Take a Pause: Find Your Why

05/26/2015 10:13 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2016

We spend most of our lives running in circles. We are trained to get somewhere, going from here to there, infinitely climbing ladders, no matter what they look like, or where they'll take us. Many of us acquire impressive degrees in law, medicine, or business looking for a straight way up. We end up living lives that are not our own, married to individuals incompatible with us. We are taught the world's definitions of "success," before we learn to know ourselves.

As a result, we spend busy days moving endlessly and aimlessly: caffeinated, running full steam ahead, with no direction in sight. We check off never ending to-do lists, looking for a window of inspiration and validation, on our phone screens, email and news feeds. We listen to advice given by peers, neighbors, even strangers. We "follow" people we don't actually know. We imitate heroes unlike us, living dreams that are not our own.

The trouble is: we don't know what we truly want.

We rarely ask ourselves why:

  • Why we do what we do.
  • Why we wake up in the morning.
  • Why it matters, to us, and to the world.


As Mark Twain stated, "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." Unfortunately, most people wait too long for this day. Far too many go through the motions of daily life, waiting for the weekend and working for retirement.

Perhaps this is why we have an alarmingly unmotivated workforce. 70 percent of U.S. workers are disengaged at work. 18 percent are actively disengaged and they are costing the U.S. an estimated "$450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity." Picture now one, two, three thousands of humans sitting at their desks, in their offices, emotionally disconnected, living their life on automatic mode, in front of bright computer screens, poorly lit meeting rooms, confined in generic office spaces. Over the course of his lifteime, the average American worker will spend an average of 90,000 hours at work. This means he spends 90,000 hours without maximizing his or her true human potential: instead feeling discouraged, uninspired, sometimes depressed, or even lost, every weekday from 9 to 5, and sometimes longer.


Makes for a bleak scene, right?


I spent many years living a grey and uninspiring version of reality. I lived out an "accomplished," but dull experience. I did a lot. I worked hard. I received an Ivy League education and landed prestigious well paid jobs in the midst of a recession. Yet, I lived on automatic mode: waking up to numb feelings in the morning, spending hours sitting at a desk or meeting room, staring at a screen, just waiting for the weekend. I worked a number of jobs, performing meaningless tasks, surrounded by uninspired co-workers, in dimly lit office spaces, just to pay the bills. I was armored with an architecture degree, a masters in psychology, yet I woke up every day passively waiting for life to happen to me.

One day I realized I could turn it all around: I took personal responsibility and creative license over my own life. I decided to treat life as a design project, to craft the kind of reality that I actually wanted to experience. I stopped designing buildings, apps, or websites, and I began to design lives from the inside out. I started with my own. I turned off the noise and took a pause. I began a process of exploration and self inquiry, asking a number of profound questions to define my values and vision. I created a series of experiments to test ideas and hypotheses out in the world. I began to work with individuals and groups, applying design principles to their own lives.

I soon realized it was possible to transform the bland reality that is our 9 to 5 life, if only we can take a pause, look inside, and imagine what is possible for us to create. I founded Experiment on Purpose with a specific vision in mind: to see millions of individuals everywhere, wake up every single day feeling energized, eager to do the work they love. Imagine one, two, three.. thousands... and millions of individuals sitting, (standing, or walking) at their desks feeling inspired and alive, actively engaged in the process of crafting meaningful lives and careers, maximizing their potential, and feeling empowered to make an impact in their respective worlds, small or large. Imagine this version of reality.

Now, what would it take for us to all get there?

It's time that we start writing our own definitions of success.
But we need to take a pause.
First we have to stop, and find our why.


Join me for an ongoing series of articles and interviews to explore this possible version of reality together. We are researching best practices on life design: testing ideas in the ground through workshops, individual life-design, and public art projects. We are interviewing fifty professionals who are crafting radical careers from the inside out, and fifty experts in the fields of psychology, design, science, and business, who will give us insights and tools for maximizing human potential and designing improved work environments.