The Unrelenting Quest For Purpose

Spoiler alert — This is not one of those inspirational reads of someone who has figured out life.

This is about the ongoing quest of one bloke who wants something more in life and is still finding his way there, a story which should be relatable to many of you who are probably already in that quest.

So I don’t intend to advise, rather just share my story and hopefully get some of you curious enough to start your own quests.

Purpose — we come across this term often. The internet is full of self-professed life coaches who keep yapping of the need to find your purpose in life. Money alone doesn't bring you happiness (*channeling my internal Chandler Bing* could it be more of a cliche!), as they often like to say.

Do we really have to bother!

I will be honest, I have been a cynic and a materialist for most of my adult life. Whenever I used to come across such rhetoric I scoffed. It is not as if I did not value purpose, or meaning. I simply subscribed to the notion that we need to have a dose of pragmatism in life (fellow Asians, y’all know what I am talking about). We need money and stability for our daily needs, whereas we have the rest of our lives to fully understand what our purpose is and to act on it.

Over the past couple of years I have begun to notice a chink in the armor that was my perception….

#1 — The gut feeling that you can and want to do more

In the age of social media, it is impossible to avoid trends.

I see around me a lot of nomads who travel around the world being traders, coders, YouTubers, influencers, even bloggers. Travelling and exploring while doing what they love to do is what consumes them.

You also have artists, entrepreneurs, activists, speakers. People who have managed to monetise their purpose in life, to find self-fulfilment and to exert a powerful web of influence over the rest of us.

It is natural to think that these people are the outliers. A handful that found a way out of this rat race by taking a leap of faith and finding an element of luck along the way.

But are they really? I mean, we do live in the gig economy now! Automation is displacing traditional jobs and new jobs are being created. Stability is not really a thing today. So even if you are the type of person who resents venturing into the unknown, you gotta realise that…

if ever there was a time to take a wee bit of risk, it is now.

I kind of liked the idea of the self-fulfilment that comes along with doing what you want. Well, we all do. But I liked it so much that I wanted to chart my own path.

Unlike what we see in movies or read about in books, this is an arduous quest. The key thing you will figure out is the difference between a fleeting interest and purpose.

#2 — Consume information

I have to say, #1 and #2 are interchangeable.

The best starting point is just to get to know what is happening around you. You can talk to people, scroll down your Twitter homepage, attend events or even travel.

The reason being that we often need a source of inspiration. Often we don’t know what we want or are capable of.

Think of today’s activists for example. Twitter is a big part of how they find their cause. There is so much information spreading around in Twitter that it is quite likely that they are consumed at some point by a particular cause, be it climate change, access to education or ending discrimination.

Say you have a certain hobby, and you would love to convert it into a career. You need to spend more time on it to determine whether it is more than a fleeting interest. If you like dance, join a dance community, take up more classes, seek out and talk to professionals who made their passion into a livelihood.

#3 — Experiment

You have to experiment first in order to narrow down to your purpose.

I thought my purpose was to create music since it was something I had been learning since primary school. But it did not consume me like I thought it would. After my first startup - a tech company - formed and failed, I thought that my purpose was to be a serial entrepreneur and bring new products and services to the world.

As every other millennial, I am conscious of how I impact the planet and I have recently been talking to activists, startups and organisations on what more can be done.

Perhaps one of those is still my purpose, and I just have not put enough effort into making it a reality. The more I get into the quest, the more I try new things. And the more I do that, the more my thoughts, my influences, my interests, waver.

Yes, it is so easy to waver. You never really know what you want until you try it. Wavering is just part of the quest. We don’t need to take it as a negative in this context.

So this is where I am right now..

I have not hit the next phase yet, but I would imagine that it is #4 — The ‘Eureka’ moment. However, that is for another day.

As I reiterated at the start, this is not a tutorial to help you identify your purpose. I simply hope that I have awakened the latent curiosity within you to start your quest now instead of delaying it and ending up like this dude.

I seem to be enjoying the ride. And I know that #4 is not far off. It is worth it.

Ex-entrepreneur and aspiring change maker desperately in a quest for his purpose in life.