How do you find your purpose?
I wish I could give you a 5 step strategy or a worksheet you could fill out. I tried all of those, and none of them worked for me. I read the books, went to seminars, and tried to find my “why”. Nothing really stuck for longer than a couple of weeks, and then it was back to feeling lost.
Instead, it was going through a tough experience that held the answer I was seeking. I never shared this story before, and maybe it will inspire you to reflect on your own experiences and unearth something that’s true for you.
There were a few pivotal moments that guided me to the work I do now. One of them came from a particularly dark time in my life and gave crystal clarity to my purpose – to make the world a better place tomorrow than it is today.
One Morning In 2017
By any external measure, it should have been a great day. My business was doing really well, I loved the clients I was working with, my family was happy and healthy, we were going on tropical vacations, and almost every other external marker was positive. However… on the inside, it was a different story.
I still remember this specific morning like it was yesterday. It was a warm summer day, and the sun was beaming into the living room of our old house. My wife left for work, and I dropped our daughter off at daycare. It was a beautiful morning, but for me, it didn’t feel like it.
After returning home, I laid under covers on our living room couch with a slight shiver. My hands were clammy, my legs hurt from being so tight, and I was in a cold sweat.
I didn’t have the will or the strength to get up, answer the phone, or reply to e-mails. I felt like there was no point. I just laid there for what seemed like hours.
This was the first time I experienced something this heavy.
A Look Into The Future
A few hours later, I had enough. I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, and I knew I had to do something.
My natural response to tough situations is to research and “figure it out”. I summoned up enough strength to peel myself off the couch, pick up my laptop and start looking for an answer.
That afternoon and the few days that followed, I read hundreds of journal articles on anxiety and depression. I watched videos, TED talks and found books on the subject. I looked at the causes, the treatments, the symptoms, and everything else I could possibly find that may help.
In one of those articles, I came across a statement that resonated deeply.
It said if you don’t see the future being better than it is today, it may not be just a symptom of depression but also a cause.
At that time, I held a negative view of what’s ahead for us as a society. That summer was particularly active with wildfires, the news of melting ice caps, impacts of climate change, political turbulence, and job losses. Zooming out, I saw rising inequality, shrinking access to good food and clean water, restriction of opportunities and diminishing health and quality of life for many around the world.
It was a bleak future ahead.
Uncovering my purpose
Suddenly, it was clear. That single note reignited something inside of me.
If our current trajectory led us toward a dystopian future, then it would be my work to bend that trajectory toward a better one.
To stand in the perpetual purpose of making the world a better place tomorrow than it is today.
That was the inflection point that illuminated the path ahead. Since then, I dedicated my efforts to support leaders, entrepreneurs, and founders who are contributing to solving challenges in education, health, food, energy, climate change, and economic growth.
Whether it is a company building renewable energy infrastructure, a health tech startup using CRISPR to improve cancer outcomes, or an entrepreneurial venture that’s investing in their community – as long as they are making a contribution toward a better future, I will be there to support their work.
PS: Please note, if you are experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental challenges – reach out to a professional. I worked with a therapist for a few months and they helped me sort some of these things out.
Related articles and resources you may enjoy:
- How your view of the future can make you depressed. (Psychology Today)
- From Purpose To Impact. (HBR)
- 17 Sustainable Development Goals. (UN)