We’re led to believe that life is complicated. Discovering your life purpose? How am I supposed to do that? I was thinking the same thing eight months ago. At the time, ‘discovering your life purpose’ was some esoteric non-sense that I believed only the lucky few (or delusional) could attain. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s not hard either. I’m gonna show you how I figured it out through my own experiences since the start of 2016. Of course, perspectives change and I may look like an idiot six months down the track, but life is more fun this way.
The core of your life is your purpose.
Your mission. Your dream. Whatever you wonna call it, discovering your purpose will make your life THAT much better. Trust me, I found mine. It’s awesome. It’s like finding $50 in your old pair of jeans, except much better. At my core, I believe my life purpose is to lessen suffering, as I’ll go on to explain.
Without a conscious life purpose a man is lost, drifting, adopting to events rather than creating them. Such a man lives a weakened, impotent existence.
I was lost, drifting. Being a banker without knowing why I became one in the first place. Working 100 hours fulfilling someone else’s fantasy. Eventually, when the learning curve plateaued, the questions and self-doubts started creeping in. That inner voice we all have, the one that is so wise and genuine, I wonder why we don’t listen to it more often. Being lost means my energy was being misdirected. I was not able to give fully to my work, my health or my relationship. If you’re currently stuck in a grind, I’d encourage you to read on.
The way you discover your purpose is by looking within and asking some hard questions.
- What makes you feel most at ease?
- When was the last time you felt most comfortable in your own skin? When did you feel most uncomfortable?
- When was the last time you muted your intuition? And do you ever wonder what could’ve been?
Not long before I left banking, I went to a bar with a few bankers to catch up with a few other bankers (banker wanker meetup if you will). Amidst the conversation, while we were on the topic of hot waitresses and single-malt scotches, I had an ETHEREAL moment. I felt myself floating out of my own body, rising, before watching my body from above. My ‘spirit’, if you will, asked me, ‘What the hell are you doing here Kevin? You don’t belong here. You even don’t aspire to be like these people. Get out dude.’
The answers to these questions offer clues as to your life purpose. You can never count on when the questions will get asked (I certainly didn’t expect to have an ethereal moment in a bar). But when the voice inside your head starts speaking, shut up and listen.
It’s important to push yourself just beyond your current level of comfort, but not over the edge. As you open yourself to living AT your edge, your deepest purpose will slowly begin to make itself known.
‘Lean towards the prickly bit’, a mentor of mine used to say. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it? An ongoing process of self-discovery and living to your full potential. It doesn’t matter what the next Joe Blow does or accomplishes, you just focus on being the best of who YOU are and that you’re leading a life worth living. I used to HATE having to change something in the financial model, because I feared that it might blow something up that will require hours of fixing (it always did). Nowadays, I welcome change. Any day that I don’t get to work on something new or challenging is a bad day. Any day that I don’t feel uncomfortable is a day I didn’t push myself enough.
I say this with a caveat. Be realistic. Don’t attempt to understand the Chaos Theory without basic foundations in mathematics or physics. The key is not to over-exert yourself so that you feel like a constant failure. Because that feels shitty.
Once you discover your life purpose, other pieces begin to fall into place too.
Everything in your life, from your career to your diet, must be aligned with your purpose if you are to act with coherence and integrity in the world. When you’re on a mission you ain’t got time to mess around. Being accountable and having responsibility means I need to step up when counted on. Just like a soldier preparing for combat, my physical and mental health need to stay sharp. For me, this means eating right, going to bed early, meditating, sustaining meaningful relationships and ruthless application of the 80/20 principle each day. Have I been perfect? Hell no. I’ve binge ate. I’ve missed work outs. I’ve disappointed people. I’ve slept in. But I keep persisting. I’ve got an accountability buddy and pay him $5 for each habit I fail to maintain each day (latest tally stood at $160). When you’re on a mission, you don’t have time for Netflix. As fun as it is to binge on the next series of Game of Thrones, the sense that you’re accomplishing something larger than yourself will bring you greater joy and fulfillment.
Don’t confuse your current purpose with your life purpose. The former gets you closer to the latter.
Your deepest purpose is at the centre of your being, and it is surrounded by layers of concentric circles, each circle being a lesser purpose. Your life consists of PENETRATING each circle, from the outside toward the centre. Successfully completing a lesser purpose doesn’t feel very good for very long, because it is simply preparation for advancing toward a great embodiment of your deep purpose.
Each purpose, each mission, is meant to be fully lived to the point where it becomes empty, boring and useless. Then it should be discarded.
The last mission I completed and discarded was my old job. I felt that I had learnt what I came to learn and that it was time to move on. Was there more to learn? Definitely. But big corporations will always put profitability first. In the end, it was ME that changed. Our missions diverged as mine became less about money and more about personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
Only in hindsight can I appreciate the importance of having completed my first mission. Spending three years grinding away on financial models and valuing companies enabled me to embark on my second mission, which is to develop and finance large-scale solar projects. My current mission is to live in a world powered by 100% renewable energy. I have no doubt that this mission will be accomplished in my life time. And when that day comes, I will similarly need to move on. One by one, I’m penetrating the circles to bring me closer to living in a world with less suffering.
Discarding a completed purpose is a sign of growth, but you may mistake it for a sign of failure.
This is mind blowing. Think about it. What do most people say when contemplating a career change? People say ‘Oh but I’ve been working my way up Company X for 10 years. I can’t possibly leave now, even if I am feeling unfulfilled.’ You wanting to leave your current job is a sign of GROWTH, not failure. Society may discredit what you’re trying to do but listen to your inner voice.
The onus is on you to figure out if it is time to 1) stick it out for longer because you haven’t gone that extra mile to truly reap the rewards of where you are or 2) move on because you’ve accomplished your mission. To help you do that, here are some signs that you’ve completed a layer of purpose:
- You suddenly have no interest whatsoever in a project or mission that, just previously, motivated you highly.
- You feel surprising free of any regrets whatsoever, for starting the project or for ending it.
- Even though you may not have the slightest idea of what you are going to do next, you feel clear, unconfused, and especially unburdened.
- You feel an increase in energy at the prospect of ceasing your involvement with the project.
- The project seems almost silly, like collecting shoelaces or wall papering your house with gas station receipts. Sure you could do it, but why would you want to?
If you experience these signs, it is probably time to move on. If only I can describe to you the complete sense of clarity and freedom I felt the day I walked out. Before you do, just make sure that there are no loose ends. Don’t leave a mess for others to clean up. Unless the person getting left behind is a prick, then take a dump and go.
What comes next? At this stage, you know that the old project is over for you, but you are not sure of what is next. Don’t rush, stay open to a vision of your deeper purpose by not filing your time with distractions.
After I left banking, I played a lot of PlayStation, can I say that that was time well spent? Not really. Looking back, I only recall the days I spent in the library, searching, book after book, for a path to career fulfillment. Like a mad person. Can I be sure I’ll remember this period of my life when I look back 20 years from now? You bet I can. The rest of the time I wasted is just that. Mundane experiences I’ll never remember.
Distractions aside, I had a general sense of what I wanted to do next. I was determined to either get into renewables or go into venture capital. I had my doubts about renewables given I had limited experiences working on renewable projects. I had my reservations about venture capital given I haven’t created anything of value to share with the world. I was stuck, with limited leads. But I did not panic. I did not rush. I kept my senses open for opportunities.
When it comes, it usually won’t be a detailed vision. You will probably have a sense of what direction to move but the practical steps might not make themselves clear. When the impulse begins to arise, act on it. Don’t wait for the details. Learn by trial and error what it is you are to do.
About a month passed and after two weeks of trekking in New Zealand, I decided to get stuck into job applications and that’s when THE opportunity came knocking. A friend of Amy’s asked if I was interested in starting an electric car business that his company was investing in. After the initial meeting, I still wasn’t quite sure if it was the right move but my impulses were already set in motion. I might not have known at the rational level but deep down, I knew this was IT. By now, you’d think I would know to listen to my inner voice.
Did the electric car business work out? Hell no, it didn’t get off the ground. But each setback offers a new direction, and I am now a finance director helping develop large-scale solar projects. The company is on track to develop the largest solar project in Australia next year and we could all obtain financial freedom a lot sooner than if I stuck around in banking. Funny what life throws at you when you make a career change inspite of money. Notice I said ‘financial freedom’, not ‘retirement’, because there’s only so many pina coladas you can sip on before you feel empty inside.
Once you have a general sense of direction, venture into the unknown, learn by trial and error and the rewards could be handsome.
So how did you discover your life purpose?
I’ve said before that my life purpose is to LESSEN SUFFERING. How do I know? Because when I look back on all the decisions that I’ve made, it’s to do just that.
Minimolist.com was started because I was suffering from career confusion and anxiety and I wanted to share my experiences to lessen the suffering of others going through the same. I went into renewables because I’ve seen the bloodshed, the social uprising, and the world being at the mercy of energy and resource scarcity.
Since eight months ago, I no longer dread coming to work. In fact, I don’t consider most of what I do work anymore, not the stuff I do in renewables, not the writing I do in my spare time. Knowing my life purpose means knowing WHY I do what I do rather than just DOING. The WHY is so much more important than the what. WHY gets you out of bed in the morning. WHY is the reason for working hard. WHY compels you to lean on the edge.
Can I be sure that this is my true life purpose? Is there a true life purpose? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. But the sense of fulfillment I feel each day is both freeing and beautiful.
Your turn, my friend.