I think most people in the world, and almost certainly anyone who would be reading this kind of blog would be at least vaguely aware that they came into this world with a purpose. There’s a reason why we’re here; it’s not random and meaningless. There is something we came here to do. Yet despite this realisation, it’s amazing how little thought people tend to give it. Often it’s a vague idea rattling around in the back of our mind, rather than the all-consuming quest it perhaps ought to be.
When you finally do give it the thought and the attention it deserves, your life can really make a U-turn and start heading in a much better direction just by getting clear on precisely what you’re here for. So here’s a really simple question to help determine your life’s true purpose, which I first heard from the self-help guru Tony Litster. If you made all the money in the world – billions upon billions so that there was nothing on earth you want that’s beyond your means, and you received all the recognition and accolades it was possible to receive – so, you became the world’s most famous person. You won Oscars, Grammys, Nobel Prizes, BAFTAs, Tonys, Logies, you hit the winning runs for England in the World Cup and became the first person on Mars – if you achieved all of that, then what would you do with your life?
OK, that was my own rather more colourful rendition of Tony’s question. At any rate, if you made all the money it was possible to make, and gained all the fame and recognition it was possible to gain, then what next?
Good question, isn’t it? Once we take our baser desires and our ego out of the equation, then we’re left with something a bit deeper, something that really gives us greater meaning than the ego can ever provide. And that’s what we’re looking for here – a purpose based meaning to our life, rather than an ego based meaning. So if you came up with something like “I’d sit on the beach all day”, or “I’d party all night”, you might want to try and think in slightly deeper terms about it to see what actually gives you true meaning beyond comfort and physical indulgence. Indulging yourself constantly is fun for a while, but it’s always a dangerous path to go down. It’s a path of diminishing returns where you tend to become hungrier and hungrier for more indulgence as you get bored of the things that you’ve already got. The higher road avoids that trap and focuses on the things that will give our soul satisfaction, not just our body.
Many of you who just asked yourselves the above question will know instantly what you really wish you were doing. Others may have to think about it for a while and even ask for some answers. If you’re in the latter category, ask persistently and eventually it cannot fail to come to you. You did not come here with no purpose, and it stands to reason that such a purpose must be discernible. Once you’re clear on your purpose, then ask yourself the further question: if you’re not fulfilling it, why not? If this is truly your life’s purpose, then this is the one thing you’re here to do, right? So why aren’t you doing it?
This second question has a tendency to infuriate people, as though I were suggesting that fulfillment of purpose is just a click of the fingers away. Of course that isn’t the case – but again, we know we came here with a purpose. We know that purpose must be discernible, and we know it must be possible. Any one of these three being untrue would make our entire sojourn on this planet supremely pointless. But it would be equally pointless to come here with a life purpose that’s too easy to fulfill. There must be certain challenges involved in fulfilling the purpose, or we wouldn’t learn and evolve from it. The trouble is, most people shrink from their purpose before they’ve even faced the first challenge – simply knowing that challenges are there makes them give up the fight before they’ve begun.
The other excuse your ego might throw up in your face is that there’s no money in your life’s purpose. In which case I’d ask you again, did you really come here with a life’s purpose that’s impossible to fulfill? You might have to get thinking and you might have to ask for some answers and some inspiration, but if it really is your life’s purpose, then it’s simply impossible that there won’t be a way. The people who succeed in their purpose are the people who go searching for answers, and who forge a path for themselves. The people who fail are the ones who give up when the path is not immediately obvious or easy to access. But if you go through life following only the path of least resistance, you’re going to end up living a fairly unengaging life, and not one that’s filled with a tremendous amount of purpose. Worse still, if this purpose is essential to your spiritual evolution then you might have to come back here again to give it another try.
It gets cited so often that it sounds like a cliche and fails to move us, but the lesson of Edison’s light globe is still potent. Edison made something like 900 attempts to invent the light globe before he finally succeed. And when he was later asked about the process he said that after each aborted attempt, he didn’t feel like he’d failed – he just felt like he’d discovered one more way not to invent the light globe. The Edisons of the world are the people who succeed – the people who will not take no for answer.
On the other hand, I don’t think it pays to romanticise failure and struggle either. Some videos and motivational speakers love to do that – they make out that you have to live out a thankless struggle and overcome a seemingly endless series of failures before you finally succeed. It doesn’t have to be like that, either – it’s just a case of being persistent, never giving up, having the end clearly pictured in your mind and being confident that you will succeed eventually. If you have your true life’s purpose in mind and you do all of those things persistently, you cannot possibly fail – remember that and keep it clearly in your mind.
Remember too that in this period of history, we have unprecedented opportunities available to us – opportunities for wealth or achievement or experience that very, very few of us had access to in days past. One major reason why so many people fail to make use of these opportunities is that we also have unprecedented levels of distraction, and it’s much easier to just take the path of least resistance and live a life of ease and comfort. How many people spend virtually all their free time by distracting themselves? Whether it’s through TV, Netflix, alcohol, video games, porn or YouTube – if all your free time is being poured down these drains of distraction – nay, addiction in many cases – what sort of a life can you expect to live? Probably a reasonably comfortable and easy one, but also one that’s probably lacking any real purpose or direction. I know that’s the kind of life that I was living for many years – but once I actually asked the question about my life’s purpose and really understood that I’m here to fulfill that, not just to indulge myself, it was a huge, huge wake-up call. Perhaps it will be a major fork in the road for you, too.
In 10, 20 or 30 years time you might look back at today and mark it as being the day that you began to live on purpose instead of just living for comfort and ease. I hope so, because you don’t want to look back on your life in 30 years time and say “where did all the years go? And what have I got to show for it?” I had that kind of revelation myself, mercifully in my 30s. But it was hard to comprehend where the past ten years had gone, and why I had achieved virtually nothing in such a significant chunk of my life. It wasn’t nice, believe me. But whatever age you are, there’s still time to turn it around. Ask the question, and get clear on what you’re aiming towards. Write it down. Refer to it often. Visualise it.
Once you’re clear on your purpose you may then need to break through your mind’s resistance. When all your excuses show up, write them all down and then answer them rationally. When your brain says “it’s too hard!” You answer “nothing good comes cheaply, but we can do it.” When your brain says “there’s no money in that” you say “there is money, we just have to find it”. When your brain says “I’m too old” you say “better late than never!” When your brain says “That’s for other, lucky people, not us – let’s just get drunk and watch TV, it’s so much easier” – visualise where that attitude will get you in 10, 20 or 30 years time – then visualise what putting in a small amount of purpose-based effort now could do for you in that same amount of time.
Whatever the objections are, write them all down and answer them with truth. If you don’t have all the answers yet, think about it and ask for answers. Ask for inspiration. Then take action, believe, be confident and never give up. If it really is your purpose, you can’t possibly fail. Don’t delay – let this be the day your true life quest begins.