“Why am I alive?”
It’s not a bad question to ask. Actually, it’s a really important question.
But the way you answer it is most important of all.
And you’re not here because you have an empowering answer to that question. You’re here because that question keeps you awake at night and stuck in bed in the morning — it’s almost physically painful not knowing the answer, not having a good and convincing response to that question.
That’s why your alarm’s dinging is a siren rather than a birdsong.
It’s why your bed is rescue rather than rest.
It’s why your job, your marriage, and your daily routine are about as dull as sandpaper.
Because if you don’t know why you’re here, then you’re going to be immensely unhappy. It’s a basic human need to have meaning and purpose. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes not just food, water, rest, and shelter, but also intimate relationships, feelings of accomplishment, and — at its highest point — a feeling that we’ve achieved our full potential.
In other words, you don’t just need food, water, and shelter to feel fulfilled. You need meaning and purpose. And when you discover — no, create — your life’s meaning, you’re going to experience joy like you’ve never experienced before.
Asking “Why am I alive?”, therefore, is perhaps the most important question you’ll ever ask.
So let’s answer it.
Who are you?
“Who are you?” my coach said.
I’d rolled out of bed to the sound of angry mattress springs and booted up my laptop to start my weekly video chat with Tom, my coach. I sat in an overstuffed armchair with sleepy eyes and I imagined Tom was probably cross-legged on a yoga mat somewhere in Bali.
“Umm. I’m Mike and I’m a freelance writer.” I responded, a little confused by the question.
“Okay. So you didn’t exist before you were a freelance writer?”
“Well… no. I mean, yes. Wait. Okay. I’m Mike and I’m a father and husband and I love helping others achieve their full potential.” I said.
“Okay. So before you were a father and husband, before you helped others achieve there full potential, who were you then?”
“Fuck me. I don’t know. I was still me!”
And that’s when I got it…
I am. Period. Full stop. End of story.
You are. Full stop. No need for footnotes.
When you were just a baby with basic physiological needs and a natural excitement for learning new things, you were still you — in some ways, that was the purest version of you, unaffected by the world’s opinions.
And yet, you hadn’t done anything significant, you hadn’t done much of anything at all! You were a blank slate with the world at your finger tips. You could do with it whatever you liked.
You. Simply. Existed.
Still now, that’s the only fact we can be sure of — fate and destiny be damned! You exist. You’re alive. You belong here because you are here. You still are a blank slate of possibility.
The rest is up to you.
You get to create your life’s purpose, you get to forge meaning, you get to be whoever the hell you want to be!
That’s the good news.
The bad news is, you can create whatever you like, which is a bit of a paralyzing choice to make — how can you possibly make the right decision about what your life’s purpose should be?
Let me take you through an exercise that I think will help.
Embrace your inner spark.
I’m going to teach you how to find your inner spark, touch torch to coal, and reignite that bitch. But first, we need to address those negative thoughts.
If you’re asking yourself, “Why am I alive?”, then you’re probably feeling discouraged.
You’re wondering why you’re here, if you’ll ever feel fulfilled, if you’ll ever reignite your inner fire and reclaim your gusto. You might even be stuck in an unhelpful mental loop that has you spiraling toward meaningless oblivion.
Slow down for a moment. Breathe. Smile. Hold your head high. Splash some cold water on your face if you need to.
It’s far easier to solve problems with a clear head than it is while enduring a raging spiral of disempowering thoughts.
Just for the duration of this article, I want you to dismiss all negative thoughts.
When a negative thought rears its ugly head, simply say “No thank you. I’m busy right now,” and move on with the exercise I’m going to walk you through.
How to find your natural passions.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man on the planet is a firm believer that “You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you.”
And I think he’s right — we all have natural passions, things we love doing, things we can get totally lost in.
If you’re thinking, Shit, Mike! I have no idea what my passions are. Don’t worry. I’ve been there before, too. But I figured out this nifty exercise which will help you find your natural, “god-given” passions.
Here’s what you have to do to find your passions. First, make a list of all the time you remember being happy — I’m talking about times when you were mind-blowingly content with your life.
Imagine a time when you were laughing so hard you thought you might collapse. Think of when you held your newborn baby or became obsessed with their little smile. Remember when you scored that touchdown in high-school, kissed the love of your life for the first time, or got totally lost in painting that picture of a tree (even though it wasn’t all that good).
Let that joy flow through you now — think of as many of these times as you possibly can.
Now, grab a piece of paper and write everything down.
Here’s the list I came up with when I did this exercise:
- When I watched my wife give birth to my daughter, Andie, and fell deeper in love than I thought possible.
- When my brother-in-law took me down a black-diamond run on my second day of snowboarding and I didn’t totally suck.
- When I mastered a magic trick that blew all my friends away in middle-school.
- The first time I made a perfect cappuccino for a customer at Gathering Grounds, the coffee shop where I used to work.
- When I said “I do” to the most beautiful woman in the world.
The next step is to find the reason that those things made you happy. Next to each event, now write down why it made you happy. Maybe it was because you felt that you were mastering a new skill. Maybe it was because you were contributing to others in some meaningful way. Or maybe it was because you were bonding with someone else. Write it down!
Here’s an abbreviated version of mine — you’ll probably find it helpful to go into more detail with each of your list items than I have here.
- When my daughter was born — I had helped to create something exciting and beautiful. I was experiencing a loving bond with another person.
- When I learned to snowboard — I was learning a new skill which required mastery and detail.
- When I did magic tricks in middle school — I was learning a new skill which required mastery and detail. I was also getting to make others happy.
- When I learned to make great espresso — I was learning a new skill which required mastery and detail. I was also getting to make others happy.
- When I married my wife — I was experiencing a deep bond with another person.
By the time you’re done, you should see some commonalities cropping up. I call these your common denominators for creating a fulfilled life.
On a separate piece of paper, make a list of all the reasons you felt happy and fulfilled during these events — trust your gut.
I feel happy and fulfilled when I…
- …contribute to others in a meaningful way.
- …learn a new skill which requires detail and mastery.
- …bond with another person on a deep and meaningful level.
- …make other people happy.
You know what this means?
And I’ve found that it doesn’t much matter what I’m doing — so long as it checks those boxes, I’ll feel happy and excited doing it!
I could be writing a book, speaking, counseling, building a blog, or snowboarding with friends — all of it fulfills me because it’s engaging my natural passions.
Still, I’ve found the greatest fulfillment when I commit myself to just a few of those things wholeheartedly — because that’s when I can make the greatest impact.
As Angela Duckworth wrote, “It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things.”
Now all you have to do is create a purpose that encapsulates as many of those common denominators as possible.
It can be whatever you like.
Choose a purpose which will tick all your boxes.
A friend of mine, Jeremy Miller, struggled with depression a few years ago. At one point, he even tried to take his own life.
It wasn’t until he committed himself to helping others find happiness and joy that he finally experienced happiness and fulfillment for himself.
Here’s how he explains it.
The purpose of life is NOT to be happy pic.twitter.com/wAXM49QUWV
— Jeremy Miller 🚀 (@jjeremymiller) October 8, 2019
Another friend of mine, Trevor Mauch, has made his life’s purpose to create businesses that help people save time in life for the things that matter most. His Inc. 5000 company and its award-winning culture is doing just that.
And my wife finds immense meaning and purpose in being a mom. She wants to help Andie become the best person that she can be.
I didn’t experience intense and continuous fulfillment with my life until I started working to build Get Your Gusto Back, until I committed to it with all of my heart, with everything I have.
My mission here is to help people (like you!) fulfill your purpose, reach your full potential, and well… get your gusto back for life!
It doesn’t really matter what you choose for your life’s purpose, but you must choose. The only way you can experience long-term joy is by committing yourself to one passion and purpose.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never do other things that you enjoy, it just means that you’re completely committed to the one purpose you’ve chosen for the foreseeable future.
“Why am I alive?” You decide.
Once you make a decision about what your life’s purpose will be — maybe it’s writing a book or building a business or being a mom — you must commit to it completely, in the same way you’ve committed to your children, your spouse, your career, or your friends.
When setbacks get in the way, it doesn’t matter. You’re committed. When the book you wrote needs thousands of edits, when the business you built had a bad month, when the child you’re raising is disrespectful to an adult, it doesn’t matter. You’re committed. You’re married to the purpose you’ve created.
End of story. No questions asked.
You’ve created a destiny for yourself.
And if you commit yourself to it, if you review it every morning, if you work on manifesting it every day, that self-created destiny is going to provide you with immense fulfillment, joy, and happiness.
“Why am I alive?”
Now you can answer that question for yourself, with utmost certainty.
Mike is a writer for SUCCESS, AdWeek, and Addicted2Success. He’s been quoted on Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise in marketing and personal development. He’s also the owner of Get Your Gusto Back where he helps people reignite their inner fire.