It’s the challenge of our generation.But is it too late?
So many of us have joined the establishment. We were duped into thinking a college degree meant something.We’ve been tricked into debt, justifying it as an investment in our futures. Now, most young people feel that they have to join the “real world”, sign on the line for a paycheck that doesn’t fulfill them, that doesn’t challenge them, and that doesn’t make them tick– just so they can pay off their debt. Or worse yet, now that we are in so deep, some of us will go forward and get a specialized degree and rack up more debt, all so we can pay it off quicker with a higher paying job.
This is the definition of the rat race.
Recently on Under30Experiences Explore Costa Rica, we spent the week at one of the world’s premiere eco-lodges, kayaking, hiking, and spending time in the rainforest, all while being fed organic food from farm to table, beginning to understand just how sustainable and fulfilling an off the grid lifestyle can be. But so many people kept coming back to the question:
What is my purpose?
Am I just a peg in the system? Or was I meant to pursue my dreams, and “follow my passion” as the cliché says. And even if I was able to find a way to make money doing something I love, is that truly what I was placed on earth to do? Is it actually possible that my writing, or art, or crazy business idea, could be the thing that will make me happy?
Let me begin by saying this, nothing you do is going to every make you happy.Let me repeat – nothing you do, buy, build, make, or contribute to this earth is going to truly fulfill yourself from the inside out.I’ll say it a third time, “Have a hot girlfriend? She could get hit by a bus tomorrow…”
What I mean by this is that nobody is going to make you happy. No amount of money or accomplishment will make you fulfilled. Not even saving millions of lives of others in the most heroic, philanthropic fashion.
The key to life is making yourself happy without any external factors.
What does this mean? Stop looking for that Romeo or Juliet “who will finally make me happy”, or the end-all-be-all business that’s going to make you go from six to midnight every morning.
Imagine this: You have a business that changes people’s lives. You put smiles on people’s faces. They credit you with starting something spectacular. You get written up in national media. Your thought leadership makes true impact on others… Wow, you should be happy.
But it’s all bullsh*t.
Not only could it all be gone overnight, but what if things stop going well? What if financial crisis hits? What if people stop buying?
Why do you think so many child celebrities are so messed up? They never had the opportunity to grow up, develop, or understand themselves – all they had was people telling them how good looking and talented they are, feeding their egos that can only survive if they hear more of this crap.
If you want to know your purpose– it’s realizing that nothing outside of yourself will ever make you happy.
What you are looking for now is your internal purpose.Eckhart Tolle has a great section on this concept in his book “A New Earth.” He explains that your internal purpose is waking up to the fact that the current moment is the only thing that can make you happy. It’s becoming aware that the only way to enjoy life is to be right here in the present, instead of time traveling to the future or dwelling on the past in your little mind.
It’s how I beat my lifelong battle with stress.Your internal purpose should be about taking care of yourself as best you can, doing things like meditating, playing, exercising, sleeping, and eating healthy and becoming the best version of yourself, so you can then give your excess energy to others.
However unless you are fulfilled yourself, with no external assistance, you’ll never be able to fully be there for others. Depending on how deep of an experience you are looking for out of life, after you get the basics like your health covered, you can start diving into things like dissolving your ego and realizing that we are part of an eco-system that is greater than ourselves and that there is no difference between you and the asshole next to you in traffic.
But the depth of your human experience is up to you.
Then: you can work on your external purpose and what positive impact you can make on the world.
Yes, I said it.The point of life is not just to make a lot of money, so you can buy a big ass house on a big ass loan, and retire early so you can waste away to nothing. I’m pretty sure people have been trying that for years, without a whole lot of success in finding fulfillment.Your external purpose should start with what’s close to you and then project as large as you want it to.
Want to change the world?
Change yourself first, read some quote by Gandhi, then work on positively impacting those around you.Notice that I didn’t say “change others”, because that isn’t going to work.I’m talking about the littlest things like stop being a hindrance yourself, so that you stop that cycle on the planet. I’m talking about doing things that are super simple like listening.
If you listen to what people are saying instead of thinking only about the shit going on in your head or on your iPhone, the world will be a better place. Holding the door for someone or giving them a genuine smile or act of kindness, is the very smallest step in your external purpose.
But these things have to be selfless.
The reason you held the door for someone cannot be because you were looking for a “thank you” or some type of acknowledgement or fulfillment. We’ve all said, “Ugh, why the f*ck didn’t that person say thank you when I held the door for him, what a jerk!” When you catch yourself saying that it’s time to go back to point A.
You need to work on your internal purpose and fulfill yourself.
Fulfillment isn’t going to come from holding doors for others. Once you have your little day to day actions covered, then you can work on your relationships, being there for your family, friends, community, or whatever greater purpose you’d like to pursue.
And no, this isn’t all about throwing flower petals in the air, this can mean business too. How about leading a team in an innovative startup environment, to disrupt some crusty old market run by a bunch of corporate douchebags.
The world is changing and we can all play a role.
If we are going to combat the system that got us into this mess in the first place, it’s going to mean that our generation needs to become the strongest versions of ourselves and go into battle. It’s time we create innovative solutions to educate, feed, and house ourselves that don’t rely on the government and corporations and the mountains of debt they all get paid on.
But first it starts with you.
Matt Wilson is co-founder of Under30CEO and Adventurer in Residence at the travel company Under30Experiences. Travel with him to Costa Rica, Bali, Machu Picchu, Ireland, and Iceland this year, and look out for his book coming in 2015.
Image credit: CC by orestART