I often joke with friends that this radio station has only one channel, and that channel is called ‘deep’. What I relish most is deep conversation and connection. There is not much space or tolerance for the superficial.
Yesterday while on a long hike with a close friend, the conversation quickly drifted deeper and deeper. Behind every topic we touched on, the underlying question that arose was ‘why’. This became a question about motivation and what it is that we are actually pursuing in life.
The answer to this question, about what my life has been a pursuit of, has continued to change. When I reflect on my life in chapters, each chapter has been defined by a primary motivation that I had been in pursuit of. While at the time I was unaware of what part of me was pulling the strings and calling the shots, I can see it more clearly now.
The pursuit of pleasure
The desire for pleasure is the default setting for humans. The factory settings when we enter earth. From the time we are born, we are looking to constantly satisfy the desire for pleasure, and avoid displeasure at almost all costs.
Pleasure is experienced through my senses, including my mind or ego, which is possibly the most important sense to satisfy. All of the achieving and doing in my life can be very pleasurable for my mind. The release of dopamine in my brain feels good when I am eating, buying, scrolling, traveling and winning.
After years of pursuing pleasure, I hit a tipping point maybe seven or eight years ago, where I had had enough. My thirst had been satiated, yet I did not feel any different inside, despite having all that my body and mind had desired and expected of life.
This was the moment that pleasure was no longer the primary pursuit in my life.
The pursuit of peace
Feeling exhausted with pursuing pleasure, for my body and mind, I turned inwards as I believed there was something else.
A state of contentment, happiness and satisfaction is what I had desired. In one word, peace is what I wanted. I had wrongly assumed that doing, going, having and experiencing was the path to fulfill this desire.
What I discovered was a different path, the inner journey. With the help of meditation, reflection, yoga and learning, I began to find doses of peace in my life. They were not outside, but inside.
After years of dedicated practice, a genuine curiosity and giving myself the space to explore my inner world, I learned where peace resides for me, how to access it and how to cultivate it in my life. While I most definitely am not in a state of inner peace continuously, I understand where it is and am confident in my ability to find it.
Maybe three to four years ago, feeling uninterested in pursuing pleasure, feeling comfortable with the pursuit of peace, I started to notice another shift in my primary desire of life.
The pursuit of purpose
While peace resides within me, purpose involves a connection with something outside of me. Be it a person, a community, a cause or an idea, purpose extends beyond me. Unlike pleasure which is about what I can get from my outer world, purpose is about what I can give to my outer world.
My pursuit of purpose is why I began to teach meditation. It is why I started my blog to share my reflections on life. It is why I joined the board at CAMH (Canada’s largest mental health research hospital), began to fundraise for a variety of social causes, mentored entrepreneurs more actively and dialed up my philanthropic activities. These endeavours, and more, continue to accelerate in my life and occupy an increasing amount of mindshare, which I will remain committed to on a long-term basis.
The nature of my relationships with my parents, my newborn nephew, and close friends in my life also now incorporate a dose of purpose. I find myself asking more and more, how can I give more of myself?
While on the hike yesterday with my friend, he innocently asked me what my next motivation in life might be. While on a meditation break during the hike, my mind began to reflect on this question.
First, there was the pursuit of pleasure. Then, the pursuit of peace. And most recently, the pursuit of purpose. I do believe another shift is happening within me right now.
The pursuit of passion is starting to become the primary motivation in my current chapter of life. I am paying more attention to what makes my heart sing, what feels effortless, how my body feels and where my mind wanders naturally. There is so much in my business, in my community, and in the world that I feel passionate about right now.
With greater awareness of what part of me is influencing my choices at any given moment, I not only better understand myself in my world, but can also begin to better align my world with my inner desires. This is how I can cultivate a sense of satisfaction, which may be the ultimate pursuit of life.