This post contains my personal notes from the book: Black Hole Focus by Isiah Hankel
WHY YOU NEED A PURPOSE
Black holes do not destroy objects that are pulled into it. They transform them. Your purpose in life should be as powerful as a black hole. Determining what your ultimate purpose in life is the toughest decision you will ever make. That is why most people do not actively decide on one. They let life make this critical decision for them.
Purpose determines two things:
- what meaning you derive from your life’s experiences
- your ability to make focused and intentional decisions
Okinawans call this ikigai: the reason for which you wake up in the morning. They live by it and that is why they live long lives. People who retire from work early die early. People who do not have a clear purpose in life have faster rates of mental decline.
So, purpose is the fuel which gives you direction and helps you to move forward. It makes your internal spark burn brightly, makes you more productive and helps you to live long.
You have ask WHY for your purpose to survive. A strong WHY will show you HOW. We, as humans want to avoid pain and experience pleasure. We hate pain more than we like pleasure. The amygdala transfers negative information immediately to long-term memory while it waits for positive experiences to last for 12 seconds before transferring them to long-term memory. Great success rarely exists without great pain. The only way to fulfill a worthwhile purpose for your life is to focus on what is causing you pain, and then make a decision never to experience that pain again. This decision is your WHY.
Why do we then experience pain? Pain is the result of not having your prime needs met, or your prime needs being off-balance or in competition with each other. Prime needs are the things you want beyond your physical needs, those that drive you to take action in your life. The three key prime needs are:
If you are having pain, it is because you are not meeting one of the above. Happiness is experiencing growth in every area of your life simultaneously, including growth in connection and autonomy.
Growth however requires energy. To have more energy, you need to define your purpose as clearly as possible. Once you define your purpose clearly, it gives you hope and this gives you energy. Purpose=hope=energy. Defining the path in front of you will give you the energy you need to complete it. You do this by positively visualising the end at the beginning. This creates hope and energy.
To define your purpose clearly, you have to start with the end in mind. You have to find your purpose and give it a name. Then you work in reverse order to achieve it. Do not let to-do lists guide your life. Trickle-forward goal setting does not help. Be strategic and do what is necessary to craft an entire campaign for your life.
HOW TO FIND YOUR PURPOSE
You cannot get to a future position until you define your current position. The only way to get to where you want to go is to ruthlessly evaluate where you are now. See your current position clearly. Completely erase your past. Disregard emotions-fear, anger, sadness or guilt. Measure your assets and liabilities, your strengths and your limitations and your connections. Ignore things from the past. Then find opportunity in your current situation and see where the opportunities are for your personal and professional growth in your life right now. Once you finish doing this, judge your past actions ruthlessly, your successes and failures and what lies behind them. Then accept personal responsibility for everything in your life, both good and bad. Your biggest obstacle in life is yourself-not external factors. Focus on changing yourself and not external factors. Once you know where you are and who you are, you can strategically determine where you want to go and who you want to be.
The first step to defining your ultimate endpoint is to make a wish list of actions, or write down what you want to do on a daily basis in the future. This list will be your endpoint. It is where you will start to find your purpose.
Once you make a wish list of daily actions, you have to search for a position that would allow you to consistently do those actions. That position is what your job should be. To find your purpose you should name that position in advance. To do this well, you should live by two beliefs:
- You can do anything you want in this life.
- Life is really a journey, not a destination.
Then put yourself in a positive emotional state. Remember that there is abundance everywhere. Once you get to this state, write down BIG things. Focus on things that involve creating something or being someone special, things that you are willing to spend your entire life pursuing. Think of what you want to have and who you want to be five to ten years from now. Do not worry about how you will get there. Do not be specific-name it but do not describe it. Things that you enjoy doing, what you do in your free time and what you lose yourselves into will help you go in the right direction. Things that tug at your heart also point towards the right direction.
Once you name your purpose you have to find the core priorities presently guiding your life. They are the values and traits you give a lot of importance to and what you consider as good. Your core priorities will be the answers to these questions:
- Do you value your freedom?
- Do you value your security?
- Do you value your graciousness, your cheerfulness, your intelligence, or your vitality?
- Which strengths are you proud of?
- Which of your positive traits have helped you to get to where you are today?
- Is it your drive to be important or significant?
- Is it your desire to contribute something and leave a legacy?
- Is it your desire for more freedom, more wealth, or more health?
- Which traits do you admire in others?
- Which traits do you desire?
Your core priorities are your qualifications for your life’s purpose like your qualifications for your job. You can change your core priorities to better qualify you for any new position you want to attain in life. Your core priorities and your purpose have irresistible force over your life. This is the power of focus. By turning your attention to the skill set you need to achieve your purpose, your entire life will rearrange itself to foster that purpose.
To change your life, you have to change your priorities. Your core priorities are the center blocks of your life. You may keep some of the old ones because they are still important. To find and fulfill your purpose you need to define your current priorities and develop new ones. You have to define them with words that inspire you and fill you with hope and energy.
Once you establish your core priorities, you need to set a short-term benchmark( or actionable goal) to it. The goal should be actionable and achievable within one to six months. To supercharge your priorities, back them up with a short-term benchmark as well as a WHY. Once you hit a benchmark, create another. This will create, in time, a string of short-term targets and will generate momentum towards your purpose in life.
You also have to tell yourselves an inspiring story. You will never fulfill a good purpose by living a bad story. You have to tell yourself a positive story and thereby program your mind. You also have to recognise the stories you tell yourself and see whether it is useful or not. The story of your life is made of many little stories. You have an experience. You interpret this experience, consciously or unconsciously and give it meaning and turn it into a little story. You take this little story and fit it into the big story of your life. To change the big story, you have to change the little stories. To change the little stories, you have to be self-aware and change negative scripts into positive ones.
Stories are incredibly powerful. They have the power to define and influence you and can create or destroy your future. If you want to fulfill your purpose in life, you have to make sure you identify yourself as the hero. You have to start seeing yourself as an adventurer, teacher, and connector of ideas and people rather than a grunt struggling uphill against the world. Be aware of what stories you identify with and how they may be influencing your own. If your own story is not inspiring you, it is time to change it.
Find a place where you are alone. Start reflecting on the times you felt maximally inspired. From memory alone, create a giant list of things that really inspire you. Consolidate this list. Write a few sentences encapsulating the current plot of your life. Now picture the life you really want . Write as if you are living in the future: write “I am” not ” I will be”. Emotionalize your new story with your empowering words and phrases. This will help you reinterpret your life in a way that is consistent with your new purpose and give your life meaning and galvanise you into action.
Questions focus the mind and inspire action. Change the questions you ask and you will change your focus. Ask questions that are in line with your core priorities. Questions like:
- How can I do this?
- What do I have, right here and right now?
- How can I add value?
- How can I contribute more?
- What is my purpose?
- What are my core priorities?
- What is my story?
- What is the most important thing I can do right now?
- Will this matter in a year from now?
- What’s great about this situation right now?
Create a mission statement and a personal slogan. This will develop the bond between your purpose and identity. You cannot fulfill your purpose in life without connecting your personal identity to it. But make sure your personal slogan is a brief and bold lyric, not a long statement you cannot remember.
From the slogan and mission statement, create a meme, a single word that focuses you on your purpose, that you identify with and infects everything you do.
Put a compelling vision and you will be pulled stronger towards your life purpose. You have to make room in your thinking for your biggest goals before your life will make room for them. This vision board will have words and pictures that encapsulate your purpose, long-term goals, 5-10 year goals and 6-12 month goals. This will help you stay focused and motivated and also more open, honest and authentic.
Vision alone is not enough. You have to turn it into a decision. Your mind is powerful, so powerful that it can kill you and also give you the life you want. Your vision will remain a fantasy until you decide to transform it into reality. Without a decision, you vision is a pipe dream. It is just wishful thinking. You have to make this decision, not others. No one else can do it for you. A decision is the link between wanting something to happen and making something happen. Most people hope for something to happen but never decide to make it happen. You can be different by making the decision to fulfill your purpose, align yourself with your priorities, live your story, answer your questions and personify your slogan. Cut yourself from any other option.
Once you make the decision, you have to turn it into a conviction. Like the conviction you have for your religious and political beliefs. A decision is only as strong as the belief standing behind it. Believe strongly that you will achieve your purpose and you will.
Conviction is perishable unless you nurture it. Nurture by celebrating each small step that you take towards your goal. At the end of every day, review your accomplishments and take a moment to acknowledge that you are one day closer to achieving your goals.
When you are in the process of finding your purpose, create your vision without any limits whatsoever. Then look at the money you need to create that kind of vision. Calculate money in terms of how much money you will need each day rather than how much money you will need each year. Money creates options and removes obstacles and makes things easier.
HOW TO FULFILL YOUR PURPOSE
Naming a purpose and mapping a new direction for your life are necessary only if you want to achieve mastery over some area of your life. If you have no such desire, then these things are not necessary. Mastery is your mountain peak and it is important to pick a mountain peak that offers you an enjoyable journey.
Greatness is achieved by applying the correct principles. In any area, there are many ways to package the same principle. By the time a new process is published, it is no longer cutting edge. Focus on the principles, not the processes. Reading non-fiction can give you a lot of learning. However reading by itself will not help you to achieve mastery. You have to take action and fail firsthand. That gives you more experience than doing things that are related.
The best way to get better at something is to do it, not to do things related to it. Then you will get a lot of feedback while failing firsthand. Like, for example, the best way to prepare for an exam is to do a lot of practice tests.
The 10,000 hour rule is the idea that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Deliberate practice is not just practice, it means you do it 100% correctly many times, having advanced instruction and constantly pushing beyond your current comfort levels. There are some things that you can do to decrease these number of hours and they all boil down to increasing the quality of each hour that you spend in deliberate practice:
- Association: Form a tribe with people who push you outside of your comfort zone and, most importantly, have strengths and perspectives that you lack.
- Convergence: Overlap your different pursuits to increase the quality of your hours.
- Metamorphosis: Use the deliberate practice of others by reading and assimilating the works of greats in your field. You can never achieve mastery by starting at the bottom. There is just not enough time.
- Ritualisation: Create habits. This will decrease the mental energy you use and therefore you will have more for the difficult areas of deliberate practice.
- Automation: Start automating as much of your life as possible.
- Adjustment: Restructure your internal and external environments to increase the quality of your deliberate practice.
There is no shortcut to becoming great. Becoming truly great in a field requires massive action in a single direction for years. There will be dips and the people who persevere through these dips for many years are the people who achieve mastery. The key is to stay committed to principles that have stood the test of time while staying unattached to processes.
You have to reserve your willpower for the pursuit of mastery. You have a limited amount of willpower. The amount of mental strain you can put yourself through each day is limited. Deliberate practice relies on willpower. And your willpower consists of a set number of decision-making units. Once you reach your personal limit, you will lose your ability to concentrate and make good decisions. This amount of deliberate practice that anyone can do in a day is around 5 hours. That is why the above processes that can decrease your hours of deliberate practice are important.
You have to have a can-do attitude. Prolonged study, planning and deliberation are often signs of weakness and insecurity, not wisdom and patience. No plan survives contact with reality. You have to do things and you fail, you get feedback and try again. That is how we should act now.
You do not need to change everything in your life now. Work from where you are. Be resourceful( ability to use what you have already to get what you want) and self-reliant. Ask yourself:
- What do I have right now that will help me to do this right now?
- Who do I already know who can do this with me?
See the value of what you have already. Take action towards new goals immediately. Use relationships as opportunities for collaborations. If you are focused on what you don’t have, you will only see what you don’t have. Adopt an abundance mentality and a positive attitude and focus.
You should be able to shift your focus and perspective at will. If your perspective is unlimited, you can freeze up and fail to focus on anything. If your perspective is too limited you can completely miss what’s right in front of you. In order to fulfill your purpose, you have to be able to actively zoom in and zoom out of any part of your life at any time.
Differentiate knowledge from useless information. Your reticular activating system focuses you on the most important information from your past life experiences. Use your reticular activating system discerningly to increase your number of productive references. Don’t waste your time on unproductive things. be selective. Read and watch things that are going to bring you close to fulfilling your purpose in life. The best way is to take action. Action creates experiences. Experiences create references.
Remember, you can change the interpretation of a experience or mood to help you do what you should do.
Keep your safety nets. You can keep your job as a safety net and build your interests around it. Limiting beliefs are the only things stopping you from fulfilling your purpose without giving up anything good. Limit your goals, not the ways in which you can accomplish them. Never limit your options without trying to change the word “or” to “but”. If you believe there is only one way, then there is only one way. If you believe there are many ways, then there are many ways. Set your principles in stone, not your processes. In other words, keep your safety nets. Give up nothing. Do everything.
Invest in yourself and other people consistently. Spend your time, money and energy taking care of your most valuable asset: you. If you are a mess mentally or physically, you can’t build strong relationships or put a dent in the universe. The best way to add value to your life is by learning as much as possible, and by having as much productive experiences as possible. make knowledge and action your most valuable assets.
Invest in people, not ideas. Build a long-term relationship with a few key people. This is long-term thinking and long-term investment. You can’t outsource your health or relationships.
Create a network of deep connections. Connections crush qualifications. Don’t have superficial connections. Instead, dig deeply into individual relationships. Connecting means 55 seconds of listening and 5 seconds of talking. Define yourself by connecting usual things in unusual ways.
The only three skills that will matter in five years are:
- The ability to communicate an idea effectively.
- The ability to take action and turn an idea into a physical reality.
- The ability to choose the right idea in the first place.
- Improve your oral communication.
- Take physical action to convert an idea to physical reality.
- Choose the right idea. The only human skill that will never be automatic is mental choice. Your mental choices direct your focus and determine your attitude. Everything else is secondary. You have the ability to act at your own discretion and you have influence over your own future. Do not allow external circumstances to determine your attitude and focus.
Ultimately, it is all choice. You can choose to interpret an event according to a chosen perspective and act out of free choice. Creating and fulfilling a purpose as above will make your life what it should be to the highest potential possible.