6 Counter-Intuitive Tips For Finding Your Life’s Purpose

Let’s be clear about something right off the bat.

Our purpose changes day to day, moment to moment. Right now my purpose is to write this blog post. Later it will be to make the world’s best sandwich. After that, well, who knows?

Seriously!

For the vast majority of our existence on this rock we didn’t have the luxury to ask such questions. We we’re lucky if we found some nuts to eat. That was our life’s purpose – to survive!

The fact that we do have the luxury goes to show how lucky we really are. Even during a global pandemic the opportunities available to pursue from the comfort of our sofas is mind boggling.

The problem we have, if you want to call it that, is we have too much choice. For that reason we’re sacred to death of making the wrong one. We’re petrified of the idea that we might not making the very best of this one life we have. 

So here’s my first idea. 

1. Drop Your Expectations 

Drop your expectation that that’s even possible. Drop your expectation that there’s a perfect choice to make. There isn’t and there never will be. If it helps I can tell you right now that you’re definitely not making the very best of the one life you have.

Why? 

Because it’s impossible. 

The problem with the belief that there must be one “true calling” is it stops us in our tracks. Many of us start thinking there must be something seriously wrong because we’re not “living the dream.” It’s a form of chasing perfection.

It’s not dissimilar to believing in “the one.” And what happens once you think you’ve found that perfect life partner? The moment they demonstrate they’re fallible human beings, just like you, your unrealistic expectations are going to be shattered. And then you’re gonna have a big blow out, or worse!

Instead of having an honest and open conversation where you both understand that any healthy relationship, just like any life purpose worth pursuing, requires constant struggle. 

2. Ask Yourself What You’re Willing To Suffer For

Now here’s the thing. 

The chances are there’s a better choice you could be making. In fact that’s a certainty. Equally you have the potential to make things a lot worse (Really?).

Unfortunately you’re not going to find out by binge watching NETFLIX. Which is also a choice. One that you will eventually hate yourself for.

We need a purpose. We need a cause to serve. That’s what gives our life meaning. And it’s that meaning that gives us the longer term peace and happiness we crave.

But we need to be clear about something.

It’s in the service of something bigger than ourselves that the happiness and peace we crave really starts to stick. You have to give yourself up to that cause.

That’s the big secret. Taking the focus off the self. If you ask me we shouldn’t even have a self-help section in the book store, we should direct everyone to a how-to-help-others section instead.

If you want to find motivation with a capital M then I suggest you pick a cause that is close to your own heart. Either way, stop thinking in terms of what’s best for you. Stop thinking what’s your life’s purpose.

A better question to ask is what can I do that will help people the most? What can I do with my time that’s important? What’s something I can do that adds value to other people’s lives that doesn’t want to make me gouge my eyes out? What is something I’m willing to suffer for?

3. Don’t Do What You Don’t Want To

If you’re still stumped then I suggest you use the process of elimination to get you there.

What are you doing that you hate with a passion? Stop doing that. Take away the shitty job and replace it with a slightly less shitty job.

Go down the road of trial and error. 

The same way if you want to get fit and healthy, but hate running, don’t spend an hour on the goddamn treadmill everyday – do something else! Dance, or box, or climb some rocks if that floats your boat. Do what ever it is you think you might like. 

Ultimately you don’t have to like those things either, but I guarantee if you keep searching, if you keep cutting out the shit you don’t want to, you’ll eventually find the thing that you’re willing to stick at. That you’re willing to suffer for. 

It’s important to remember there are always ways to make things you don’t want to do, like exercise, into things you actually do like dancing or boxing or surfing. Your job is no different. 

Don’t settle for the treadmill. Don’t settle for the dead end job you hate. Find the shit that gets you excited by saying no to the shit that doesn’t.

4. Imagine The Worst Case Scenario Then Do It Anyway. 

If it’s the fear of the unknown that’s stopping you from acting, then I suggest you imagine the worst case scenario, accept it as though it’s already happened and then go ahead and do it anyway. 

“Are you fucking crazy?!” Yes, but hear me out.

By worst case scenario I mean in a realistic sense – not if I go surfing a shark might attack me as a tsunami strikes while I get simultaneously hit by lightening from a freak storm that forms over head.

No. I mean more like you could drown…

I joke, of course. 

What I mean to say is that maybe the water will be freezing cold and you could end up shallowing sea water while everyone laughs at you, i.e. you have a shitty time. 

Did anyone die? Will anyone die if you leave that shitty job you hate? 

The point of doing this is to understand that what we’re afraid of isn’t really that scary. Further, what we’re most afraid of isn’t very likely. 

The chances are you might have loads of fun if you go surfing.

With that in mind, here’s an exercise you can try called Fear Setting.

This is what you do: 

  1. First, write out the major life change you’re considering. For example you might write, What if I… quit (or lost) my dead end office job? 
  2. Second, define the worst case scenario in detail. Ask yourself if it would be the end of your life (probably not)? Ask yourself how permanent it would be? It’s not like you won’t able to find another shitty job you hate right? 
  3. Third, ask yourself what the benefits of a more probable scenario are? What are the definite positive outcomes (including for your self-esteem, mental and physical health etc) 
  4. Forth, ask yourself what the cost will be if you do nothing? What will it cost you financially, emotionally & physically if you postpone that difficult choice? This is such a great question because if you zoom out ten years and you know you’ll still be miserable then you’ll see that the cost of inaction is often far greater. 
  5. Finally, ask yourself what you’re so afraid of?

5. Understand That Any Dream Is Always Served As Part Of A Shit Sandwich

Overtime, if you’re prepared to put yourself out there, I do believe you can narrow down your purpose to one that feels like it was meant for you, but even then you need to keep your expectations in check.

You need to realise that “the dream” is always served as part of a shit sandwich. That’s always the deal.

In fact life is a series of shit sandwiches served one after the other. It’s our willingness (or unwillingness) to eat those shit sandwiches that makes us who we are.

To take my profession as an example.

Constantly flying through the night puts our bodies through the wringer. The environment is also highly stressful (especially during a global pandemic). Every six month we have the proverbial kitchen sink thrown at us in the simulator. Fail that and our licence is invalidated. We also have random spot checks, recency requirements, annual line checks, medicals… the list goes on. 

Of course I get to hand fly a commercial jet worth millions of dollars. I get to travel the world – both on the job and during my spare time. And I do have lots of time off to pursue other interests (especially now).

Of course it’s important to be grateful for these things however, being a pilot is still very much served as part of a shit sandwich. Make no mistake about it. This “dream” is one almighty struggle to maintain.

It is a dream who have to really really really want.

6. Focus On Today First

Let me finish with this final thought. 

Something that’s more important than finding your life’s purpose is making sure you have one today. Even if that’s to hold your children as if for the last time, or telling your wife how much you love her. Or farting and laughing about it. 

Ask yourself what you can do today to make the world a better place? Ask yourself what you’d do if this were your last on earth?

Because often that’s all we need to do. 

Stop zooming the lens way out all the time and zoom it right in instead. To the point where your purpose is to simply express gratitude for the fact that you’re breathing. Because that really is our ultimate purpose in life, loving our life as it stands, right now, in this moment.

Lest we miss it altogether. 


Thanks for reading Ladies and Gentleman. I hope you find some of this terrible life advice of use. Let us know if you have any thoughts. As always I welcome ALL opinions on this blog. Love to all X

Regaining Lift

Most of us experience stalling at some stage in our lives. In our attempts to be all we can. In our attempts to climb as high as we can, as fast as we can.

The problem is, like an aeroplane, we can only climb so fast. If we pitch the nose up too high, or carry too much weight, we run the risk of stalling. And if we do, then we’re only left with one choice. 

Just like an aeroplane, the only way to recover – the only way – is to point the nose back towards the ground. You have to sacrifice height in order to regain lift. 

For many of us this is the last thing we want. 

When we’ve had our eyes on that optimum crushing level – that perfect enviable position we wish we were at in life – we find it hard to let go. We become so fixated on that place we lose all sense of what’s actually going on, what actually needs to be done in the here and now. 

Of course if you keep pitching up in desperation – if you refuse to accept your situation – well, then, the results can be catastrophic. 

Towards the end of 2019 I found myself in such a stall. I was mentally and physically exhausted. The relentlessly busy rosters and regular night flying had taken its toll. I also needed help navigating depression. 

I’d known for some time I needed help, I just didn’t want to admit it. So in desperation I kept trying to pitch the nose up. Of course it only made things worse. I only found myself in a deeper stall. 

Eventually I conceded. I acknowledged the stall and pointed the nose down. I asked for the professional help I’d ignored getting for years. 

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Shortly afterwards the pandemic gripped the world and I suddenly found myself with an abundance of time at home. All of which gave me the perfect opportunity to keep the nose down. To utilise my support systems. As a result I spent the first half of 2020 at home, resting, writing, reading and being with the people I love.

It was exactly what I needed to regain lift. 

By June, when I finally went back to work I felt ready, like the heavy fog that had shrouded my mind had lifted and I could fly once more. It’s just that, this time, the whole world had stalled. Little did I know just how long that stall would last. A year on I still don’t. 

What followed were a series of professional setbacks. The biggest of which came when my company consigned our sister airline to the history books. A fifth of our workforce went jobless overnight. Those of us lucky enough to still cling to our jobs in aviation, were forced onto a new contract in very friendly sign-or-be-sacked kinda manner.

Fast forward to the present day and my coworkers are still fearing for their livelihoods. Many of them have family who live abroad they haven’t seen for well over a year. I’m one of the lucky ones with my family here in Hong Kong. On top this the lack of flying means many of us are rusty. The added stress isn’t helped by quarantine or the ever changing medical/testing requirements. I haven’t even mentioned the fear of contracting the virus itself.

This week I actually got to fly. To give you an idea of the times, the Captain and I flew an empty passenger jet to Hanoi and back. We carried nothing but a bit of cargo in the belly. On arrival into Hong Kong we were made to test for COVID, then wait 3 hours for the results before they let us go home. We were the lucky ones. Many of our other colleagues flying to higher risk destinations and/or with passengers on board are made to quarantine for 3 weeks in a hotel room before being allowed home. 

All the above has made the job more demanding that it has ever been. 

Yet, despite this, flying to Hanoi and back was some of the most fun I’ve had in an aeroplane for a number of years. I believe that’s because this pandemic has given me something from being forced to point the nose down for the past year and a half. What I believe it really takes to recover from any stall in life: perspective

I became a pilot to fly aeroplanes and travel the world, but that’s not why I get in an aeroplane anymore. I’ve come to realise those motives alone aren’t enough anymore. They don’t generate enough lift. 

Now I fly, above all else, to help the world. To make sure the few passengers who need to travel get home to their families safely. To help transport critical cargo where it needs to go. To keep my company afloat. I fly not just for me and my family, but for the man or women sitting next to me and their families. I fly for all those who lost their jobs. I fly as part of a rich and proud aviation heritage during what is arguably its most difficult hour. 

It’s like that story about three bricklayers who were asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.

I’ve transitioned from the second bricklayer to the third. I fly with a far greater passion derived from a deeper meaning that’s been given to this profession – to all things – during this time. Ultimately that’s what I believe pointing the nose down allows you to see. It reminds you what it’s all about. Why you even get up in the morning. 

And call me crazy, but for the first time in a while I feel a glimmer of hope. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, with a slight uptick in the amount of flying rostered this month, with genuine talks of opening up travel bubbles… 

Of course I’m aware you have to be very careful with hope. Often the light at the end of the tunnel is simply another train coming at you. And if it is, so be it. I’m ready.

Still, I do believe this time we might actually be at the bottom of this stall. That we might finally have the energy – the perspective – to start the slow ascent towards bluer skies. Back towards a new, more sustainable, cruising level. I, for one, can’t wait for the day I look back down the cabin and see the plane full of happy travellers once more.

I, for one, am more than ready to do my part, to help make that happen.  


(Thanks for reading everyone. I’m curious to know what stories you have of stalling in life? How did you deal with it? What helped you recover? Let us know below. Wishing you well.)

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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com