The doctor sat across from me and said, “The following three words may be the worst you will hear in your life. You have cancer.” I was shocked. After a short pause, the doctor added a few sentences, and although the prognosis didn’t look too bright, there were still chances of getting the monster inside me under control. The following chemotherapy gave me time to reflect on life, the failed new year’s resolutions and the things I wished I’d already achieved.
From time to time, I think back to when I received treatment, sat in a chair for 10-hour periods with needles feeding my body lifesaving drugs with every drip. It’s incredible how it was doing this at the very same time it was giving me the side effects that made me feel the sickest I’ve ever felt. “Bring it on,” I said. I was ready for the fight. I visited that room several times, so it certainly packed a punch, ticking off all the side effects.
I think losing my hair was when it hit home that this wasn’t a nightmare.
This was real life, and I had to start ‘hitting’ back. I asked myself: “Are you going to talk about it or be about it?” Since July 2018, three months after finishing my treatment, I took to running. And it hasn’t just changed my health and fitness – it has changed every aspect of my life. It’s truly amazing how positivity kills negative thoughts. And that’s what this column will be about: Finding the path that gives purpose to your life – and makes you stronger, more resilient and happier.
Visions, Not Goals
Before I go into the very tangible details here, a few words about the basic principles around purpose. A purpose for me is finding a vision and creating a better future. People never follow others because of their goals or resolutions. Human beings follow vision, and all of us are thirsty for a vision. And if we don’t have one, we gravitate towards someone that does. Of course, goals sit on top of everything you’re striving toward – but it’s the vision you are emotionally connected to. Finding common themes and patterns in your stories is a superb enabler. Identifying the most critical theme will help you in finding your “why.”
So just obsessing about “purpose,” for so many individuals and organizations, is too big a concept to wrap your head around, and that’s why it feels like a lot of pressure. It’s the other way around: You have to live and grow into your purpose. Think of it as human growth: Purpose is like the adult, passion is like the teenager, interest is the child – and curiosity is the womb.
Find Your WhyPortfolio
Start with Wombs
After my diagnosis, I felt uncomfortable with my old way of life. I slept poorly. I asked myself: “What’s waking me up at night? Is it the idea of changing my life or the thought of losing and missing out on it?” It’s an excellent way to measure what choices we want to make! So, if you have a choice, sleep for a while as if you are going to make that choice, then sleep as if you’re not going to go down that route. Test which one makes you feel excited or nervous.
As you find what you are curious about and it turns into an interest, you become good at it, and value the expertise and skills development. Passion, coming in at stage three of this equation, is what some people find difficult. If you struggle, coaching helps, as does reading, or a personal trainer, whatever suits you.
Practice will, over time, add the expertise to your passion.
And the final step to take to turn this combination into a purpose is compassion. When you add compassion, you find a way to use your passion and expertise in the service of others. For example, my purpose is not to run. My passion is to run. And when I get fitter or grab those Personal Bests, it inspires other people – and I use it to inspire others. That’s the purpose.
- Don’t focus on finding your purpose.
- Break down the equation.
- First, find your passion, which starts from curiosity.
- Second, find your expertise by learning and development.
- And third, find your compassion, asking yourself, what is the challenge you want people to overcome?
- When you add your passion to your expertise and to your compassion, that’s when you find purpose.
The Silent Lessons
When people discover my journey, more often than not, I hear, “I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such an ordeal,” but when I respond by saying how I feel lucky from the whole thing, they are all ears. I explain that getting this at a young age was almost a “golden ticket” moment that has taught me about myself and where I can change my habits. I can go after what I was neglecting up until this shock to the system.
I’ve just crossed the 36-month mark in remission, one more year before the all-clear, however such as everything in life and business, things are never linear, and setbacks occurred and will again.
I’m better at dealing with setbacks, and I think running makes this easier. Concentrating on my newfound hobby showed me that even when you get knocked down, having self-discipline, resilience and a planned structure to the routine means you can trust the process and still stay on track. In running, for example, you have bad runs, your legs sometimes feel like concrete for days, but if you keep showing up, you know that you’ll see progress sooner or later. That’s how I’ve dealt with most setbacks since – staying on task, being self-disciplined and thinking positively – and this has seen me through.
I’ve documented my journey, picked up great teachings hidden away in books, and tried to make these relevant, accessible and practical to my followers. There’s so much clutter in today’s world, and it’s harder for us to try and weave through everything to find something that’s beneficial.
We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom.American biologist, E. O. Wilson
So, I’m helping by sharing what’s helped me: One of the books I read sitting in the aforementioned treatment room was The Purpose Effect by Dan Pontefract. Dan talks about the components of purpose, and I particularly like how he breaks down the personal sense of purpose into three stages:
- Develop yourself – Be determined to improve and grow. Ask, “What am I doing to evolve myself?”
- Define what your life should be, and redefine it regularly – Ask, “Who am I in life and at work?”
- Decide every day to act in a moral, ethical and responsible way in keeping with the person you choose to be – Ask, “How will I operate and be perceived by others?”
The Purpose EffectFigure 1 Publishing
So, when documenting your journey, which I highly recommend, remember to include your wins as well as the bad “dear diary” moments. Your diary (or blog) should not be used as your “spare tire” but as your steering wheel in life – so you can go back and read about the good times when on challenging routes, so as to understand how to get back in that lane.
When you are feeling stuck about finding your purpose, know that you’re not alone. Always try to remember that the arrow doesn’t seek the target – the target draws the arrow. When you’re conscientiously and confidently going after your purpose with a structure and a plan, you will stop at nothing. Seek progress or transformation, just as long as you keep asking yourself the right questions and making your “why” bigger than any excuses…
How to identify and incorporate the right habits to find your purpose.