What is Your Why?

Not everyone believes that we have a unique purpose in life. Guess what? Those people have not done this work. Obviously, I do believe we all have a unique purpose. My own experience is proof enough for me, but I’ve also had thousands of clients from all walks of life align with their unique purpose and take off like a bat out of hell in their new, destined directions.

I propose that having a purpose is a primal urge. It’s in our DNA, a soul calling. Buddhists and yogis call it your svadharma, which is one’s right or duty, role or cosmic order in the grand scheme. This is not the same as going after a specific job or career. I consider it to be an archetypal energy…the way you came into this world which makes you uniquely qualified and compelled to serve in a certain way. You don’t have to believe in karma, past lives, or God to feel this. But you can see it in the patterns of your thinking and why you made certain decisions in your life. Things that you love, your passions, the people you gravitate toward—you’ll find your stories, leading to insight on how you should and shouldn’t be, living in these patterns. You can also uncover it in meditation by learning to listen to your heart. That is how I found my archetypal urge to be a warrior, and it led me from being a CPA into the SEAL teams.

Your purpose is not going to be one of those things you use as an identifier: such as “I am a doctor, a parent, a teenager, an elite runner, a tattoo artist, a snowboarder, a neat freak, or a night owl.” When I said to myself, “I’m a Navy SEAL officer,” I was not stating my why, or purpose. That was simply a role I was filling that was in alignment with my purpose of being a warrior and leader. Your purpose is a way of being, a way of serving, but it is not a job or career path. It does point the way though.

The archetypal roles conceived by world-renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung identify what we, as individuals, seek to realize in this lifetime. Some people are healers, some are warriors, others are jokers, leaders, teachers, explorers. We usually have more than one archetype, though one of the archetypal energies will be dominant, such as: social entrepreneur, elite warrior, professor of truth, colonizer of space, servant to the poor, protector of humanity, healer of broken people, advocate for Mother Earth, honest politician, trusted diplomat, creative genius, etc. 

Find your archetypal energy, fueled by your unique passions, skills, and principles, and you’ll be on your way to an uncommon life. If you know it now, write it down! 

The purpose of my life is to serve as a _______________________________________.

When I settled into this inquiry in my meditation practice, as mentioned, what came up was warrior. This first iteration of that was as a warrior-athlete and then warrior-leader. Later it became warrior-strategist and warrior-teacher. When I had that revelation, I immediately sought to align my profession with that newfound archetypal purpose. But I didn’t immediately figure out it was going to be the SEALs. In fact, I was not thinking about the military at all. So, if you think you are a warrior also, that doesn’t have to lead to a career in the military. You can be a warrior-scholar, -athlete, -leader, or any of the archetypes and find a way to build a profession around your unique skills, passions, and principles.  

Defining yourself in archetypal energy, such as a “warrior-leader,” focuses on your “being” instead of “doing,” which gives you room to grow and expand. This can change as you evolve (otherwise, you’d be pigeonholing yourself). A Navy SEAL admiral would not have been something I was becoming, my archetype. That would have been a tactical career goal and it would have inhibited the new archetypal energy of the teacher that was emergent in me from surfacing. I would have spent all my time thinking about, and working on, becoming an admiral, serving in that capacity, instead of exploring the new energy of the author and teacher. I would never have written my books or developed my training programs at SEALFIT, or the Mark Divine Show. Who knows what else would have been different? That is why I feel this issue is so darn important, and I’m hammering it home.

I stumbled on an interesting story to this point just the other day. Vikramjit Singh, born and raised in Punjabi, India, started out in a traditional career path, studying engineering at the Manipal Institute of Technology. He then went on to work as an associate software engineer in Bangalore. But, even when he was getting his degree, Singh spent most of his free time writing and performing in different theaters and literary clubs. After college, though effective in his field, he spent his days with that faint ache in his heart, knowing he was not aligned with his purpose. So, he went from being an engineer to a copywriter for a stint. That got him on the writing track. But then, his destiny was realized when he made the leap and became a standup comedian. “Engineering was reduced to an extra-curricular activity. So that just put me on a course that I kept following organically—through various jobs, until I finally decided to write and perform for a living.” Using YouTube as a vehicle to reach a bigger audience, he’s gaining traction on the world stage. 

Singh was living as a creator but was unfulfilled, so he shifted closer to his true archetype, taking on the role of a communicator. Changing the inertia of his direction led him to his niche as a joker. Is this his final destiny? I doubt it. I’ll be interested to see what Singh is doing ten years from now. I know he’ll take direction from his whole mind, that much seems obvious.

Just imagine what you—and the world—will miss out on if you don’t align with your purpose. 

Your professional options will be determined by how your purpose, passions, and principles align with your unique skills, and by what the world needs. Once I identified my purpose after hundreds of hours on the meditation bench, I continued to work at my current job but shifted my focus and training to the new path. I knew where I needed to point my compass. My visualization, meditation, contemplation, and insight training shifted to my new, emerging, future self.  

It is important to reiterate that as you evolve, so will your archetypal purpose. When I first figured this out in my early twenties, I was living the role of the merchant but was not inspired. My insight pointed to the warrior and leader. Then, in my thirties, as I was fulfilling the role of the warrior and leader, I felt the scholar emerge. So, I went to the University of San Diego to get my PhD in leadership (I later finished it at Pepperdine after getting distracted by the Iraq war). I became an adjunct professor as well. Then, wanting to actually develop leaders rather than teach it in a sterile classroom, I launched SEALFIT. I later taught through my books and podcast. The archetypal roles evolved as I did. The warrior was always present, but later on it took on a supporting role. I’m currently a teacher of warriors and leaders. But, as I look ahead, I see a warrior-monk emerging. The warrior archetype threads throughout my life, dominant in my earlier years, now giving way to the softer energy of spiritual development. It is crucial to align your career with your archetypal energy, to find absolute fulfillment and continue to serve most powerfully. 

Don’t panic if you don’t know your why and calling. I’m not suggesting you spend years career hopping to find it. I’m saying that sitting in meditation will bring that clarity of your why and how you can best serve humanity.

As this practice unfolded for me, I was compelled to ask questions not about what I should or could do, but about how I should be. I experienced imagery and feelings about the “being me” desperate to emerge. When my Zen sessions ended and I re-entered my daily life as a CPA, I would experience mild suffering from being out of alignment with the new vision of how I should be: a warrior. I could see a big gap between the person I sensed in my meditation and the person who showed up at work every day. 

Sticking with the practice stoked my need to rectify this misalignment. I felt an urgency to take a stand, one that put me in conflict with my earlier choices. This is a universal, perennial struggle, and one that I embodied. One that Singh had clearly embodied. One that you can embody now if you feel out of alignment (and my experience is that most people do feel out of alignment). I believe it is utterly imperative to find your calling…and take a stand to fulfill it or suffer life with that faint ache in your hearts and that nagging feeling in your guts. Henry David Thoreau said that most people lead lives of quiet desperation. That is common… but that is not you.

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