Welcome back! Please have a seat in the hammock for a new Life Doctor Series post. How have you been since we last spoke about finding what makes you truly happy? Have you gotten a chance to conduct the exercise I shared with you and think about Your Top 5? Yes? Wonderful, let’s build on that now. As you may recall from our last chat, I believe that finding your happiness formula is a precursor to finding your purpose. Now, let’s go on part two of this discovery journey: how to find your life’s purpose.
While I found what makes me truly happy back on that momentous day in 2005 in Valencia, Spain, finding my purpose took some time. In 2007, I started a job at a large, well-respected corporation, and a few weeks into it, found myself questioning if this is what my life would be like from that moment on: the cubicle, the meetings, the effort and my life energy going towards something that had a good cause, however, still seemed hollow to me.
I suddenly felt trapped, afraid that my life would go by where I make only incremental changes in the world for the better. I began researching on the topic and someone suggested that I read a book by Paulo Coelho called The Alchemist. That was a defining moment when I took the first significant step towards discovering my true purpose in life.
The book was, deceivingly, a quick read. In less than 200 pages, it follows the story of a shepherd in Andalucia, Spain, looking for treasure. The theme, however, is quite complex, as it’s one big metaphor for finding your purpose in life. I forced myself to read the book slower than I could have, which gave me time to stop, think and digest what I was reading and what it meant to me.
I thought about the kinds of things that felt like “treasures” to me and, spoiler alert, none of them included excel spreadsheets or cubicles. This is where having My Top 5 list really came in handy, as it helped me think about the things that make me truly happy. Somewhere between reflecting on how important a good meal is and the importance of building meaningful relationships, I figured it out.
By the end of that reading journey, I came to the realization that my life’s purpose is saving kittens and babies. No, really, if I could do anything in life, it would be helping improve the lives of children and animals. Looking back, this made complete sense, as I was always a sucker for helping children and animals in need, and ensuring they have the best chance for a good life.
Living out my life’s purpose at the ripe age of seven
As early as when I was about seven years old, I started bringing homeless kittens to my mom and begged her to adopt them. She had to tell me no, simply because we could not afford to feed a pet. In retrospect, she made the right call, because there was a new kitten almost every day due to the large population of stray street cats in Lithuania.
While I was devastated I couldn’t adopt them all, I didn’t give up on the kittens. I began organizing the neighborhood kids into a kitten-saving army. We found shelter for new kittens and their moms in the neighborhood buildings’ basements and under balconies. We brought old rags to keep them warm and pitched in with food scraps we could steal from home. We took shifts taking care of them and protecting them from mean teenage boys. Some of the kittens even got adopted by my friends. It was such a rewarding time in my life that I didn’t mind the extra work and effort.
One of the most sad and profound memories I have from this experience is when a mama cat gave birth to three kittens in the shelter we built for her. We came to check in on her and found that one of the kittens wasn’t moving. He was stillborn. We all cried for a bit and I suggested that we give the kitten a burial. We put him in a shoe box, sneaked into a fenced neighborhood kindergarten yard, and secretly buried him under one of the bushes.
In retrospect, I know that we not only felt fulfilled doing what we could to help our neighborhood cats, but I also recognize that it helped shape us into more caring and sympathetic adults.
Back to present day
So what did I do with my newfound realization? I slept on it, and then slept some more. I just couldn’t figure out a way to make a proper living doing my life’s purpose kind of work, and I didn’t want to have financial instability, as it would be a source of major stress in my life.
That’s when it hit me. I could work in the corporate world for a finite amount of time, since I am good at the business sort of stuff, save aggressively to reach financial independence, and once there, give my time and effort to saving and improving the lives of kittens and babies. After all, time is the most precious commodity I have, so if I can give it towards a cause that fulfills my life’s purpose, that’s a purpose that can fulfill me.
You may be thinking: “But, that means you’ll still work in corporate doing things you don’t want to for years!” Here is a key point that put me at ease: I enjoy what I do in the corporate world to a great degree and I am good at it. It’s important that I am not miserable. Same for you, if you’re doing something in the short-term in order to secure a financial future for the long-term, as long as you enjoy the journey to some degree, it’s OK.
If you’re miserable, however, change your short-term solution now, as life is too short to be miserable for more than a day, especially in areas you can control, such as your employer of choice.
While your soul-searching may bring you to a different purpose in life, I believe that knowing what it is and reaching financial independence will you give you the freedom to pursue it. It’s never too late to pause and ask yourself whether you are following your life’s purpose, or whether you even know what it is.
For those of you who may take longer to discover it, don’t fret, just pursue the things that you think may be your purpose. When you arrive there, and realize that maybe that’s not it, pause, re-assess, and change your life’s course. At least you’ll be pursuing things that have meaning in your life to begin with. A lifelong quest to find your purpose is so much more rewarding than not searching at all.
We’re only 151 weeks away from reaching complete freedom to spend our time on what truly matters to us. I look forward to all the things I could do to help the world in the near future. In the meantime, the occasional volunteer event and helping in my circle of family and friends gives me enough of a kick to keep marching towards the finish line.
Do you know what your purpose is? Have you read The Alchemist? What tools have you used to help you on this journey?
Mrs. Enchumbao, L.D. (Life Doctor) 🙂