Finding Purpose and Taking Action

Traditional concepts of career ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From an early age, we are bombarded with this question and encouraged to define our future goals so we can aspire to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher. For the true purpose-driven seeker that wants to change the world, being forced to answer this question only narrows the potential of what we might become and sets us up for frustration.

Instead, listen to your heart for a true calling, and don’t sacrifice that message for the most practical solution that comes to hand. The heart, as opposed to the rational mind, will encourage us to follow what we truly need to do to fulfill our purpose in life, perhaps saying, “I want to help people. I want to make a difference.” These altruistic, if vague, ideals are the kind of messages we get from the heart. The key is to translate them into practical application.

At times, this path seems impossible, but faith in the process will guide us through the uncertain times. Mentors and teachers may also appear just when you need them, just as I had the good fortune to meet the late Dr. David V. Tiedeman, who became one of the most important mentors in my life.

Initially a professor of mathematics at Harvard, his passion turned toward vocational counseling and he developed the theory of Lifecareer, which posits that every individual has a unique purpose to fulfill. He claimed that everyone’s Lifecareer, if sought out and nurtured, would slowly unfold into what we are meant to be. The ideal situation is to keep on approaching that purpose throughout life and it will unfold one step ahead of us, indicating the right direction, becoming ever more clear and meaningful.

Even if we have faith in the process, it is often difficult to know where to begin. The best advice is to do something different tomorrow. Start breaking the routines and neural pathways of behavior. Set a new path in motion by taking mini-steps that take you slowly, but surely, toward your goal. As Lao Tsu said, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” The first step can be as simple as getting up an hour earlier to take a walk, meditate, read, make a healthier breakfast or anything else to start the process.

Should faith or patience in purpose of Lifecareer ever waver, Tiedeman advised to never underestimate the power of our will. We need to have an unfailing determination that we are going to accomplish our purpose, come hell or high water. There are so many altercations in life that sometimes we feel as if we have gone astray, but certainly an opportunity will arise to show us the way. Sometimes, when there seems to be nowhere to go, we must be the authors of our own opportunity.

If adversity is the mother of invention, then that adage remains truer than ever in these challenging times. Spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff believed that we should be grateful for the bumps in our path through life, because these difficult moments provide shocks the process needs to keep moving forward. Author Jeffrey Kripal, chair of the Department of religious studies at Rice University, says that we either write our own story or it will be written for us by the socialization process in the culture we are immersed in. It is so much more powerful to create and write our own story, taking full responsibility for becoming the superhero inside our heart.

Great leaders throughout history have always been spurred on by diversity. With faith in the process and an indomitable will to do our part, we can all become those great leaders. The world needs every visionary and determined leader that is willing to step forward. So, rise to the challenge, find your life purpose and become ever more passionate about it, as you see that your own career has a life of its own.

Emanuel Kuntzelman is a lifelong seeker and advocate of environmental awareness and world peace. Founder of the nonprofit Center for Cultural Interchange, he has helped thousands of participants build a foundation of cultural understanding across the globe, while promoting environmental initiatives through the Greenheart division of CCI. For more information, visit

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