To Find Your Mission, Disrupt Your Life

07/19/2014 01:26 pm ET | Updated Sep 18, 2014

We saw how choosing the mission-driven life is the basis of social entrepreneurship. We choose it out of a sense of responsibility to the world and to the value of our own lives.

But that sense of responsibility and the yearning for a more purposeful life often come to us before we know what our mission is.

How do we find our mission?

In my experience, the answer is to disrupt your life and search for it.

New Perspectives

When I quit my career to embark on a new path, I didn't know what I was doing or seeking. My instincts were strong but their message unclear. I just knew I needed to get away.

I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico, where I'd never been. I told myself I was taking a sabbatical, but beyond that, all was unknown. I didn't even know where I would sleep the night I arrived -- let alone that I would discover my life mission three months later.

But that was the point: it was a time of not knowing, of experimenting, of exploring and deepening a new awareness.

For the first few weeks, I discovered the joy of traveling aimlessly and lightly through a new country, reawakening my sense of curiosity. Settling in Oaxaca, I gained a deeper appreciation of craft by studying ceramics and music, and fueled my self-reflection by studying philosophy at a local university.

I wasn't interested in a single "truth," but in learning to see life from multiple perspectives.

Doing By Not Doing

My whole life up to then had been about "productivity." As a business consultant, the key metric was billable hours; as a global trade executive, financial returns. Time was literally money, and the ideal person a kind of productivity machine.

Now I could see that old model in a new light. I was re-humanizing my relationship to time and my understanding of value.

But it wasn't easy. The old metrics still haunted me. What was I doing with myself? What value was I adding?

Self-doubt began to wrack me. For weeks I'd wake in the middle of the night scared I'd made the wrong decision. I'd thrown everything away and what had I gained? Was I really an escapist like my family and many of my friends said?

Gaining Clarity

Then, one night, I overcame these doubts by simply deciding I'd done the right thing. That was it: a deep, defiant decision. I woke in the morning with a newfound sense of clarity.

When I walked outside into the day, I met the person who would soon help reveal my mission to me -- a neighbor who introduced me to the farmers with whom I'd eventually start my social enterprise.

That was the most valuable lesson from this exploratory time. When you have clarity about your commitment, the right opportunities emerge. I've experienced it again and again ever since.

Curiosity, joy, integrity, clarity of commitment -- all of these are essential to social entrepreneurship in its deepest sense. But I had to disrupt my life and take a risk in order to rediscover them.