HWW Life Practice #8: Purpose
“When you do something from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy…”
For much of Homo Sapiens’ 200,000 year history we have had but one purpose: to survive long enough to procreate in order to seed the earth with subsequent generations of human beings. Our minds were troubled only by the most material and urgent existential threats: how to avoid getting eaten while finding enough food to survive long enough to mate with someone to make miniature versions of ourselves. It was a hard life – nasty, brutish and short – but it was not complicated by the questions we agonize over today: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my Purpose?
I’m talking capital “P” Purpose: the thing that could change the world; the thing that compels you to get up early and stay up late; the thing that makes you glow from within when you talk about it to your family and friends and perfect strangers. Because you can’t stop thinking about it or talking about it or doing it. It is vital and alive and feels entangled with the fibers of your being.
Maybe you don’t yet know what your Purpose is. A lot of people don’t. Or maybe you once had a purpose (small “p”) but then the "sell by" date on that purpose expired and you found you were once again lost.
This happened to me. Several times.
For many years being a father to my three children was my overriding purpose, my highest priority and most noble, selfless calling. This project was important to me for more than personal reasons. I felt a responsibility to raise good citizens and thriving, productive members of society.
But then my kids grew up and began to chart their own course. They slowly but inevitably became more and more independent, and they didn’t need nor want me to parent in the same way that was required when they were younger. What I had assumed to be my Purpose was revealed to be a transitory, interim purpose (though a very important one), one more bend in the twisting river of my life. My kids will always be the three most important people in the world to me, but what was required when they were 3 or 7 or 10 was no longer needed as they became young adults.
This was unexpected and came as both a relief and as a great loss: if my kids aren't my Purpose then what is? What am I supposed to do now?
Many people prioritize career and professional ambitions above family and thus never experience the dislocation of losing their Purpose when they age out of their role as wet nurse to their children. Work is Purpose for many people, and they will sacrifice everything – families, relationships, even health – to build their businesses or to rise to the top of their professions. Through their careers they chase the false idols of achievement or wealth or fame, as if any of those things could provide lasting meaning to their lives, or comfort to them at the end.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-work. Far from it. I've had some of my most edifying experiences during my 25+ year career in business. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the crucible of work, of value creation, and have made friendships that have lasted decades. But the joy has been ephemeral; things that I poured my heart and soul into, accomplishments I felt incredibly proud of at the time, look puny and inconsequential in the rear view mirror.
In the absence of Purpose, work is about accumulating things and feeding our egos by ceaselessly trying to boost our standing in the hierarchy of social importance. No wonder this leaves us feeling hollow and devoid of meaning.
The work, then, is to reorient our lives toward our Purpose, making the discovery and manifestation of that Purpose in the world our life’s work.
But how do you know when your purpose is your Purpose and not just another purpose?
Some people – like Nelson Mandela – had to endure unimaginable suffering to find their Purpose; others had to work tirelessly and fail literally thousands upon thousands of times – like Thomas Edison – before realizing their Purpose.
Some, like Malala Yousafzai, know what their purpose is almost from the very beginning of their lives; while for others (like me) it is revealed only after half a century of aimless staggering through the wilderness of False Purposes.
It was my prostate cancer diagnosis and subsequent journey to wellness which led me to my Purpose (read my story here). What I learned and willed into practice literally transformed me from someone with a chronic, life-threatening illness (with an average life expectancy of 13 years) into an optimally healthy cancer survivor with a whole bag-full of all-natural, anti-cancer, anti-aging tricks and hacks. This revelation filled me with awe at the power of the mind and body to heal and protect itself. This secret – The Health Warrior Way – was hiding in plain sight; my Purpose now is to share it widely, loudly and often.
Shortly after learning that I'd chased my cancer into remission I began getting calls and emails from friends and friends of friends (and friends of friends of friends) who were suffering through one health issue or another. These desperate people were searching for help, and this search landed them on my doorstep, sometimes in need of a miracle but always in need of compassion, hope and practical advice.
These calls always touched me, and they tapped a rich vein of generosity that had lately been buried deep within me. I gladly made time for these calls and always looked forward to them; I welcomed them as an opportunity to pay forward what had been offered to me once I lowered my defenses, embraced my vulnerability and humbly asked the universe for help.
This is how I discovered my Purpose, my calling: to help people, to show them how they can strengthen and protect their bodies, minds and spirits to be fully prepared to face the greatest challenges in their lives. I’ll aspire to embody this Purpose in my every word, deed and thought for the rest of my life.
My goals are simple:
- To help people take control of their health and well-being before they get sick, or to heal and avoid remission if they’re already sick
- To teach as many people as possible how to take care of themselves, so that they can, in turn, teach everyone they care about
- To convince companies that an investment in the health and wellness of their employee population should be a strategic imperative
- To create an army of Health Warriors!
This is what's needed right now. There's an epidemic of avoidable chronic illnesses in this country that's driving escalating healthcare costs to unsustainable levels. Two-thirds of Americans are obese (driving 12% of total healthcare costs) while the incidence of diabetes in this country has risen 400% since 1980 (according to the CDC). Over 80% of the more than $3 trillion in healthcare expenditures in 2016 were attributable to just 15 chronic conditions – including cancer and heart disease, depression and high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes – many incidents of which can be mitigated by the lifestyle interventions found in The Health Warrior Way. Some experts estimate that we could save 30-50% of total healthcare costs through prevention of chronic illnesses.
This represents an opportunity to address the ignored problem at the core of the healthcare debate: it costs exponentially more to treat someone after they’ve gotten sick than it does to prevent illness by keeping someone healthy.
Only a healthcare regime focused on prevention – not one which shifts the burden to either consumers, employers or the government – will bend the healthcare cost curve. The stakes are huge, and I’m all-in.
I feel lucky to have found my Purpose when I did, no earlier or later, and am humbled that it came to me in the moment of my greatest crisis, after I opened my heart.
You may not know what your Purpose is but you’ll find it one day as long as you’re paying attention. This is where Mindfulness might come in handy. Meditate on this: what do you want to be remembered for after you’re dead?
While you’re searching for your Purpose you can adopt The Health Warrior Way as your purpose. You can use the 8 Life Practices to build up your physical, mental and spiritual health so that when you do find your Purpose you’ll be able to apply yourself to it with vigor and intensity, to go at it long and hard, which you’ll undoubtedly feel compelled to do once you find it.
And, if you’re like me, you’ll want to live your Purpose at a very high level for the rest of your time on this earth. For that you’ll need strength, focus, love, patience, endurance and resilience.
In other words, you’ll need to be a Health Warrior.
So: get busy with your own rescue. Start today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not as part of your next New Year’s resolutions. Today. There’s no time to waste.
The good news is you’re not alone. We’re here to help. Let us show you the Health Warrior Way.
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