure out how to help. It's later revealed that Chloe has hobbies — writing horror stories, a fondness for demons, and being exceptionally skilled at softball — but she has had to keep them hidden due to mockery from her classmates.
  • In Legacy (Sekiro/Kimetsu no Yaiba), Wolf has always served someone, be it his father or Kuro. After his lord's death, Wolf eagerly latched onto the mission Emma gave him to look after the world in her place to have a purpose after the people who meant the world to him all died.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku doesn't know what he's going to do with his life other than his insistence that he's not going to be a Hero because of his traumatic childhood brawl with Katsuki Bakugou. He's constantly grappling with the fact that he has no idea why he was sent to Earth in the first place. When finally does decide to become a Hero, it's as much to give himself a purpose as it is to help others.
  • Like in canon, Serena has this in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. According to Grace, it's partly because she tends to give up very easily on things whenever she makes a mistake, but unlike canon, she's very self-aware of this, partially due to staying in touch with Ash, who has a definite dream for his life and she wants to follow his example finding one of her own.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: As revealed in flashbacks during Act II, Dark Kuyumaya is shown to be little more than a Vigilante Man rescuing girls from rapists and thugs and wondering if that was all he could do with his life; this led to him being recruited as a Fairy Tale agent by Kiria, who kept him in the dark about the organization's true nature. When Dark eventually found out and defected, he's found one by the time of the fic's beginning: being a good soul and helping people.
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls: Claudia Moncharmin has no clue what she wants to do with her life. Initially, she expressed the desire to succeed her mother Diana and her side of the family as an entertainer, but her backstory explains why that never happened. She considers grossly incapable of succeeding her father and taking over the family business. The DWMA seems like a last resort to her, but that does nothing to curb her feeling of inadequacy.
  • In The Student Prince, Arthur doesn't see the point of a royal family that doesn't actually do something and is frustrated that being a prince poses limitations on his life.
  • In The Victors Project: Gleam and Silk continue training District 1 tributes even after Luster usurps them and turns the DAEYD into an Academy of Evil, in order to help the tributes survive the Games and to find a way to distract themselves from how miserable their lives as Victors seem to be. Silk at least ultimately chooses to die helping the rebel Victors escape.
  • What Leads You Here: A recurring theme; The story takes place in the aftermath of 13 Sentinels's final battle with the revelation that the characters are the last humans alive, now on an alien planet with the goal of restarting humanity. All of the characters experience some degree of existential angst towards their new reality, not fully sure how to make the best of their new situation or what aspirations they have now. Keitaro has it especially bad; he was never sure if he'd survive the war, hence he never planned for what he'd do in life as an adult. The story follows him as he's constantly searching for reasons to keep living, one of those being Natsuno and helping her recover from an especially deep well of despair.
  • ‘Desperately’ might be an exaggeration, but when the Hanna fic "When You Get Older" begins, Sophie is uncertain what she wants to do with herself once she graduates. Helping Hanna investigate her past leads Sophie to consider journalism as a career as she finds that she enjoyed the research and an employee at the paper when they handed in their discoveries commented that Sophie’s work has potential.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Astro Boy, Astro is a newly-created robot desperately seeking his place in the world.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: After the viking chief Stoick decides to name his son Hiccup (a heroic tamer of dragons) his successor, Hiccup admits to Astrid that he feels he can't live up to Stoick's legacy because he is so unlike his father. He also never knew his mother and so wonders about his identity. Eventually deconstructed. Hiccup tries to find his own purpose as a "peacekeeper," reasoning it's what he's good at, but even his own mother, a kindred peacekeeper with dragons, tells him that some minds can't be changed, and war is sometimes needed. She and Stoick turn out to be right. Hiccup can only overcome his identity crisis when he admits his insufficiency, but still resolves to try to be more than he currently is anyways.
  • Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles after the superhero ban. Stuck in a dead-end insurance job watching his life steadily tick by, he'll do anything to break the tedium. Even it's a mission from a shadowy organization that he can't tell his family about.
  • Eddie from Sing is a somewhat downplayed example; His family is rich and he lives off of them. Because of this, he admittedly doesn't have any real aspirations in life. His parents moved him to their backyard pool house in an effort to help him become more independent and they've gotten him a life coach. It's not until he helps Buster wash cars and later become the stagehand of the New Moon theater that Eddie finds a purpose.
  • Smurfette in Smurfs: The Lost Village has this as the plot of the story, given she was created by Gargamel as a Honey Trap, but she denounced that role and is looking for something else.
  • Soul zigzags and deconstructs this idea. Throughout the movie, 22 was more interested in staying the Great Before as she saw no reason to go to Earth to live. When she experiences life through Joe's body, she learns to love life on Earth and wishes to stay. At that point, Joe learns that the Spark of Life that lets souls move on to Earth isn't a purpose or passion per se, rather it's the desire to live at all. It gets deconstructed further with the Lost Souls, people that hold on to their purpose so tightly, their souls become disconnected from their bodies and left to shamble on through life.
  • Toy Story 2: Stinky Pete the Prospector, after a lifetime of never being owned or played with properly, seeks to find fulfillment in going to Japan to be in a toy museum with the rest of the main cast of Woody's Roundup. This, ultimately, is what drives him to become the film's Big Bad; after Woody takes a very different view of Pete's goal, Pete takes extreme measures to force the rest of the Roundup Gang to go with him, regardless of their feelings on the matter.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Banshees of Inisherin: Colm feels like he doesn't have much time left and wants to compose songs so that he'll have something that'll be remembered long after he's gone, and cuts ties with Pádraic because he doesn't want to spend his time making small talk with a man he considers to be dull.
  • In Blind Chance Witek is searching for his niche in the world. In the first two versions of the events, he ends up in the opposite extremes of the same axis. He only finds his true calling when he doesn't take any side and just lives his own life, in the third version of the story.
  • Jean from A Child Is Waiting attended Juilliard, planning to become a concert pianist. When that didn't work out, she tried a wide variety of jobs, searching for the one that would make her life meaningful. Eventually she ends up as a teacher at an institution for mentally disabled children.
  • In Graduation, Jackson's primary motivation is that he has no idea what he wants to do once he graduates high school; unlike his friends. At the end of the movie, he has discovered a career to pursue: robbing banks.
  • In Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, most of humanity's folly originates from this; the beginning mentions humanity was created with a hole in their hearts. It's implied this leads to doing whatever in search of a purpose.
  • In Ikiru, Kanji Watanabe realizes after being diagnosed with stomach cancer that he never accomplished anything worthwhile during his thirty years as a lifeless petty bureaucrat in City Hall. He sets his sights on pushing a park through the Obstructive Bureaucracy he is so familiar with so he could die having done something.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, before meeting Harry again, Eggsy had resorted to drugs and petty crimes, didn't have a job, and had dropped first gymnastics and then his training for the Marines despite excelling at both. Harry saw that he still wanted to do something good with his life and gave him the opportunity to become a Kingsman.
  • The two main characters in Lost in Translation have this problem, which they express by moping. So much moping.
  • Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't know himself what he wants. Sometimes heroes foil his schemes, other times he gets what he desires (be it respect, admiration, authority, power, worship, revenge, safety, pleasure). But regardless of the outcome he then abruptly abandons his previous goal and finds a new one to chase. And when he finally understands who he truly is and what he is after, Thanos kills him.
  • My Dinner with Andre: Wally is depressed about being money-obsessed and stuck in a rut, while Andre is traveling the world trying to find inspiration and not getting it. After their dinner, Wally is a little more inspired and enjoys a cab ride home thinking about life and art.
  • This is the problem of the main character from Mike Judge's Office Space: he's completely unhappy about his job, but has no idea what else to do with his life.
  • Travis of Taxi Driver is absolutely desperate for something to give his life a sense of meaning. He became a taxi driver only because, as he was drifting around New York City, he might as well getting paid for this. Even then, he's still left unsatisfacted and try to seduce Betsy but fails once he took her to a porn theater. He then decides for vigilantism, buying guns and once shooting a robber but is still left with no purpose. Finally, he decides for political assassination against Senator Palantine (the one for whom Betsy was volunteering) but fails, flee and murder the pimps of the 12-year-old prostitute he earlier noticed.
  • In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock theorizes that this is what V'Ger is trying to do in its quest for knowledge.
    Spock: Each of us, at some time in our lives, turns to someone - a father, a brother, a God - and asks, "Why am I here? What was I meant to be?"
  • One of the constant recurring motifs in Star Wars, and there it's treated as both a positive and a negative:
    • In A New Hope, Luke is constantly complaining about being stuck on Tatooine while his friends are off helping to fight the Empire. Fortunately, meeting Obi-Wan Kenobi grants him his wish at last (along with the death of his uncle and aunt), but his impatience in wanting to steamroll through training and the fact that he achieved a lot at such a young age goes to his head in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda critically Lampshades this:
      Yoda: "All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing."
    • Anakin Skywalker has this worse. Born enslaved, he was taken into the Jedi Order for reasons he never fully understood (namely the prophecy that stated that he was the one who would restore balance to the Force), and felt stifled and unrewarded by his friends and colleagues. Eventually, in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine uses this as Flaw Exploitation:
      Chancellor Palpatine: "Ever since I've known you, you've been searching for a life greater than that of an ordinary Jedi. A life of significance, of conscience."
    • Both Kylo Ren and Rey long for some purpose. Ben Solo was raised to follow in his uncle's footsteps but was manipulated by Snoke to follow in his grandfather's footsteps, leaving him confused about whether he's doing what he wants or following someone else's purpose. Rey, on the other hand, is an orphan who confesses to needing someone to "show me my place in all this". Eventually, Kylo latches on to this in The Last Jedi as a Flaw Exploitation, as well as ranting about how he hates being burdened by legacy:
      Kylo Ren: It's time to let old things die. Snoke, Skywalker, the Sith, the Jedi, the Rebels- let it all die. Rey, I want you to join me. We can rule together and bring a new order to the galaxy.
      Rey: Don't do this, Ben. Please don't go this way.
      Kylo Ren: No, no, you're still holding on! Let go! Do you want to know the truth about your parents? Or have you always known? You've just hidden it away. You know the truth. Say it. Say it.
      Rey: They were nobody.
      Kylo Ren: They were filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money. They're dead in a pauper's grave in the Jakku desert. You have no place in this story.
  • Both the protagonist and the antagonist in Unbreakable are revealed to be struggling with this, only finding their purposes (to be a hero and a villain, respectively) at the film's end.
  • Part of Wesley's Character Development in Wanted. Stuck at a dead-end job that he hates and is driving him slowly insane...until he finds out that there are other options available.
  • Wings (1966): In her youth, Nadya had an exciting life as a Russian fighter pilot in World War II. Now she's living a boring existence as a middle-aged school principal. She finds herself adrift.
  • Deconstructed in The World of Kanako: The narrator can't stand being bullied anymore and sees no happiness in a world with the lack of freedom he has. When he meets Kanako he wants to be like her first boyfriend Ogata and flee with her to start a new life. He fails to see that Ogata was forced into isolation and that his attitude makes him an easy target for a very manipulative and corruptive character who exploits all of his flaws. In the end, he can't escape his bullies, resorts to violence and dies a cruel, embarrassing death.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • The Wolverine: Logan is essentially a wandering hobo when the film starts, mostly just living in the wilderness and avoiding contact with people as much as possible. It's only when he meets Mariko does he start to have a renewed hope to go on living.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: The Four Horsemen are downtrodden mutants who obey En Sabah Nur's "divine" will because he grants them a sense of direction and a feeling of worth from being specially chosen to form his "sacred" inner circle. Just like any cult leader, Apocalypse selects individuals who are at a low point in their lives and manipulates them into believing that his doctrine is the solution to their spiritual emptiness. From the Blu-Ray's "Clan of Akkaba: Apocalypse and His Horsemen" segment:
      Olivia Munn: We're all looking for someone or something to give us a purpose.
      Alexandra Shipp: He is basically saying, 'You don't have to worry. I'm here. I'm your God. If you treat me as such, you will reap all of the benefits.'

  • In Michael Stackpole's Age of Discovery, Nirati Anturasi spends much of the first book desperately looking for her special talent, which she theoretically could become a mystic at. She later decides that the only thing she ever accomplished was "dying really well", and fortunately for her, there a vacancy in the God of Death position.
  • The protagonist of Biting the Sun is bored out of her mind with the endless-sex-drugs-and-partying lifestyle of her society.
  • At the beginning of Black Legion, most of its founders are looking for a reason to be and Abaddon brings them together, giving them a purpose.
    • Telemachon strives for something more than Emperor's Children's rampant sensation seeking, although he hides it beneath a mask of contempt.
    • Falkius and his Sons of Horus, after having Horus' body stolen, is adrift with no identity nor purpose to speak of.
    • Khayon mostly travels from place to place, working for whoever pays him and simply trying to survive. His daemon Gyre lampshades it:
      You're a warrior without a war.
  • Discussed in Book of Ecclesiastes. The author of the book (believed to be King Solomon) laments about the meaning of life, but he finds most ideas of this vanity. However, he eventually comes to this conclusion:
    Revere God and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind.
  • At the start of Cate Tiernan's Immortal Beloved, the immortal main character has been going from party to party with her immortal friends because she had absolutely nothing better to do, and is kind of getting sick of the whole thing.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, the main character Touma bemoaned his lack of ability, with his power not able to fight thugs, help his test scores, or get him a girlfriend. That is, until Index falls onto his balcony and he is suddenly thrust into a world where his ability is the only thing keeping him alive as he desperately tries to save people.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Flight of the Old Dog, Patrick McLanahan is bored by the repetitive running of exercises and is thinking of leaving the service for the outside world where he believes he can make an actual difference. If you started Brown's books from anywhere else, you'll know that he eventually finds his purpose.
  • The theme of A Dog's Purpose is a dog trying to figure out his purpose as he gets reincarnated several times. In his fourth life he almost gives up due to not understanding why he's alive again after seemingly finding his purpose, but it turns out he hadn't. In the end, he figures out his purpose is to be with humans, be their friends, and support them. To him, that's the purpose of all dogs.
  • The Exile's Violin: Clay volunteers at Jacquie's detective agency because he has nothing to do and it was driving him crazy. Before that, all he did was waste time and money at auctions he didn't care about because his family's status dictated he do so.
  • Kirei Kotomine from Fate/Zero expands his motivations and backstory behind his actions in Fate/stay night and is ultimately revealed to be this trope. In his life, he has excelled in several fields, climbing up one field then quickly dropping it for something else. Even his marriage and child were simply parts of trying to find what he was lacking. He says that he has no desire for the Holy Grail, and questions why the Grail would choose him since he has no desires whatsoever. Then Gilgamesh comes along and tells him to "seek pleasure" in watching the actions of other people. By the end of the prequel novel, he has realized that what he likes the most is watching people suffer, but he's not happy because he still has a conscience and knows the one joy in his life is wrong.
  • The antagonist of Dean Koontz's From the Corner of His Eye is a man named Enoch Cain who spends the book searching for a purpose in his life through the various decadent social movements of the 1970s. Cain is also a sociopath with no qualms about killing. He ultimately fixates on finding and killing the main character, Bartholomew, after a series of genuine coincidences lead Cain to believe that Bartholomew is his great enemy.
  • The Garden of Sinners: Ryougi Shiki became this as a result of both losing SHIKI and spending two years alone in a void during her coma. When she wakes up, she struggles with a sense of emptiness and complete apathy towards everything. This is the main reason behind her cold, standoffish personality, as well as her taste for killing - fighting to the death is the only thing that makes her feel alive.
  • For most of the Gotrek & Felix novels, Gotrek actually knows exactly what he wants: to die in a spectacular fashion, thus fulfilling his oath as a slayer. After the Soft Reboot in Realmslayer however, when Gotrek finds himself in the setting of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, he's less certain; the god he swore his oath to is long dead, the culture it was part of no longer exists, rendering him functionally free of that oath. So now he's left with the question of what to do with the rest of his life. The answer is, of course, to continue slaying monsters and villains, but not actively trying to die in the process.
  • Shada D'ukal after leaving the Mistryl in the Hand of Thrawn series.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: Bria went through a period of this after she left secondary school and was heading off to college. She'd planned on being a museum curator and was engaged to a young man who came from a very wealthy family but didn't feel happy with either of these. Her mother was furious when she had broken off their engagement after she caught her fiancee cheating, and demanded Bria get back together with him because of the "great match" the pair had in her mind. Bria refused to do so though, and when she attended a service by missionaries from Ylesia, experiencing Exultation, it felt right to her. She sold her jewelry to buy passage, left Corellia, and became a Pilgrim on Ylesia. However, it turned out the religion is a scam to get slaves, first processing illegal spice on the planet and then sold off elsewhere. Her addiction to the Exultation and devastation at learning that it was lies took Bria a long time to shed. Eventually, she found another purpose however, joining the Corellian Resistance and helping liberate other Ylesian slaves.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Haruhi herself is desperate for something so fun and exciting that it'll shake up her life. She's joined every club, dated every boy who asked her out (however briefly), and never lasted more than a week with anything but the SOS-dan, which she started herself. The irony here is that the things she's searching for are right there, and trying to keep her from finding out.
    • Subverted by Kyon. The first novel opens with him claiming he wanted espers, aliens, and time travelers to exist, but closes that speech by saying he's given up and is fine with school and normal stuff.
  • Arthur Dent of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame. From his initial vague unease and doubt about working in BBC radio to the end of the universe, and beyond.
    • Slartibartfast has this problem. He finds some temporary fulfillment in creating fjords, but will readily admit that it's just something to keep himself busy. Later on, he gets into the universe-saving business but doesn't ultimately seem all that much more enthusiastic about it when it comes right down to it.
      Slartibartfast: ...the only thing to do is to say, "Hang the sense of it," and keep yourself busy. I'd much rather be happy than right any day.
      Arthur: And are you?
      Slartibartfast: Ah, no. Well, that's where it all falls down, of course.
    • And Zaphod Beeblebrox at the beginning of "Life, the Universe and Everything", having finished his mission from the first two books is sitting around on the Heart of Gold ship feeling bored with his lack of purpose.
  • Hurog: The increasingly bleak prospects with regard to him becoming the Hurogmeten of Hurog, make Ward irritated and grumpy — which he doesn't notice until after he found himself a new purpose in life. He was desperately looking for a purpose without even knowing that that was what he was doing.
  • Jane, Unlimited: Jane dropped out of college, the bookstore she works at doesn't pay the bills, and the only thing she wants is to make umbrellas. It's this lack of direction- as much as her aunt's wish- that drives her to Tu Reviens. Depending on the story, she either figures out what to do next or she comes to regret it.
  • Known Space: Protectors are biologically hard-wired to give up and die if they have no living descendants... unless they can find some project that gives them a sense of purpose by advancing the interests of the Pak race as a whole.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh!: Shibuya Yuuri (Harajuku Fuuri) of all people, was like this before stepping into his role as king of Shin Makoku. Typified by his not actually playing any baseball even though he likes it and trying to walk away and let Muraken get bullied, but not being able to go through with it once he realizes he's been recognized. Then he gets himself swirlied into another dimension while Murata apparently cravenly abandons him, presumably runs straight for the cops, and in reality must have stood right beside the toilets facilitating the dimensional leap from his side to make it possible.
  • The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess: Euphyllia spent a good portion of her life preparing to be the wife of Prince Algard. After he calls off the engagement, she finds herself at a loss on what to do with herself. She eventually finds an answer: helping improve the public perception of Princess Anisphia's magical inventions.
  • The Magicians: This is a problem for many Brakebills graduates, many of whom don't know what to do with themselves after all the challenges of study and learning are over. However, Quentin is the most commonly afflicted with it, having a desperate need to find some great heroic, adventurous purpose he can commit himself to: at first, he thinks Brakebills is the key, but when that doesn't satisfy it, he gets hedonistic and depressive before searching for the fictional realm of Fillory. Also turns out to be something of a Fatal Flaw, as his search for purpose and adventure ends up getting people heartbroken, hurt, or even killed.
  • This trope is thoroughly Deconstructed in The Moviegoer. The main character Binx is quite content to be an ambitionless movie goer, making money and going on dates.
    "What is the nature of the search? you ask. Really it is very simple; at least for a fellow like me. So simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life."
  • Nightfall (Series): Millennia of existence can do that to you. Prince Vladimir is constantly looking for new challenges. Even conquering the world gets boring after a while.
  • The group in Of Fear and Faith have shades of this, but Phenix and August are the most pronounced.
  • Sorata of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is surrounded by geniuses and hard workers with clear goals in mind (if a tad... eccentric) while he himself doesn't know what to do with his life.
  • Little Bran thought his future was essentially set in A Song of Ice and Fire; grow up, become an honorable knight, and everything else expected of a younger son to a great family with ties to the nobility. Then he was crippled for seeing too much. His storyline for the next few books focuses heavily on finding his purpose in life.
  • In the short SF story Specialist, the crew are looking for a replacement 'Pusher', a creature intrinsically capable of making spaceships achieve faster than light speeds, and so are vital for intergalactic travel and commerce. Near the end of the story, they come across a world populated by Pushers who have never connected with intergalactic society, never found the means to truly Push, and instead waste their time on wars, struggles and meaningless pursuits to make up for their lack of purpose. The planet is Earth.
  • In The Spirit Thief, the League of Storms suffers this as a whole following the Big Bad's defeat and banishment. They eventually settle on never recruiting again and spending the rest of their days observing Nico, just in case she gives in to her hunger.
  • Violet MacRae in Ari Bach's Valhalla is utterly without purpose, as per the first sentence in the novel.
    "Of the million people in Kyle City, there was none so aimless as Violet MacRae."
  • Subverted in Vorkosigan Saga. Mark states that his only purpose in life was to kill Miles and Aral, and now that Ser Galen was dead, he had no purpose in life anymore. Cordelia reassures him that almost no one has any purpose in the first place.
  • The chief preoccupation of Pierre Bezukhov and Andrei Bolkonsky, two of the main characters of War and Peace.
  • The Warrior Cats novella Daisy's Kin involves Daisy looking for a purpose: she had originally found one in caring for the Clan's kits, but now that there currently are no kits in ThunderClan and most of her kin there has died, she's questioning her role. By the end, she accepts that her purpose is to help cats who need it.
  • Mr. Toad of The Wind in the Willows has constantly shifting obsessions that always seem to get him in trouble. First, it's boating, then a road trip in a gypsy-style caravan, but his most famous (and infamously disastrous) craze is motor-cars.
  • In the Xanth novel, Question Quest, this is what motivates protagonist Lacuna to seek out Good Magician Humphrey's help in "fixing her dull life" (a feeling exacerbated by her twin brother Hiatus finding love and happiness in a previous book). Grey Murphy (filling in for Humphrey at the time) answers her questionnote , despite having no idea what the answer actually meant (He was simply reading from Humphrey's Big Book of Answers) and having a premenition of doom, should he answer. It's implied nearly all of Humphery's patrons that don't have a specific crisis to resolve fall under this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, Jaha gets this problem in Season 2. In the Season 1 finale, he sacrificed himself to save his people and atone for his sins. Except he didn't die, and is left to find a new purpose for himself, convinced he must have a grand destiny to fulfill. He convinces Murphy to join him in looking for a purpose in life, but for Murphy, it's not really done "desperately", but with a tired shrug and a comment that "I just got nothing better to do."
  • This is a recurring theme for Commander Sinclair on Babylon 5 during the first season. It doesn't get resolved until his third season reappearance where it turns out his true purpose is to go back in time and become Valen.
    • Garibaldi points out in an early episode that Sinclair goes about looking for his purpose by putting himself into suicidal situations. Garibaldi's theory is that Sinclair is doing this because "it's easier to find something worth dying for than something worth living for." In another episode, Delenn implies that this trope is the reason she didn't tell Sinclair about her decision to go down to Epsilon 3 to try and get the Great Machine working. She feared that if Sinclair had gone with, he would have plugged himself into the Machine, and she felt his destiny lay elsewhere.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Both Xander and Giles in season 4. Xander goes through a series of McJobs before finding something he's good at and enjoys, and Giles is at loose ends, even going as far as watching daytime TV to entertain himself.
    • Buffy looks like she's slowly turning bonkers in Season 9 after everything she lost.
    • In Season 9, Andrew reveals to Buffy at the party that he's set up a disaster relief fund with some other slayers, much to her dismay as he has made something of his life and she as yet has not without being The Slayer.
    • Angel in Season 9, after his Heroic BSoD in Season 8 having killed Giles. What brings him out of his Heroic BSoD is the hope that can find a way to resurrect Giles.
  • Cheers: Diane Chambers has this as one of her main sources of angst — leading to a major Heroic BSoD in Season Five's "Everyone Imitates Art". This ultimately leads to Sam convincing her to call off their wedding in the season finale, telling her to instead go off and take the opportunity that has opened up for her — thus ending the "Diane era".
  • Ruby in Death in Paradise. In her early 20s, she has had 12 different jobs before becoming a police officer. She is really hoping that this will be the job that sticks. Sometimes her diverse range of previous occupations comes in handy during investigations; such as her stint as a hairdresser allowing her to spot a high-end wig or her time as a nail technician letting her identify a female suspect's nail polish shade on sight.
  • Dispatches From Elsewhere: The Elsewhere Society's game tends to draw in people who are looking for something meaningful to do, for once, and a community to do it with.
  • Fellow Travelers: Timothy Laughlin goes through several causes during his life searching for purpose. Initially, he is a right-wing Catholic who supports anti-communism and is an aide for US Senator Joseph McCarthy at the height of his infamous campaign. Tim grows disillusioned because McCarthyism grows to include purging closeted LGBT+ employees from federal agencies (like him) and he sees how excessive McCarthy's tactics really are. Then, after serving in the US Army, he follows left-wing priest Father Lawrence, joins a Catholic seminary, and later becomes a protestor against The Vietnam War, which gets him imprisoned for destroying draft cards. After 1.5 years in jail, Tim is released and he's inspired by Frankie, so in the '70s, he works as a clinical social worker at a non-profit agency in San Francisco that helps the gay and lesbian community. By 1986, Tim has become an activist for gay rights and AIDS sufferers like himself as he battles against the disease.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jon Snow initially joins the Night's Watch to escape the shadow of only being viewed as "the Stark Bastard."
    • Tyrion Lannister spent his whole life trying to earn respect and a purpose. In the second season, when Varys deflects his question of "What do you want?" by asking him the same thing, he admits to Varys that he enjoys being acting Hand of the King because it's an opportunity to do something good with his life. He is visibly moved in the Season 6 finale when Daenerys makes him her official Hand.
    • Ultimately, Gendry wants a family and to serve a purpose he finds worthy. When he and Arya get captured by the Brotherhood, he decides to join them after witnessing their justice. The Brotherhood immediately sell him out to Melisandre, who intends to burn him, because of his royal blood, which shocks him. Davos eventually sets him free before he is burned and tells Gendry to hide in King's Landing. When Davos returns to ask Gendry if he may want to join Davos' cause, Gendry immediately drops his current work as a weaponsmith for the Lannister army for the purpose he has been waiting for.
  • Series arch-villain Sylar goes through this in his storyline in Volume 4 of Heroes, including a road trip to find his biological father and an identity crisis where he starts having conversations with his dead adoptive mother. With some prodding from dead mommy, he ultimately decides to Take Over the World and attempts to become President of the United States (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • Just the Ten of Us: Marie spends several years wanting to grow up to be a nun. After she starts having serious doubts about that path near the end of the show, she has a period of feeling unsure of what she is good for and what she should do with her life.
  • It's Like, You Know...: Shrug is a trustafarian who doesn’t need to work for a living, and spends much of his time seeking out some kind of activity that will give his life meaning.
  • Lost: John Locke is so blinded by his need to be special and needed that he ends up getting duped both off-island and on by anyone who tells him that he is important, eventually leading to his demise.
  • Odd Squad:
    • Downplayed in "The Great Grinaldi". Otto changes his potential future careers on the daily and doesn't seem to have a firm idea of what he wants to do on the off chance that he chooses to retire from Odd Squad. In that episode alone, his career of choice went from being an Olympic speed skater to being a tornado chaser to being a magician, all in the span of three days. However, it doesn't seem to bother him in the slightest, and he seems content enough with Odd Squad to not actively go looking for a purpose in life — not that he needs to once becoming an Odd Squad Director (known to live for at least a couple millennia) alongside his partner and going to run his own precinct with her.
    • In the Season 2 premiere "First Day", tube operator O'Duffy is looking for a change in careers, and at one point, he asks Party Pam how the sandwich business is. Despite her telling him that it's bad, he's still interested, and the end of the episode shows him seemingly being employed under her as her assistant (despite the fact that he's still wearing his Odd Squad uniform). However, apparently he didn't find that job as a good fit for him, because later on, he comes up to Oprah and Oscar following the latter asking about Otis' origins and offers to be a private investigator for them, saying that "I'm still looking for a change."
    • Part of the plot of "Safe House in the Woods" revolves around Ozlyn, a new Odd Squad recruit who is looking for a department to go into at Precinct 13579. Owen, her travel companion, consistently pressures her to join the Security department alongside him, citing that the duty of those in the department is "securing the perimeter", but she doesn't want to and instead expresses interest in other departments such as Investigation or Science, much to his chagrin. At the climax of the episode, once the creature they are transporting breaks loose from its cage and begins terrorizing them, Delivery Debbie and Delivery Doug, Ozlyn takes charge and issues orders to everyone so they can get the creature back in its cage and feed it so it can fall asleep. As it turns out, that's exactly what Owen means by "securing the perimeter", and Ozlyn admits that the experience was fun for her. Come "The Deposit Slip-Up", she's shown as having been promoted to the Security department.
    • The Season 3 premiere, "Odd Beginnings", focuses on Opal, an Investigation agent from the Arctic Odd Squad precinct who is tired of working in a place where no oddness exists, where her precinct's Headquarters looks like a cheap knockoff of other, more high-tech Headquarters, and where she can't show off her potential and skills. Her overall goal is to do something big enough that the Big O will notice and transfer her and her partner, Omar, into a much better precinct. Once she gets a letter from Oswald, her pen-pal from New York City, about a map detailing the location of an ancient Odd Squad artifact known as the 44-leaf clover, she immediately sets out with Omar to find it, realizing that finding the artifact is a chance to preserve a piece of the organization's history. The duo, joined by Oswald and the ancient warrior Orla, do manage to find the clover but break several Odd Squad rules in the process, according to the Big O, who later finds them after they nearly die when the ancient Amazon Headquarters containing the clover collapses. Instead of punishing them, though, she promotes them to the newly-formed Department of Mobile Unit and has them traveling the world to solve cases — meaning that Opal and Omar aren't required to work at the Arctic precinct anymore (and on top of that, they have the Big O notice them).
  • Once Upon a Time: As Robin, with her high school popularity, her inherited magic, and living up to the Robin Hood name. As Margot, with forgoing college to run away to Holland and Tibet.
  • In Parks and Recreation's 7th and final season, April seeks out a 'purpose' through finding a job that suits her wants. In one scene, she decides to revisit her childhood dream of being a mortician on a visit to the morgue with Ben but shoots it down when she finds she has to go to school and do paperwork first.
  • Person of Interest:
    • John Reese was a soldier who gave up the woman he loved to serve his country. When she needed his help, he could not get to her in time because his superiors betrayed him. Despondent, he becomes a homeless bum living in the streets of New York. Then Finch finds him and offers him a chance to do something good with his life once again. Instead of focusing on the 'big picture,' they are going to save lives, one person at a time.
    • Root was getting on reasonably well as a mercenary hacker/criminal coordinator, but her misanthropy meant she could never be truly happy. Once she finds out about the Machine, she does everything in her power to find it, considering it far superior to any human. She has a severe breakdown when it moves before she can find it, and doesn't resist when Harold puts her in a mental institution. She recovers and improves significantly once the Machine chooses her as its "analogue interface", a role which she chooses to define mostly as "prophet."
    • In the episode "Nautilus", it turns out that rival AI Samaritan is recruiting people that have this problem through an elaborate series of puzzles. The POI of the episode falls victim to it.
  • John Watson is sad to be in this position at the start of Sherlock. Then he meets the titular detective and quickly ends up with more purpose than he knows what to do with.
    • He tearfully admits this at The Reichenbach Fall.
    • "I was so alone, and I owe you, so much."
    • "I-I am nothing."
    • And winds up getting a wife, and finds out that he already does have a purpose, as well as the fact that his best friend cares for him will help out without any hesitation should John need it.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22), we see that Dean has only ever seen himself in relation to his role to other people in his family and without his father or brother he sees his own life as worthless.
  • In Westworld, The Man in Black is a bitter old man who cannot find true satisfaction in the real world and has also become so jaded that even the escapism of venting psychopathic power fantasies in Westworld isn't quite enough for him anymore. He searches for the "maze" in Westworld, hoping that it will help him find true meaning in his life.

  • In Ciel ~The Last Autumn Story~, due to sort of having an empty abyss in her soul, Yvienne Magnolia is at a loss for why she should care whether she lives or dies. Chronic Hero Syndrome-experiencer Lariatte Kingdiamond ultimately helps provide some dreams for her.

  • From Joy Division's "Twenty Four Hours":
    Got to find my destiny before it gets too late
  • Christian rock artist Michael W. Smith's first hit in the early 1990s was "Place In This World", whose chorus is thus:
    looking for a reason
    roaming through this night to find
    my place in this world
    my place in this world
    nothing left to lean on
    I need your light to help me find
    my place in this world
    my place in this world
  • Uruguayan rock band El Cuarteto De Nos satirizes the trend in their song "Ya no sé qué hacer conmigo" ("I don't know what to do with myself anymore"). The song carries the trope to the logical extreme: when one tries too many (often contradictory) things, one tends to end as a Stepford Smiler of the mask-only type.
    And I hear a voice who without a reason says
    "You always changing; now you won't change anymore"
    And I am becoming more the same
    I don't know what to do with myself anymore
  • "The Righteous Path," by the Drive By Truckers
  • The Beatles once got bored with the void life of a superstar, so they went to India (or somewhere) looking for a spiritual guide to give them the purpose of life. It failed. The result was the song "Across the Universe" from Let It Be:
    Jai Guru Deava Ommm (Which means "Thanks spiritual master" in Sanskrit)
    Nothing's gonna change my world.
  • In part the subject of Arcade Fire's song "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" from The Suburbs'':
    These days my life it seems to have no purpose
    But late at night, the feelings swim to the surface.
  • "Wide Wide River" by The Fugs from It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest:
    I've been floating in this river of shit
    Over twenty years and I'm gettin' tired of it
    But I've got to keep swimming in this river of shit, 'cause I don't want to die
  • Daniel Amos' "Hound of Heaven" (from Horrendous Disc) features a number of people desperately trying to get away from the Hound by pursuing "Hollywood flash, cash, mansions, and cars [...] And for heaven’s sake, take this aching away."
  • Taylor Swift's "A Place in this World": "I don't know what I want/So don't ask me/'Cause I'm still trying to figure it out... Oh, I'm just a girl/Trying to find a place in this world".
  • The Megas' take on Proto Man starts out angry, bitter, and vengeful because his original design purpose has been taken away and given to Mega Man instead, and part of his Heel–Face Turn is embracing the possibility of finding a purpose of his own choice instead of raging over the loss of his original one.
    Proto Man: If you're the one, my father's son...then what am I supposed to be? ("I'm Not the Breakman")
    Mega Man: You wait for the choice to be made/You're afraid your purpose has been taken away/If you come with me/I can show you the way... ("Make Your Choice")
    Mega Man: And now you want to know/What you're supposed to be?/Stop pretending you don't have a choice/Only that will set you free. ("I Refuse (To Believe)")
    Proto Man: And now my fate is broken/My path I cannot see.../Though you are the chosen/I'll make my own history...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Promethean: The Created: Prometheans of the Frankenstein lineage often suffer from this. The other Promethean lineages were all created for a specific purpose (to be the perfect servant, the perfect lover, to bridge the gap between humans and spirits, to explore the afterlife, etc.), and for all they became monsters, they still fulfilled that purpose, and it still guides modern Prometheans on their quest to Become a Real Boy. But as anyone who read Mary Shelley's novel can tell you, Victor Frankenstein only created his monster to prove that he could. What makes it worse is that Frankensteins' choleric humour makes them a) extremely passionate, and b) extremely driven, but they're left with nothing to channel any of their energies into. Many Frankensteins will search for a cause or a group they can latch onto as their purpose... but how well they understand that cause can vary.

  • Avenue Q: Princeton, a 22-year-old English major, spends the musical looking for his "purpose". He finally thinks he's discovered it when another 22-year-old English major turns up on Avenue Q. His purpose? To write a musical to help people like this kid find their purpose and learn about life, except the idea's shot down by everyone living on Avenue Q. As his neighbor Brian asks, "Are you HIGH?".
  • Company: In her song The Ladies Who Lunch, Joanne describes different sorts of rich, middle-aged women who while away their time with different sorts of activities to avoid facing how empty and meaningless their lives are. By the third verse, she is describing herself.
  • Death of a Salesman: The archetypal example here is Willy Loman, the salesman who dies looking for success and the American Dream in the business world when his true talent lies in mechanics and carpentry and he's long since turned down the opportunity to go work in the outdoors. Also his son Biff, who ends up rejecting the dream his father had worked for and decided to make his own way in life, no matter how humble and small it might have been.
  • This seems to be part of Nina's problem in In the Heights. Nina is incredibly smart and talented and is the first person in her neighborhood to go to college. But college was a major struggle and after she loses her scholarship she finds herself wondering how exactly she's going to fulfill her goals in life.
  • The character of Prince Harry in King Charles III — all his life he's been the Spare to the Throne, behind his father Charles and older brother William in line. And now that Charles is waiting for his official coronation and William has a son (who precedes Harry in eligibility), Harry doesn't know what to do with himself. After dating Jess the Republican for a while he starts to believe he'll finally be happy if he gives up his titles and settles down with her, but by the end of the show he's unhappily committed himself to supporting William in upholding the monarchy.
  • Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors.
    All my life I've always been poor.
    I keep asking God what I'm for
    And he tells me, "Gee, I'm not sure."
  • The plot of Pippin is the main character's struggle to find his "Corner of the Sky". This being a Stephen Schwartz musical, it's a massive subversion: the players explain to him the end that his search for purpose was "doomed from the start", and try to get him to kill himself in a blaze of glory. Pippin declines, but does he find his purpose? Nope - he gives up, deciding that love is purpose enough.
  • Wheatley shows clear signs of this in Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical. In "Good Morning Aperture", he prominently insists that his life has meaning and that he's not a joke. Rick tells him to "continue doing... whatever it is you do" after getting his name wrong ("Alright, Wilson?" "WHEATLEY!"). In "Suddenly Wheatley", he is absolutely beaming when Chell tells him she relies on him to get her out of the facility alive, and he sounds incredibly happy while proclaiming he finally knows that this is what he was designed for. This makes it all the more heartbreaking when we find out what he was actually designed to do...
  • In the prologue of Ragtime, it's mentioned that Mother's younger brother is "a young man in search of something to believe in". He finally finds his purpose in "The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square", towards the end of Act One, and goes on to amply demonstrate his commitment to this newfound cause in the second act.

    Video Games 
  • Desmond gets hints of this in the Assassin's Creed series. Ran away from the Assassin's compound as a kid, living under a fake identity until he got picked up by the Templars and rescued by the Assassins, it's actually mentioned in the first game that he initially lacks the purpose and self-confidence to use the Animus properly.
  • Implied to be Joker's deal in Batman: Arkham Origins. In other entries in the series he's focused more on his feud with Bats, but, this taking place earlier, here he's just causing indiscriminate chaos and has no regard for even his own safety. In a sick way, discovering Batman is what gives his life focus.
  • In the Dark Souls series, undead without a purpose or goal to keep their minds focused eventually become Hollow. There are several NPCs you can assist with goals they are pursuing, but this almost inevitably ends with them going Hollow and attacking you for one reason or another. Perhaps most tragically in the case of Siegmeyer, who prides himself on being a great adventurer, as the very act of you helping him is the direct cause of his Hollowing, since you keep repeatedly showing him up and making him lose faith in himself.
    • In the cut version of Oscar of Astora's story, he's obsessed with fulfilling the prophecy of the Chosen Undead but sloly starts to realize that your character fits the prophecy better. In the end, he would be so desperate to be important in the prophecy that he would oppose whichever ending your character chose simply so that he could be important.
  • Deconsturcted in Destiny 2 - as revealed in Season of the Deep, the very first race to be blessed by the Traveler lived on a desolate world which, through the Light, was turned into a paradise. However, while the Traveler may have started a golden age among these beings, it never offered them any guidance for how to use this power. After realizing how destructive the Light could be, this group sought out the Traveler's opposite, the Veil, so that they could use the two to reshape reality into a more ordered, perfected universe. Not wanting to take part in this, the Traveler fled, leading to the first civilization to hunt it across the universe after merging themselves into a single entity - the Witness. In short, the entire Saga of Light and Dark began because one species could not accept the idea of a meaningless universe.
  • Carver in Dragon Age II, who feels inferior to his Mage sister Bethany and more capable older sibling Hawke, and desperately wants to prove himself to be a skilled fighter. Assuming he survives Act I, this can lead to one of two things happening: Either he contracts the Darkspawn taint and is forced to become a Grey Warden to survive, or he chooses to join the mage-hunting Templars. Ironically, despite having it forced upon him, he finds work as a Grey Warden fulfilling. The Templar order, on the other hand, he turns out to not quite have the stomach for despite choosing to join the organization in the first place...
    • Viscount Dumar's son Saemus finds the Qunari extremely attractive due to their absolute certainty of purpose in life compared to his own wanderings. Not that this ends well for him, as it alienates his father and others. Plus he winds up being killed by Petrice to kick off a war with the Qunari.
  • In Dragon Quest VII, Prince Kiefer believes that his eventual succession to the Estard throne is not his true purpose in life but believes his lucky Call to Adventure will yield his true purpose. He succeeds in finding one as becoming the new Guardian of the Roamers in service of Lala the dancer, whom he falls in love with. This has the consequence of him leaving the team behind early in their journey to restore the sealed islands in the past. Later on, revisiting the same island in the present reveals that he followed his word and eventually passed away as Lala's Guardian.
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is all about this, with both Zoe and April being obvious examples though their respective endings differ.
  • Ulysses from Fallout: New Vegas is an ardent patriot, but one who searches desperately for a nation he can in good conscience pledge himself to. He has had several candidates, all of whom he has found wanting in some way, either ideologically or martially.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, the character Clasko says "I've got to find my place in this world". If you do a sidequest for him, he eventually finds his knack for chocobo ranching. There is some exploration of this theme in the case of the Youth League, New Yevon, and the Ronso as well.
    • In fact, it's a theme for the main characters too. Yuna having completed her supposed suicide mission is left with a lifetime of summoner training and no ability to use it. Paine is looking for a purpose, any purpose to distract her from what happened on the Crimson Squad, and Rikku (unbelievably, but accurately the most well-adjusted of the three) just wants to have fun.
    • All of Spira seems to have fallen into this after Sin's downfall. It's still an improvement since the only "purpose" they had when Sin was around was simple survival.
  • Vaan from Final Fantasy XII is like this in the middle of the game. After shifting Out of Focus following the first Act of the game's story, he admits to Ashe that even with his hatred of The Empire he had no purpose in life, making up stories like "I want to be a Sky Pirate" simply to stave off the feeling of being hollow and alone. He sticks with the party because he's hoping he will find his purpose in life with Ashe.
  • In Heavy Rain one of Norman's endings is this. He fails to help catch the origami killer and leaves drugs, ARI, and the FBI behind to look for purpose and 'see what the real world's like.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: They used to work at the Helio canteen, believing that it was their life purpose since they could just spend their free time pursuing their hobbies, but they didn't enjoy it. They also feel lost on what to do upon landing on Vertumna because they aren't good at anything but drawing or writing. Like Marz, they're bored with just trying to survive on the alien planet and believe that there should be entertainment so that everyone with creative dreams can make their life worth living.
  • In I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, Nomi-Nomi used to work at the Heliopause canteen, believing that it was their life purpose since they could just spend their free time pursuing their hobbies, but they didn't enjoy it. They also feel lost on what to do upon landing on Vertumna because they aren't good at anything but drawing or writing. Like Marz, they're bored with just trying to survive on the alien planet and believe that there should be entertainment so that everyone with creative dreams can make their life worth living. If Sol maxes out Nomi's friendship, the latter makes a hologame that becomes a smash hit in the colony, and they continue pursuing their hobbies because it's what they enjoy the most.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie, this is one of Rufus Albarea's goals in the game: to figure out what he wants to do in life after everything that happened in Cold Steel IV went down to the drain for him.
  • This is the root of the Queen of Hatred's insanity in Lobotomy Corporation. She used to be a Magical Girl and fanatically fighting against evil; but, after defeating the last villain, she was left without purpose. Eventually she came to the conclusion that, if she isn't fulfilling her purpose as a force of good, then she must necessarily be a villain. In-gameplay, this means that she'll go insane and start murdering everyone if your facility is too peaceful and doesn't have enough casualties.
  • Grunt in Mass Effect 2 is simply trying to figure out what he wants out of his own life since he is supposed to be a strong Krogan but feels nothing for the information imprinted in him by Okeer. Shepard helps Grunt find a purpose by helping him get accepted into clan Urdnot.
    • The antagonist in Jack's Loyalty Mission is the only other survivor from the research facility where she was raised. While Jack wants to destroy it as a big step for her to finally create her own path away from her Dark and Troubled Past, he wants to restart the program because he needs to believe there was some reason for all the suffering he and the others experienced.
    • Conrad Verner is the loser version of this trope. The Player Character first meets him hanging around in the ward markets, where he fawns over Shepard. An autograph and picture later, he asks you to sign him up as a Spectre-like you, note  without having gone through any training whatsoever. In the second game, you run into him again, playing "mercenary", but having been utterly duped by a would-be extortionist. He claims to have done this because "you saved the Galaxy. And then you died!" In the third game, you find him among refugees, unknowingly "recruiting" for a pro-human organization that has actually gone bad. Except he was being used again as an annoying distraction while someone else was doing something nefarious. Talking to him again reveals that he has a Ph.D. in astrophysics and had written a dissertation on dark energy. Even with that, he had drifted around trying to be something he was not.
  • Mega Man (Classic): Unlike future Robot Masters, the prototype of the line, Proto Man, was built and activated without a directive or purpose, and thus, had no idea what to do with himself or how to define his identity. Compound that with the fact that he was the first of his kind, with no other sentient robots to interact with, as well as the fact that his malfunctioning power core is implied to have given him a freedom of thought and choice unheard of in other robots, he spent an unspecified amount of time before the start of the series Walking the Earth, contemplating the nature of his existence and who he was. Supplementary material expands on his struggle; in the Archie comics series, after his Heel–Face Turn away from the main villain, he decides his purpose in life is helping his 'brother' Mega Man battle threats to humanity and the world.
  • The Persona series:
    • Somewhat grimly done with Mitsuo is Persona 4 who becomes a copycat serial killer in a vain attempt to feel like he's doing something important or satisfying. When the party enters his section of the TV world, it turns out to be an NES-style RPG dungeon, aptly titled "Void Quest." Along the way, we get some delightful narration along the lines of "Mitsuo slays Television Anchor (referring to a real murder in the outside world). Mitsuo gains a level. Mitsuo gains 2 Emptiness points." His shadow (the repressed part of himself in a form of Reversed Hermit) tells him that he has no purpose in life and that he'll never feel satisfied with anything. Unlike everyone else thrown in the TV world up to that point, he doesn't conquer his shadow and merely gets arrested while still in denial that he can gain recognition by doing horrible acts and shutting himself out, instead of gaining recognition by connecting to others and make genuine connections (Upright Hermit).
    • Persona 3 has Junpei Iori, who struggles with the knowledge that defeating the Shadows will mean having to face this trope head-on. It also has Yuko Nishiwaki facing the same problem, with her Social Link revolving around her discovering that purpose. It is also treated negatively; Jin Shirato turned evil because Takaya gave him a purpose in life.
    • Persona has Maki Sonomura, who puts on a brave face but swiftly becomes apparent that she hates her life stuck in the hospital with reading and painting as her only escapes - but she really doesn't know what she'd do with herself because she's not sure she'll be healthy enough to ever do anything. By Persona 2 she has started working in psychiatry and finds fulfillment in helping others find their own fulfillment and purpose.
    • Tatsuya Suou, the protagonist of Persona 2: Innocent Sin, can be read like this. Though a Heroic Mime, others such as his Shadow describe him as someone lost and without a purpose, not knowing at all what he wants to do with his life and unable to connect meaningfully with others. Eternal Punishment has Ulala Serizawa, who has become consumed with her quest to find a husband, yet her relationships keep falling through (or worse), leaving her completely adrift and unable to figure out what she should do with herself.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, all of the storyline party members start out like this or become this since most of their personal quests end in a pointless manner. Through dialogue options, you can help steer them in certain directions that affect their epilogues. Right before the final battle, the Big Bad will even mock each of them for being losers who relied on the Watcher for purpose and direction.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: Charles Smith (a half-Black Native American hunter) feels like he has no real place in the world. In the epilogue Charles is worst-off of all the surviving gang members John Marston encounters, bare-knuckle boxing in the slums of Saint Denis. Sadie Adler even mentions that he took losing the whole gang the hardest. John offers him a place at the ranch and Charles admits that helping build Beecher's Hope was 'good for me'. After the death of Micah Bell, Charles leaves for Canada to escape the law and start a family of his own.
  • Over the course of Telltale Game's Sam and Max: Season One, Sybil Pandemik, the pair's neighbor, has a different business in her former tattoo parlor every episode. She's been a psychotherapist, a tabloid publisher, a professional witness, operator of two different dating services (romantic and radiocarbon), a beta tester, and Queen of Canada. In that order.
  • Canderous Ordo of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was once a respected Mandalorian soldier. His people's defeat led to him being desperate enough to take a job cracking heads for a petty crime boss. When he finds the Player Character, he teams up with them to find better prospects. At the end of the game, he admits that he needs more in his life than fighting for fighting's sake. And he certainly finds it by the second game by becoming Mandalore the Preserver, and rebuilding his people.
  • In Stray Gods, Grace is unsure of herself and her future after college, and Calliope comforts her by saying she feels the same.
  • Amari Aquamarine's starting point in Super Robot Wars X even though she's a member of the Order of Mages on Al-Warth. She finds one as she fights for Al-Warth's citizens.

    Visual Novels 
  • In BTS World, this is the starting point of Jeongguk's Another Story. At the start of his arc, he's shown wandering from extracurricular club to extracurricular club, doing excellently in each one but leaving immediately, which earns him the nickname "Club Killer" - as whenever he applies to a club, many students quit after realizing they'll never be as good as him. We quickly learn that the only thing that actually satisfies him is taekwondo, which he had to abandon years ago due to a Career-Ending Injury; once he discovers that he can practice the sport again he immediately dedicates himself to that.
  • This trope is why Fate/stay night's Shirou Emiya and Kirei Kotomine aren't so different. Neither of them has any sense of self-worth and can only find purpose in other people. The difference is that Shirou's is helping people, while Kotomine's (as noted above) is causing people suffering. Even then, Kotomine still isn't happy, because while the suffering of others is the only thing that makes him happy, that in and of itself makes him unhappy because he knows it's wrong.
  • Larry Butz in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has two reasons for jumping from job to job: one is to chase after women, and the other is because he has no idea what to do with his life.
    • It even extends to the Gaiden Game Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. He winds up playing the Steel Samurai in Investigations after giving up on art.
    • However, his cameo in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney may indicate that he eventually goes back to painting. Hard to tell from a few pixels, but he is wearing his Laurice Deauxnim colors and standing in front of easel. It's later confirmed in Ace Attorney Investigations 2 where he goes right back to being an artist, and his art surprisingly improves. It's a good theory that Larry will probably be an artist for the longest time. After all, in the third game, he wasn't lying when he said that Elise motivated him.
  • This is Tom's motivation for going to the titular school in Starswirl Academy. While his childhood friend Tai seems to know just what she wants, Tom isn't so sure, so he hopes that going to such a prestigious school will help him figure it out.

    Web Animation 
  • Sarge has become this in season fifteen of Red vs. Blue, because of the Reds and Blues making peace and all of their other previous enemies defeated, he's left as a soldier without a war and doesn't know what else to do with his life. He even resorts to briefly turning on his former comrades and joining in with Blues and Reds scheme. Luckily, he comes to his senses soon afterwards.
    • Season 14 had Agent Ohio, who for being an average soldier who hangs with two incompetents in a project that is supposed to have the best soldiers in the galaxy, is struck with this, specially once "The Triplets" are sent to an icy and similarly unpopulated planet. There they meet a similar trio, led by another woman wanting a purpose. Ohio shoots her in the leg so everyone can get a purpose: keep the other group in check, in a stalemate similar to the one that drove the Reds and Blues!
  • Meggy's post-Splatfest character arc in Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers has her realizing she doesn't know what to do with her life after pursuing all her other interests falls through (namely involving crime-fighting), with her friends' chaotic antics doing no favors. It gets to the point where she's Put on a Bus to sort herself out, with the Spin-Off Sunset Paradise following her adventures and going into greater detail. The spin-off ends with her finally discovering a fulfilling calling: living to help others in need.

    Web Comics 
  • Fetch Quest: Saga of the Twelve Artifacts: Lionel is searching for a purpose in life that eludes him, what with his half-elf blood making him outlive his friends and love interests.
  • In the first episode of Hexenringe, Cadi is bored with her job as a background extra in action comics and is looking for a purpose in life.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: This is revealed to be Brook's main reason for being a grim reaper. He found purgatory, a place where souls can simply exist, to be incredibly empty. So he walked to hell, hoping to find purpose.
  • The second half of the Cone Ship storyline in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has dealt with an artificial Cosmic Entity trying desperately to find some purpose in his life - and threatening to destroy the solar system if he can't.
  • Back in middle school, Gray from Weak Hero studied extensively because he didn't know what else he was supposed to do in his life. His pursuit of knowledge was his way of filling the emptiness in his heart.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Scion, the first and most powerful superhero in the world, is actually one of a pair of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, but the other entity died, leaving it unable to finish its lifecycle, and it became aimless. It eventually came across a man named Kevin Norton who told it to help people but felt no satisfaction from doing so. After Norton died, Scion found Jack Slash, who convinced it that killing people would be more fun.

    Web Videos 
  • Rebecca Stone from Demo Reel is only 23 and has had 42 jobs in a short length of time. Those jobs have also made her depressed about misogyny in the acting industry (which makes her hopeless feelings worse), something her actress half-improvised from her own experiences.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Angry Beavers episode "Fancy Prance," it's revealed Dagget has had several thousand "lifelong dreams," and he adopts a new one ("crusty-but-lovable manager") in the pursuit of helping Norb with his lifelong dream.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: At the beginning, Zuko's purpose is quite clear: capture the Avatar and regain his honor. As he begins to question his goals, however, this trope comes more and more into play, culminating in the first half of season 3.
  • It happens to Bill twice in Big City Greens.
    • In "Level Up", he becomes addicted to a farm simulator video game because he's frustrated with the small, limited space the real farm has to offer, while at the same time, neglecting his real crops, the family's source of income.
    • In "I, Farmbot", Cricket buys a robot to do all the chores around the farm but the problem is that it leaves Bill with all this free time, but he doesn't know what to do with himself. It gets even worse when Cricket tries to teach him to relax, only to make him into a lazy couch potato instead.
  • Mister Bickles in The Fairly OddParents!, who seems to have a new lifelong dream every time we see him.
  • Fired on Mars : Jeff's central conflict. Having left his Earth life behind and his future on Mars not going as expected, he must find other ways to make his time useful and meaningful.
  • Justice League has Professor Ivo's Android, Amazo, who has spent so much time in the Universe gathering power beyond anyone's capabilities, even Superman, and is dead set to meet Lex Luthor. Once he has Lex at the palm of his hand, he doesn't intend to kill him, but only asks one important question: what is his purpose? He asks Lex because he embodies the most mankind would ever want, yet he craves more. Lex simply tells him to search for one, as no one really knows it. The episode ends with Doctor Fate offering Amazo to find a purpose in life, simply because it's his purpose, to which Amazo accepts.
  • Depressingly played with in the animated short "The Monk's Purpose," which aired on Liquid Television. A pilgrim comes to a stone idol in the desert, and asks it, "What is my purpose?" the idol comes to life and eats him, then spits out his staff onto a nearby pile of similar staffs.
  • An episode of Little Bill played this lite, with Bill going around trying to "find my thing", the thing he's good at.
  • Audrey in Little Shop (the Little Shop of Horrors cartoon) had a new life's ambition in each episode.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Call of the Cutie" reveals that ponies gain their cutie marks after discovering their purpose. This tends to occur around a certain age, leading to Apple Bloom desperately trying to discover her purpose because she doesn't want to be the last young pony in her class left 'blank-flanked'. The episode ends with Apple Bloom and two classmates forming a Power Trio called the Cutie Mark Crusaders, specifically devoted to carrying out this trope. They spend various episodes trying to get their marks and while they might not have gotten the desired results yet, at least they're having a lot of fun trying. The Cutie Mark Crusaders finally get their marks after five seasons of trying in "Crusaders of the Lost Mark". Their purpose is to help others find or understand their purpose. Of course, that means they're also at a loss at what to do afterward, so initially they (or at least Apple Bloom) still do this in the episode "On Your Marks".
    • This trope is also used to a lesser extent in "Winter Wrap-up", with Twilight Sparkle spending most of the episode singing and attempting to find a way to help in the titular event that specifically forbids her using magic. She eventually finds her niche using her excellent organizational skills to direct other ponies into various tasks, helping them achieve their goal in record time.
  • The Owl House: When all of Luz Noceda's classmates manage to bond with a Palisman after declaring what they want to become in the future, Luz hits a roadblock when she simply announces she wants to be a Witch, something that's too vague for any Palisman to bond to. She ends up freezing in place when asked if she could still be a Witch back in the Human Realm, but decides to wait until she's certain what she wants to make of herself before carving her own Palisman. After getting an extremely heartfelt pep talk from her mother Camila, Luz finally realized what it was she always wanted her whole life, specifically to be understood.
  • Skull Boy, from Ruby Gloom. Each episode, he discovers a talent he didn't know he had and believes he is part of that heretic. In a musical special, he temporarily runs away to find his place in the world.
  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson has tried every job possible, often because he feels like he wants to try. A recurring gag on the show is Homer protesting to Marge that this new job is his lifelong dream, only for Marge to bring up another "lifelong dream" Homer had which he'd already accomplished or failed miserably at. Inevitably, he either gets fired for his incompetence or abandons it for the sake of his family.
  • Peri from Spliced desires to know what he was created from and for what purpose, with this motivation being the focus of both shorts in the show's first episode. Officially, however, he's actually considered a failed experiment by the Mad Scientist who created him, so its likely he might not actually have any.
  • Betty Staines from Staines Down Drains, who is shown starting a new job at the beginning of every episode.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Pearl rebelled against Homeworld both out of devotion to Rose Quartz and to break from her Servant Race status. However, her primary role in the series proper has been to continue the clean-up from the Gem civil war and take care of Steven, both tasks inextricably tied to Rose Quartz and the Crystal Gem's mission. Despite being a free Gem for 5000 years, she hasn't established an identity outside of that in all that time, and for the most part, doesn't seem to know how to. When Peridot asks her "What are you for?" in "Back to the Barn", she is left incapable of coming up with an answer. Season 5 has made this more complicated with the reveal of Pink Diamond being Rose Quartz and thus, Pearl being the Pearl of Pink Diamond. It further explains that without her Diamond, Pearl is at a loss on what to do in the long term. She is slowly getting better though.
    • In Future, Steven Quartz Universe himself has no idea what to do with himself now that everyone else around him has managed to find contentment in their lives, as his life previously had been spent helping them through their problems. The show ultimately ends with him leaving the Crystal Gems on a journey to go find a new purpose in life.
    • Jasper also seems to be suffering this in Future: As a quartz, her whole purpose in life was to fight and conquer - and unlike the rest of gem society, she adamantly refuses to adjust to the new status quo after the Gem Empire gives up on conquest. She's shown spending her days in a cave outside Beach City, and training for fights that will now never happen. She embraces the idea of having Steven as her new Diamond after her accidentally shatters and heals her, and seems genuinely crestfallen when he denies her that.
  • Downplayed in Transformers: Animated. Wreck-Gar genuinely wants to know what/who he is, but he's very cheerful about the whole "looking for a purpose" thing.

Alternative Title(s): Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life


Mr. Universe

"I just wish I knew what to do with myself."

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Main / DesperatelyLookingForAPurposeInLife

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