There is no “aha” moment, no epiphany you will have of your destiny. The greatest thinkers, creators, and people of legend were not struck in one moment with the grand purpose of their lives. Rather, it was a gradual slippage into something new, built slowly over time and through careful effort, manifested by years of conveniently aligning forks in the road which eventually led to the result you see. Iteration after iteration of the greatest achievers that life sifts out of each generation have risen to the top of our society and reverence not through imitation of others, but by the absolute unyielding abidance to what they believed to be true and worthwhile. There’s something inside all of us which harbors our own individual values; they are fundamental truths carved into our heartstrings. They have a soft voice… hard to hear over the noise of life, but they represent the blueprint for creating the best, most fulfilled version of yourself. The greatest people you look up to understand that and they decided to listen to the soft, but true voices within themselves over the loud and harsh outside world.
There’s a hero in all of us, who keeps us honest, makes us strong, and reminds us of who we are… our truest form, not the form we slip into through the distractions and influences of daily life nor our personal failings. Rather, they are our inner values embodied, presented to us as a future self. It will be a lifelong endeavor to coax that hero out of yourself and to become them. The hard truth is that you will never completely get there. Whatever it is you are chasing right now, whether it aligns with your deep down fundamental values or not, you will never fully attain that feeling or state of being you desire. But that’s not the point, the benefit is in the pursuit. Over the next horizon, there will always be another.
It is human nature to pursue. We are always pursuing something though we do not always know what that is. Even the most apathetic and stagnant souls in this world have a deep inner yearning for more. To achieve something, to feel proud and full, to feel loved: we all pursue or chase something to negate an inner feeling of void or lack of fulfillment in one way or another. As humans we naturally crave more and often we chase without a solidified destination.
Many would argue the most important example is Jefferson’s ‘pursuit of happiness.’ But this phrasing of such an elusive yet desperately desired feeling is inherently flawed.
While we may pursue the hero inside ourselves, which is to say, who we really wish to be, you have to know that you will never become them, not fully. You will feel most like them in the pursuit of becoming them and this is precisely when you will feel most alive. Happiness is no different. Happiness is not the end result, attained as a solid state after the pursuit.
Happiness is, in fact, an elusive byproduct of the pursuit of progress in our lives. In simpler terms, you will be happy when you are making progress in your life. That is to say, when your everyday short-term actions line up with your long-term values and goals, you will experience feelings of happiness along the way. But it is not a state of being which, if you work hard enough, you will enter and remain in. It fades just as quickly as it came, for true happiness is a fickle and cold friend.
Each of us has the capacity for a rendezvous with destiny. Our inner hero is quietly pleading with us. You may have had moments in your life, fond memories, times you achieved something, or when you channeled that hero. But like happiness, materializing that feeling is not easy, nor permanent. We even forget that’s what we want, but the emptiness remains. We’re hungry and yet we’ve forgotten how to nourish ourselves. To be fair, the world we live in doesn’t make it easy. Many of the things you have thought you wanted for years you probably don’t actually desire and what you really desire has been suppressed through doubt, cynicism, and the slow neglect of your own inner individual truths. The distractions of the outside world are enticing and we all are tricked in one way or another. The sad thing is that it’s a sinisterly slow atrophy of those inner feelings, so sleight and gradual that you barely notice it.
Examine the next person who hands you a promotion or job offer, especially if they have a position similar to the one you want to end up in. Do you want to be them? Take that experience as an opportunity to see what you might become. We all like to think we are different, but a key to life is realizing that everyone you see walking on the street, the people around you right now, all those who came before you, they went through the same process you did and at each fork in the road they made their choice. You are walking a well-worn and beaten path which everyone you know has walked down. The 7 billion people you share the planet with are living, walking experiments of choice and consequence; of pursuits and chases; of their inner dreams, or artificial ones forced upon them. So watch them with care, be selective of which ones you revere, and be scrupulous of their choices. Even with the infinite permutations of choices you can make in your life, to some extent someone has already followed the path you will eventually choose.
Do not search for you ‘purpose’ in life. It does not exist. You were not born to do anything. Instead, you have ultimate power over the story you write for yourself. You have been given the same mandate every human receives at birth: welcome to this odd world, go make your choices.