“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” Mark Twain
According to Mark Twain, the second most important day of your life is the day you find out why you exist. Put another way, it is the day you discover what really drives you, what motivates you from within – we call this your core purpose which, once discovered, will change your life permanently, and for the better.
There has never been a better time to begin your journey to discovering your purpose and living a more fulfilled life. Our world, and the way we live has changed significantly over the last few decades, and with these changes comes opportunity.
Anyone familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see diagram) will know that in the last 100 years, in the developed world at least, most of us have been able to take the basic needs of health, food, shelter, safety, and even love and belonging, for granted.
In our current world of abundance our basic needs are met and as a result we are freer than ever to focus on our esteem and self-actualisation. It is a choice we can now make. Could our grandparents make that choice? Or our parents even? Probably not, as most of the previous generations worried more about paying the bills, or putting a roof over their heads, or lasting until the next payday, or even getting a job! Now, though, for most of us these worries are literally a thing of the past. In short, over recent decades, the developed world has experienced a great shift from “surviving” to “thriving”. But, while It’s never been easier to thrive than in today’s world, we need to understand what “thriving” means.
The Decline of Materialism
There is a big difference between thriving in a material sense, and thriving in a fulfilled sense. With material success we are able to buy pretty much everything we need, and even a lot of the things we want, but how much real, long-lived fulfillment do we get from such material things? The thrill of the purchase wears off after a while and we then crave the next thing. For many of us, our satisfaction levels are becoming blunted by the material world of abundance we live in. It is no coincidence that e-bay and car boot sales have grown significantly in the last decade or so as a by-product of our waning satisfaction from new goods. We are selling off our surplus and clearing out the excess. Also, we simply don’t have the space anymore as we squeeze more people into smaller homes. So with our declining satisfaction from material things, we are seeking fulfillment from elsewhere opening the door for us to seek more rewarding experiences, and lives.
Technology’s Dark Side
The modern world we live in also presents us with a staggering array of technological advances, all of which purport to make our lives easier, and better. We are able to connect instantly with each other through social media, and mobile devices, and we are able to discover knowledge, information, opinion and entertainment at the touch of a button wherever we are. It is truly an amazing time to be alive, but there are signs that we are struggling to cope with the abundance of connection, data, and content available to us. Mental health problems are on the rise, student suicide rates are worryingly climbing, stress levels in the workplace are higher than they’ve ever been, and young people are reportedly lonelier than they’ve ever been. Our brains are simply being overloaded by the easy availability of technology and what it delivers to us. More evidence that our current world of abundance is not buttering the parsnips of our collective happiness. Another door opens, therefore, for alternative routes to fulfillment.
Stagnant Education System
Our education system also seems to be hindering, rather than helping, our young people to optimise their journey in our ever-changing world. The school system is still largely driven by the notion that exam success is an essential stepping stone to a successful future. For many, this will hold true, but increasingly young people are under more and more pressure – and much of it parental – to get the grades, go to university, get a degree and secure a great job. This has worked well in recent decades, and still will for traditional vocational or professional careers like medicine, law, accountancy, consultancy and banking, but there is evidence that increasingly employers do not value the degree as much they used to. Many employers would recruit based on attitude, passion, and character, as opposed to the qualifications they may have achieved. Throw in the possibility of a £50k student loan mountain and everyone is beginning to wonder “is it all worth it?”. Imagine if a young person could align their passion and interests with a job – how great would that be for both employer and employee? This is the way the employment market is going, providing another reason to spend time and effort discovering what really drives you and how that might match the needs of a future employer.
Rise of Micro-Entrepreneurialism and the Portfolio Career
Technological advancements in the last decade or so are not all bad, indeed being able to reach every connected person on the planet from your mobile device or laptop opens the door to a wealth of opportunities for people to pursue, thereby providing genuine fulfillment and even an income. Looking again at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and the top segment, or “self-actualisation”, becomes attainable without necessarily being tied to a traditional career path. It has never been easier to “be your own boss” and be in control of your own destiny than it is today. Freelance working, lifestyle businesses, the gig economy, the rise of YouTubers, and social influencers are examples of the possibilities that new technology platforms have enabled. In essence, the connected world provides an alternative landscape for many people to pursue their dreams and purpose in a way that was never before possible, and with possibilities that, until recently, were inconceivable.
The Time is Right to Discover Your Purpose
It is rarely too early, or too late, to follow your passions and build a career with more purpose and a feeling of “work not being work”. The good news: it is easy to do with many techniques and coaches out there who can help you discover what really drives you and develop strategies to make your purpose work for you. In success you will be more fulfilled, more authentic, and more able to truly value yourself and those around you. So no more waiting for the weekend, the next holiday, or even retirement, to live your life – you can start now by discovering your purpose and allowing it to guide you to a better life.