As I hit my 16th year of service and reflect on my time within the United States Special Forces, I began to realize how hypersensitive I’ve become to these days as they pertain to the events that occurred in history. Small events that directly affected me and Large events that instantly changed us all (at least my lifetime). Today marks the 17th year since the attacks on the Trade Centers, and I say hypersensitive because I try to make a conscious effort to understand the way these “pivot points” have shaped who I am today, not just the initial decisions but the 2nd and 3rd effects that followed. There is a knee-jerk reaction that happens to us all when such traumatic events unfold. We for a moment become paused in time and start to questions how these emotions are affecting our actions, perspectives, and beliefs. For me, it defined a purpose in life and ultimately driving me to serve.
As I sit here and contemplate the events that had such a significant impact on the trajectory of my life I can’t help but reflect on the idea of “Never Forget” and how that pertains to my everyday life. How such an unnecessary violent part of life can catapult you into what ultimately defines your purpose in life. At first glance, I would have said that I have found my purpose, the hard reality of this particular purpose is that its a temporary one. I’ve been in service within the military for 16 years now, and I can’t lie to myself and think that this is a forever thing. This is the problem with “purpose” as it pertains to the execution of a particular job. So if you define your purpose in life in ideas that you know honestly will come to an end one day then I believe that you are setting yourself up for a future hard road. I’m not saying this is a bad or good thing I’m just saying it’s worth recognizing. I hope that you don’t just think I’m talking about just work in this conversation, what about all you parents out there… Another example that your kids will move on and your purpose will inevitably change, now what?
Purpose… This week I have been stewing internally on the idea of what purpose truly means to people and the literature about “without purpose” you will never find peace. While I agree with a lot of that premise, there are a few things that I would like to challenge you to consider. Three principles in life have become non-negotiables to me, today’s writings are specifically about CREATING purpose. Part of the challenge is to ask yourself “Why am I looking for the purpose instead of creating it?”. Everything that I read or conversations that I’ve had all revolve around FINDING your purpose, I prefer a little more actioning than that. I’m not saying that “looking” for a purpose isn’t action or effort, I’m simply saying why not create it. I’ll take a hard stance and open up the idea of looking for it opens the door for doubt, it sets up a space where if you are not sure who you are you will be second guessing if this thing you “found” is what you’re supposed to be doing. It is only natural to question why you exist in this life and entirely acceptable that the seasons of life WILL make you question your entire existence. I like the idea of creating your purpose and embracing the choices around what you have created knowing that everything you have is your doing, this in return makes you responsible for your peace and happiness. You get to embrace all the emotions, successes, and failures because you had a hand in the decision that contributed to the outcomes.
So I create what I want in life and what makes me happy?! Well yes, I’m primarily a man that oversimplifies everything not to give me too much to overthink (source of anxiety for most). With that concept, I’ve stripped down purpose even further and what that means as it pertains to human existence. What a weird thing, as a human I’m supposed to do this to find fulfillment based on my actionable daily driving actions. With everything above step back and look at the common denominator of all these thoughts and what’s the connection to them all. How do I solve the problem of creating something that will inevitably come to an end? Remember this is a rabbit hole of how 9/11 has shaped me and how that role in my life will one day stop, my “purpose” will have to change if I’ve defined it as a Special Forces Soldier. That common denominator is the relationships developed within that process.
Relationships will always drive the purpose…Do you want to build a great business, Start a family, or Volunteer overseas? You WILL need strong bonds with all that you connect with; you will have to start making honest assessments frequently if the relationships that you are creating around your tasks are adding to you or taking away. Purpose is the reciprocal connections between you and other human beings, to serve those relationships with honesty is where the fulfillment lies. If we are looking for fulfillment in life through purpose, maybe we are looking in the wrong spots. By acknowledging that the experiences through deeply connected relationships are what give you longevity in your quest for fulfillment we realize that materials will be fleeting and short-term when the connections that you had with colleagues, a fallen teammate, your children, your partner, will bring you a smile for a lifetime.
Today (among many others) speaks to remind us of how certain events can set in motion a space for you to pause for a minute and ask “what the fuck am I doing and who the fuck am I?”. Embrace the fact that your purpose, if you choose it as an identity (soldier, parent, boss), will change but if your purpose is in service of the relationships and the impact of the individuals associated with the inevitably changing and uncontrollably ending situations that you have defined as your identity; that service is immortal. As an example there are a lot of accomplishments throughout my career, they hold minuscule weight in comparison to the men that I have served with. I defined my purpose as a Special Forces Soldier in the beginning only of realizing that it was about the relationship with my brothers in the regiment. Drinking beers on the river with those that are still here and reminisces about the ones that are not are where the fulfillment is. The gift and where the ultimate gratitude lives are the fact that those connections contributed to the most significant relationship of all, the relationship with myself. That pivot point set in motion a space where I was able to sit, pause, and create a purpose that has given me experiences to fill a thousand lifetimes and a relationship with myself that offers peace. I created that, I didn’t wait to find it.