High Achievers Able to Answer These 36 Questions Have a Higher Quality of Life
After toiling away 7 years of my life, I was finally walking up on stage receiving my Ph.D. diploma.
I felt proud. I felt anxious. I was also reflecting on all the nights where I slept in the lab. I was looking forward to the excitement I’d feel after having that piece of paper in my hand. After the diploma exchange, I felt a glimmer of joy for a nanosecond.
By the time I reached the end of the stage walking down, my inner critic was already saying, ‘ok, what’s next?’”
I was aware enough to recognize the tyranny of never enough. No amount of achievement will ever satisfy my egoic desires for more. If I don’t change my approach, I was likely to through this cycle of early optimism, heights of achievement, and trough of disillusionment over and over again.
I NEEDED to rethink my whole approach if living a fulfilling life is my ultimate intention.
The entrepreneur path is full of risks, challenges, lessons, and rewards. Walking this hero’s journey with the right intention and actions you’ll be able to make a great positive impact in the world while enjoying a great lifestyle. Walking this path with the wrong intention and actions, you’ll likely fail at both. Finding soul-market fit will help you clarify what right intention means for you. (& most entrepreneurs NEVER talk about it)
Many entrepreneurs ignore their soul’s desire in order to meet market needs. The market could be their responsibilities towards family, investors, employees, or customers.
They advocate the mantra of ‘follow what the market tells you. Grind it out now; you’ll eventually find meaning in success.’
In my experience, the outside-in approach rarely works because:
- The definition of ‘success’, like the horizon, moves as soon as you get closer to it.
- Success is not guaranteed even if you do all the right things.
- Wherever you go there you are. Even if you hit a homerun and achieve success beyond your imagination. You’ll still be left with you. Any unresolved challenges or desires are just further delayed and now you have less time to address them. You might as well go for what your soul truly desires.
Jim Carrey said it beautifully in his commencement speech:
“My father could have been a great comedian but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant and when I was 12 years old he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which was that: You can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
My friend Kilo Morgan, the lead designer of the Virgin Galactic White-Knight2 spacecraft said even more plainly: “something is going to kill you. You might as well do something you love” (podcast clip)
The Perils of Sacrificing It All
I know this pain well because I’ve lived through it many times. I was raised by parents and culture that focused on achievement. So I’d spend most of my days obsessing over getting good grades, preparing up for the next phase of my life, and posturing how cool I was on the outside meanwhile I was disconnected with who I really am. Without realizing this, I was unintentionally driving myself to depression and burnout.
I’ve met others who felt the same way. Many of whom are millionaires who’ve sacrificed their health, marriage, relationships with their children, friendships in order to have millions in their bank account. In the end, when they reached their goal, they told me the feeling was so anti-climatic. “It’s just the worst feeling. Why did I sacrifice all that for?”
Today, I prefer the inside-out approach. With the inside-out approach, the journey is its own reward. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said: “It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were.” Whenever I follow my soul’s desire, I am fulfilled with every step; I don’t need to risk my fulfillment for an uncertain payoff with uncertain circumstances.
The Experience of Purpose
Your purpose is your reason for being. It’s why you get up in the morning. It’s your internal GPS to help you navigate this reality. The better your GPS, the more you can trust it to help you navigate the choppy waters of thoughts, emotions, circumstances, and relationships. And more bold, confident, and adventurous the journey will be. The worse your GPS, the less you can trust your decisions. And more timid, scared, and less fun the journey will be.
Most who ask the question of ‘what is my purpose?’ seek a singular sentence encapsulating their reason for being. It’s not a word, a mantra, or a sentence they are looking for. They are actually seeking an experience of purpose. An experience of aliveness.
“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” ~Joseph Campbell
You are fine-tuning your awareness of purpose. Being alive is not unlike physical experience after a great workout. Feel my breath filling my lungs. Feel my body thriving with energy. Feel my heart beating. I am deeply in the moment. Free from the past. Free from concerns of the future. Just filled deep awareness of my past, present, and future. Not just surviving. Not just existing. The inner voice is silent. Time seems to stop. I am just fully present and simply grateful to be alive.
When everything is going well, it’s easy to say that I have faith in my path, myself, and my purpose. No different than it’s easy to be nice to your spouse when you are in beautiful Hawaii on vacation with great weather. The real test is when you are in the middle of a hurricane, can you still stay calm and be loving to each other.
Can you keep the same faith in yourself, your purpose, and your path facing great adversities? Can you keep the faith as your identities disintegrate? Terminal disease. You just lost your job. An accident just destroyed your home. A loved one unexpectedly passes away. Your loved one is suffering and you can’t alleviate their pain. Your depression or bipolar just returned.
The real test of your faith is allowing your purpose to fuel your resilience during hard times and maintain your equanimity, love, and commitment. Going through trials is how you’ll develop your spiritual spine, resilience, and grit.
So, What Do You Want?
Most people think they know what they want. They may want to be rich, famous, popular. But what’s the desire beneath that desire? Maybe they want to prove to their parents that they are smart, enough, and lovable. So being rich, famous, and popular is just a proxy to prove their worth to their parents. What they really want is to have more status with their parents.
Very few people know what they really want.
Do you want what you want because you want others (parents, spouse, kids) to think better of you?
Do you want what you want because it reinforces what you think of yourself?
“I am smart. I am a winner. I am lovable.”
Do you want what you want because it proves to yourself that you are NOT what you think of yourself?
“I am stupid. I am a loser. I am unlovable.”
Or do you want what you want because your soul desires it?
You want to be a [artist, coach, teacher, businessman, lawyer] because try as you may, you couldn’t be anything else.
Most start with the combination of the first 2 levels.
“Let me prove my [parents, teacher, bullies] wrong. I’ll show you that I am [smart, successful, strong, lovable]”
Carl Jung said: “Until we make the unconscious conscious, we’ll call it fate.” Until we know our core desires, no amount of success or accolades will quench our thirst or hunger for validation.
In the end, our core identities drive our words and actions.
I am [smart, successful, lovable] (or vice versa, I am [not enough, not lovable])
I am a [singer, writer, businessman, author, speaker, parent..etc]
Try as we might, no amount of external results will convince ourselves otherwise.
Unless we have an identity shift. Unless we believe truly that we are worthy of [good things, success, love, acceptance], we will always unconsciously create situations where our core identity is satisfied.
So let me ask you again. what do you want? What do you really want?
Do you want to be a [singer, writer, businessman, sculptor, comedian..etc]?
Singers sing. Writers write. Teachers teach. Lawyers practice law. Businessmen buy/sell things. Fighters fight. Healers heal. Storytellers tell stories. Comedians make people laugh.
How do you want to leave a mark in the world? This is your avenue of self-expression.
(note, the simplest way to see where you are going is actually looking back. You’ve been doing it all along. Here is a 6-min video my podcast guest Jose Caballer and I about it)
If you do follow it, your soul will thrive. You’ll feel a surge of energy fueling you from inside out.
If you don’t do it, you’ll deprive your soul of its thirst and hunger. And this thirst and hunger will cause your soul to suffer in ways that no success can alleviate.
I am the captain of my soul. I am the master of my fate. — William Henley
Either way is fine. It’s your life, you get to choose.
Finding Purpose Through Ikigai
Here is an elegant way to answer this age-old question of ‘soul-market fit.’
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that elegantly answers this age-old question with 4 components: 1)what you’re good at, 2)what you enjoy doing, 3)what you find meaningful, and 4)what you can get paid for.
36 Questions To Find Your Soul’s Desire
I) What Are You Good At?
Whether it be with natural talents or deliberate practice, we are all good at something. What’s easy for you but hard for others?
1. What have people consistently given you positive feedback on?
2. When have people seemed amazed and wowed by something you do?
3. What is your biggest wound that you’ve overcome?
4. What’s easy for you but hard for others?
5. What skills have helped you thrive?
6. What do your friends always come to you for help?
7. What have you won awards for?
8. What do you love to get better at all the time?
II) What do you love?
Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist says “Be mindful of the place where you will cry: for there where your tears are, is also your heart, and there where your heart is, your treasure also lies”
If you are like my younger self who had trouble discerning what love is, here is a hierarchy of emotions: curiosity, interest, infatuation, passion, love, devotion. Pull on that curiosity thread and follow your highest positive emotion.
9. In your spare time, what do you enjoy doing for doing’s sake?
10. What’s something you’d do for free every day?
11. When do you feel most alive?
12. What gives you the biggest joy in life? What moments that have brought you happiness?
13. What did you love doing or thinking about when you were a child?
14. What have you been persistently curious about ever since you were little?
15. What’s exciting to you and gets your juices flowing when you do it?
16. What could you enthusiastically talk about for hours on end?
17. When working on something or doing something — what are the tasks you get lost in?
18. When drained, what do you do to rejuvenate yourself?
19. What have you NEVER gotten bored of?
20. When are you most in flow — that you forget to eat or drink — when you do it?
III)What Makes Your Life Meaningful?
We all get temporary happiness when we consume something that serves our personal desires.
The secret to deep and sustainable fulfillment is the feeling you get from helping others (whether there is evidence or not).
For centuries, the greatest thinkers have all pointed to this wisdom: fulfillment is found in helping other human beings.
- For it is in giving that we receive — Saint Francis of Assisi
- The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity — Leo Tolstoy
- We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give — Winston Churchill
- The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. — William Shakespeare
- “Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.” — Dalai Lama
There is a Chinese adage that says: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
And often for reasons we don’t quite understand, we do things that feel RIGHT to us. (Case in point, PhD engineer doing the NobleWarrior podcast on the intersection of purpose, entrepreneurship, and consciousness) (video clips where a surgeon and I speak about this)
(note. the original question is “What does the world need?” Many think they must have gradiose goals that impact the entire humanity. Climate change, poverty, racial injustice. All those are great. Which scale do YOU actually care about? What’s within your sphere of influence? Confucius said, self-mastery, family, country, world. My suggestion is to work within your sphere of influence so you can see concrete progress of all your efforts)
The following questions will reveal what is meaningful to you.
21. Where do I add more value to others?
22. What is something that if you don’t pursue it, a part of you will die?
23. What is something you have to do even if it makes no logical sense?
24. What/who are you willing to go the extra mile for?
25. What is something that if you don’t do it, you’ll regret it on your death bed?
26. What is something you do for others even if you never get recognized?
27. What do you want others to say about you in your eulogy?
28. Who are your heroes and why?
29. Who do you enjoy surrounding yourself with?
30. When the chips are down, what keeps you going?
31. If you knew you’d fail 100%, what’d you still want to do?
32. Even if you try not to do it, you can’t help but still want to do it?
33. What makes you angry or frustrated in your world?
34. What issues in your community/ the whole world touch you deeply and emotionally?
35. What do you stand for?
36. What is trying to emerge from within me?
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts, Emotions, And Body Sensations
Carl Jung said: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, you’ll call it fate”. As you meditate on each question, bring more awareness to your mental images, thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.
Do you notice pain, discomfort, tenderness, tightness?
Are you holding your breath?
Are you experiencing sadness, disappointment, regrets, or irritation?
Or are you experiencing tranquility, calmness, silence, inner peace you haven’t felt in years?
Are you getting quietly excited and feeling a surge of power because you have a new clarity of your deep purpose?
Whatever you feel is normal. You’re surfacing hidden thoughts, emotions, sensations from your subconscious.
Don’t suppress them. Don’t rush past them. Feel them fully.
Think of these new emotions, thoughts, sensations as waves of the ocean washing over you.
Get curious. Think of yourself as a neutral scientist. Not a judgemental finger-pointing critic. Explore, investigate, observe. And allow yourself to be surprised?
Your observations will likely reveal thought or emotional patterns normally hidden from your view.
Take in the totality of all the input of your consciousness and let your own truth emerge from within.
This first post focuses on the inside-out approach: what you really want. I went into depth about various questions I’ve researched and curated over the years to distinguish: 1)what you’re good at, 2)what you enjoy doing, 3)what you find meaningful.
What you’ll find at the intersection amongst these 3 categories are clues of your path. You don’t need to seek outside for answers; You’ve been walking your own path your whole life.
Get curious. Observe. Explore. Keep digging. The common theme and your own truth will emerge and converge from these 3 trends. Let me know what you found.
And if you are already clear about your ikigai (purpose, your reason for being), I’d like to know how you grapple with making the right choices in spite of difficult circumstances. Send me a message in the private group.
May your internal flame of purpose be a light to your path and may you live your life today as if today could be your last.
Lots of Love to You,
ps. If you find this helpful, join our community of like-minded philosopher-entrepreneurs working together to live a life with more purpose and meaning: http://noblewarrior.com/group I look forward to meeting you.