“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?…We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
John F. Kennedy
“A realist is simply a pessimist who doesn’t want to admit it.”
“But what is happiness?
“It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”
Don Draper (Jon Hamm; Mad Men)
You can climb to the top of any mountain once you name its peak.
The crew for Apollo 11 had been intensively training as a team for many months and the launch went off without a hitch. Once in space, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin carefully navigated the Lunar Module to the surface of the moon. Buzz had to fly longer than planned, in order to avoid a field of boulders, and touched down on the moon with less than 40 seconds of fuel remaining. The Module landed at exactly 4:18 p.m. EST on July 20, 1969. After 6 more hours of preparation, Commander Neil Armstrong exited the Module and became the first human to set foot on the Moon.
Forty-three years later, Felix Baumgartner, a 43 year-old (ironic) Austrian man jumped out of a ballooned capsule 128,000 feet above Earth. The capsule was raised into the stratosphere during the final manned flight for the Red Bull Stratos mission. Baumgartner fell to Earth in a pressurized space suit that prevented him from being crushed as he broke the sound barrier and accelerated through the heavens at 833.9 MPH. He became the only man to achieve supersonic speed without a jet or space shuttle. In fact, Baumgartner set 4 different records, including the “highest manned balloon flight”, “freefall from highest altitude”, “supersonic speed in freefall”, and “longest freefall time” records.
Have you ever thought about what you could do, if you really decided to do it? There are two beliefs you should live your life by: first, you can do anything you want in this life. Human beings have walked on the moon, eradicated deadly diseases, and connected the world with the Intranet. Anything is possible. Second, life really is a journey, not a destination. Human beings are 5% matter and 95% constant will. And constant will, or constant desire, by definition, is never satisfied. No matter what you succeed in doing, you will want to succeed at doing something else afterwards. Achieving your goal will make you want to achieve another goal. And no matter how happy you are, you will always want to increase happiness. If you stop trying to figure out how to increase happiness and accomplish more goals, you’ll retire and slowly die. Given these two beliefs, the best course of action is to choose a massive purpose of living and spend your life trying to fulfill it. In other words, choose the tallest mountain peak you can fathom and start climbing. The secret is that there’s no mountain peak too tall and, even if you fail to reach the summit, the climb itself will fulfill you.
You can achieve greatness. No matter where you are in life right now, there is something you can be uniquely incredible at. But before you can be incredible, you must truly believe that you can do anything. That’s the first step. The next step is a little harder: deciding what you want to be incredible at. There are literally thousands of online tests, career quizzes, and books that have been created to try and help people find their purpose in life. The problem is that all of these methods and formulas are built for large groups of people. They have to be. No single test can find a unique purpose of living for each of the 7 billion people on Earth. This is why even the most exquisite purpose finder formula will try to fit you into one of 2-3 dozen categories. Instead, you need to fit yourself into one of 7 billion categories. There is only one you. And your purpose in life is different from everyone else’s purpose. And, good news, you get to decide your purpose.
Naming your purpose in life requires a positive emotional state and an abundant outlook on life. Never set goal when you are in a crappy mood or when you’re looking at your life through limited lens. If you’re in a negative emotional state, do something to help yourself increase happiness and generate confidence. Listen to music, read something inspirational, go for a walk, dance around, or do anything else that’s both active and positive. Next, take the limits off of your life. Remember, anything is possible, and everything is waiting for you. Success is not a small well of water hidden in someone else’s backyard. Success is a massive ocean that everyone has access to. All you have to do is grab your bucket and go scoop up some success. Then, go back for more. And more. And more. It’s an ocean – it never runs out. This is called having an abundance mentality. Once you are in a positive, upbeat mood, and once you’re open to all the abundant possibilities for your life, get a pen and pad of paper, and find somewhere alone to sit down and write.
With your attitude adjusted and your pen in hand, start writing down everything you want to own, everything you want to do, and everything you want to be. Write down BIG things. For example, write, “own a profitable business,” “create a top-selling product,” “be CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” “speak in front of 10,000 people,” “write a New York Time’s bestseller,” “manage a leading nonprofit organization,” “be married with 4 kids,” “build and live in a house on the ocean”. Focus on things that have to do with creating something great or being someone great – these are the kinds of desires that are worth spending your entire life pursuing. Be open to things that are outside the realm of making money in business and entrepreneurship. Pay attention to goals that you are intrinsically motivated to fulfill.
As you write, think hard about who you want to be 5-10 years from now. Remember, this is your mountain peak, your purpose in life, not something on your daily to-do list or even your yearly calendar. Don’t try to see how you will get there, just focus on what you want and who you want to be. Your goal is to find your mountain peak, not the hiking path you will be using to scale the mountain. Don’t be specific. Your goal is to name your purpose in life, not describe it. In fact, you shouldn’t be close enough to your mountain peak to describe the terrain on the summit. Write BIG and write without limits. Don’t be afraid of writing down something too big, you can always change your purpose down the road. Very often, the thing you fear writing the most is the thing you want the most.
The single best way to define your purpose in life is to question your current actions and feel your deepest emotions. As you’re writing, ask yourself these key questions: “What do I currently enjoy doing?,” “What activities do I lose myself in?,” “What am I doing when I lose track of time?,” and “What do I do in my free time?” Chances are, you’re probably already spending time doing things that are naturally in line with your purpose of living. Finally, as you’re brainstorming, pay close attention to your feelings. Is there something that you’ve written that makes you leap on the inside? Is there something that instantly fills you with an intense emotion, no matter what it is? What is the one thing you wrote down that broke your heart and almost made you cry because it filled you with such a powerful sense of yearning? What is the one thing you wrote that made you instantly feel afraid or insecure? What is the one thing you wrote that made you angry at someone else for already having it? Keep writing until something makes you come alive on the inside.
Finding your purpose in life is the most important thing you will ever do. Everything else in your life lies downstream of your mountain peak. Once you’ve named your biggest desire, you can start aligning your core values, or singularities, in a way that will help you fulfill it. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to figure out the core values that are currently directing your life.