Never buy a coffee from a coffee shop called Insomnia. I mean, really, how much more obvious could it be that it was going to lead to a poor night’s sleep? Sometimes the obvious is so obvious that it gets hidden by its own obviousness.

20100121 CBut insomnia has its compensations. As I lay awake in the wee small hours, I was buzzing with insights as well as caffeine. Some of them even still made sense when I played back my voicenotes this morning. Here is one. Some people, especially around this early part of the New Year, are asking themselves if they are heading in the right direction, if they are on track for the life that they want. Are they living out their life purpose? And how would they know if they are?

Far be it from me to offer advice. I just do what feels right to me. If head and heart agree, then chances are I’m doing the “right” thing. I think that these three are fairly reliable indicators.

1. Does your “purpose” absolutely chime with your personal values, the things that you hold dear?

2. Does it feel like everything that has happened in your life so far has been leading you up to this point? Every skill, experience, and/or attribute that you have acquired – has it all helped to equip you for this project?

3. Does it make you bounce out of bed in the mornings, eager to do what you can to pursue your purpose and move a bit closer to your goal?

20100121 AIf you answer “yes” to all of these, you probably already know that you’ve found your purpose, and you don’t need me to tell you that. If you answer “no” to any of these, would you like to be able to say “yes” instead? If so, then maybe you want to think about asking a few more questions, trying out a few more options.

But no need to stress about it too much – in fact, stressing or striving too hard can complicate matters unnecessarily. Sometimes you just need to get yourself out of the way and allow the answer to come. Relax – there really isn’t any such thing as a “wrong” thing – it’s all a learning experience, even if only to eliminate some options. Thomas Edison once said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” So what if you try one “purpose” on for size, only to find it doesn’t fit? No worries. 9,999 more chances to succeed await you!

I’d been thinking about this quite a bit recently, in connection with planetary rights lawyer Polly Higgins’s Emergency Application in the case of People of the Planet vs The Politicians. I have been privileged enough to see some of Polly’s early drafts in connection with the application, which have exercised long-dormant parts of my intellect. Many, many years ago, I allegedly studied for an undergraduate law degree – although as I recall, most of my hours in the law library were spent 20100121 Bresearching the surprising ability of law books to serve as very adequate pillows after early morning crew outings on the river. But somewhere in between the snoozes a few smidgeons of law must have permeated my skull – possibly by some kind of osmosis as my head lay on the pages of dense legal text. Anyway, I find that I am just about able to follow Polly’s lines of legal argument.

There is a kind of satisfying closure in this discovery – “A-ha. So THAT is why I needed to study law all those years ago. I always wondered, and now it makes sense.” Still trying to figure out the point of my O-level French, but maybe in time all will become clear….!

[Photos: another random life skill picked up along the way – taking pretty pictures. These from the Big Island of Hawaii a couple of days ago.]


  • i hear ya. i spent a good 6 or so years in school for environmental studies. spent a few more years actually using my degrees. now i am a stay at home mom to 2 very active boys, one of which has been labeled ADHD. outdoor activities seem to be very therapeutic for him. now…i am trying to figure out how to help those who are like him in schools and such…to thrive. installing therapy gardens at schools? more hands on outdoor activities for kids of his kind? still trying to figure it all out but am thinking i am on the right track.

  • Very well said! As one who was plagued by the question “what am I going to be when I grow up?” – you nailed it on the head… do what you love to do, what makes sense to you, and know by doing that … the lessons, the training you need to make your ultimate happen will have served you perfectly. Life is not the short run… not the pretty girl in high school, but the person who can live in integrity and depth with respect for others and the planet – each and every day. Inspiration…

  • Well…. at age 57, I still don’t know what I want to when I grow up! However, I have had lots of fun along the way going from government to corporate to education jobs! My current position at a University is, by far, the best experience so far. I have always loved teaching (was a teaching assistant in graduate school and the joy of teaching has always stayed with me). Who knows what is in store for the future.

    I really enjoy your posts! They make me stop and think!

  • I love today’s insight. It is true that you need to do that which you love, sometimes life hands you situations that you must take care of your bodily needs, such as food, water and shelter first. But having second hand knowledge of my loved ones going through WWII and making it through alive, rebuilding in a different country, and eventually having a very fruitful life, you can plan for better even when there is the very necessities of life only clamoring for attention. I have seen time and again, the people who have gone through some of the most negative of situations end up being the most capable of being clear in what they want and moving in that direction.

    If you don’t have your purpose in life, don’t sweat it, just keep doing positive things, be positive and help as many people as you can. Your purpose will find you if you have not found it. And if you sadly never do find your purpose, you will have lived a positive, helpful and hopefully graceful life to enjoy along the way. Not a bad thing.

    Steve T.

    PS It is funny that you should say I don’t know what I am going to do when I grow up, because I just wrote to a friend today and used that same expresion. 😉

  • qaren, I would like to address your issue first since I have some past experience with this. I too was told my son has ADHD. I had my son tested and he has a borderline genius IQ. I fought the school system until he graduated and I lost. They absolutely would not accomodate him with his learning needs.

    I was a single mom and on top of this struggle with the school I was always sick. It wasn’t until my son graduated that I found out that I have Celiac Disease. I was 48 when I ended up diagnosing myself then later having it validated by a doctor. I was physically disabled from the disease before they diagnosed it. What doctors did was treat the symptoms with drugs that had side effects not the cause of the symptoms. I was told that my symptoms were all due to “stress”. The doctors told me my symptoms were psychosomatic. If I had trusted and listened to them I wouldn’t be writing this email right now, I would be dead.

  • continued…..

    I would contribute part of the my son’s learning problems to Celiac Disease since it it genetic. I too had the same problems as he did but way back when it wasn’t seen as it is now.

    Now the next important thing that contributes to the problem is public education and I quote:

    Compulsory schooling has been, from the beginning, a scheme of indoctrination into the new concept of mass man, an important part of which was the creation of a proletariat. According to Auguste Comte (surely the godfather of scientific schooling), you could create a useful proletariat class by breaking connections between children and their families, their communities, their God, and themselves. Remember William Harris’s belief that self-alienation was the key to successful schooling! Of course it is. These connections have to be broken to create a dependable citizenry because, if left alive, the loyalties they foster are unpredictable and unmanageable.

    Please read the entire link.

  • The article pretty much sums up my entire 12 year experience.

    There are 7 million people in prison in this country. It is the highest percentage of the world. One out of 32 American’s are behind bars with another 27 million on antideppresants. The number of people on antidepressants have doubled since 1990.

    Self-alienation contributes to gang violence, alcohol and drug abuse.

    It is an extremely sad state of affairs.

  • My experience on earth has been quite frankly a living hell. I sought what was wrong with me for all my life. My last hope was when I went to Massachusetts General Hospital at about the age of 40. I will never forget the train ride home with the doctors voice in my head, “Nancy, there is nothing more that I can do for you, seek alternative healing”.

    A few months later that is exactly what I did. I went to a clinic at Cape Cod. I had a Reiki treatment. The experience I had that day changed my life. I studied the metaphysical world and my entire world changed. My world turned upside down and inside out. I could write a book about the entire experience. It was through this experience that I finally attained the knowledge of my illness. I ended up diagnosing myself then having it verified medically. I broke the chain of sickness that has plagued my family for generations if only they would believe me, but they don’t. My own only son doesn’t believe me. He is only 25 and has to have all his teeth removed. He is suffering from the disease right before my eyes and there is not a damn thing I can do about it. It is as if I am invisible, not only to him but to most people living in secular society.

    I too have been asking myself, where do I go from here?

    I am wondering where do I go from here.

  • I truly believe if we are to change this world as a better place for the future the system needs to change.

    Roz, you would see my point if you were to read the link above.

  • Hi Nancy – thanks for your comments. Really interesting. It seems that many of our systems are not serving us well. Wouldn’t it be great if we had the strength and courage to recognise that we need to make some big changes, and to prioritise the greatest happiness for the greatest number? But such a radical rethink seems to be beyond us… for now.

  • After reading the last page of your book that took me 3 days to read I went to your website and then read the above. I had an idea materialize within moments. I cried. I know what I want to do with the next chapter of my life. See THE WAHINE PROJECT on Facebook if you have time. Thank you for your inspiration. Fondly, Dionne Ybarra, age 38

  • Dionne – what an amazing project! Very cool. I can’t surf (yet!) but it seems to be almost a spiritual practice for many, with its need for intense focus, and the closeness to nature. This looks like a wonderful initiative, and I wish you all the very best with it. And I am very happy to have played some small part in it!

    With very best wishes

  • Intriguing content. I bookmarked your site. I’m looking for quality sites that have visitors that would get a benefit from a new page of mine on sleep problems. Let me know if you would like to trade some posts or content. I figure we would both benefit.

  • I just read your article in newsweek. Correct me if I ma wrong however it seems that the first step to living yur passion is the personal announcement – “I made a decision”.

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