What does it really mean to live your life's purpose? Amy Taylor-Kabbaz speaks with Ben Harvey about his own path from abuse to purpose.
How can we find what our purpose is, and can we actually turn that into a career and way of life? Ben Harvey certainly believes so, and through his company Authentic Education he helps thousands of people around the world discover their real purpose, and create the life of their dreams.
Do you believe everyone has a purpose? I think we first need to define ‘purpose’. People often get confused thinking that purpose is just one thing. We've got this misconception that's taught to us early on, where we’re told that when we leave school, we've got to do one thing for the rest of our life. If you look back through time at our education system, the role of schools was to prepare us to work in factories, especially if you aren’t academically proficient. We were taught how to be ready for a factory, and the factory said we had to stay in this line and do this exact task every day for the rest of our lives. No matter how you feel about it you must keep doing it, otherwise you can't earn an income and the factory will fall apart. Sadly, that hasn’t changed. We are still conditioned to believe that we've got to do one thing for the rest of their lives, and that really confuses people.
If we watch children playing, they play with things until they're boring. Once they're boring, they move onto the next thing. Children are naturally inspired to do what they love. If only we could give them permission to just move from thing to thing, and not tell them to stick with one thing even though it's no longer enjoyable. I see the concept of purpose in a similar way. Purpose, for me, is allowing people the freedom to do things until they're no longer inspired to either learn more about it to make it better. Throughout time, mystics and gurus have said that we must be childlike and playful in everything we do, and what that means is, you do things until they're uninspiring.
I believe that everybody deserves to be inspired, and that we need to learn that just because we manifest something doesn't mean we have to use it for the rest of our life. A lot of people think, 'I created this job or this opportunity, and even though I don’t really like it any more, I'm going to keep doing it because I created it. This is the biggest misconception, and it creates the most amount of suffering: that we are not allowing ourselves to just follow what's inspiring.
How do you change that pattern? We surveyed tens of thousands of people in Australia, and we found that 52 percent of them would happily sacrifice $10,000 of their yearly salary if they could only be happier at work. We have a saying that goes: Twenty years from now, if you were to say to a friend, ‘I'm going to work because I need the money’, that they should then gather around you and do an intervention, because you're sick! In time, hopefully we will believe that there is something wrong with you if you say that. But at the moment, when someone says, 'I'm going to go do what I love, I don’t care about the money' - we think they're weird! We think that going to work because you need the money is the norm, and that's really the problem.
The fact is that everybody on this planet is born to feel good when they do a specific activity, and if we dedicate our lives to doing this activity, we're guaranteed to have meaning in our lives. I will poll an audience and ask them, 'Is it riding unicycles?' And no one puts their hand up. They don’t feel fulfilled or inspired riding unicycles. Then I ask, 'Is it gardening?' And maybe 10 people put their hands up. 'Is it accounting?' Maybe five people put their hands up. I go through all the different job descriptions you could think of. Then I ask, 'Alright, raise your hand if you feel fulfilled and inspired when you share your advice with another person and that improves the quality of their life?' And every single hand always immediately goes up. It doesn't matter where I ask this question in the world; 500 or 1,000 people will all put their hand up at the same time. I've asked this for years and the response never ceases to amaze me, because every human being feels fantastic when they help another human being. They just naturally feel good. So purpose and having a meaningful life really come down to this question: Are you willing to share what you know with others? If so, your biology will give you a feeling of fulfilment.
We are biologically designed to share our advice, because if I didn't share advice with you and you didn't share advice with me, it would affect the survival of the human race. If we don’t share advice, we can't compete or evolve. So, as a safety mechanism built into our biology, we've actually conditioned the entire system to recognise that when we share advice, you get rewarded. What we need to realise as a culture, as a race, is that we have this program that guarantees our fulfilment, and it only comes when we share our knowledge with others to improve the quality of their life. If we do this, then we get everything we want in life. We are designed to share happiness with others and when we do this, we instantly get meaning and fulfilment.
How did you come to establish Authentic Education? Like many people in my industry, I had a traumatic upbringing. I suffered abuse as a kid from a person in my neighbourhood, and that shaped the way that I viewed the world. I went through a lot of psychological issues and depression, and I was medicated quite a lot when I was growing up. When I eventually came out that time, I realised that I was pretty unfulfilled and I wasn’t doing what I loved at all. I started looking into energy healing and meditation courses and I went to retreats and studied everything I could find. What I realised is that when I started to share knowledge with others and help them to overcome their suffering, all of a sudden my own problems began to disappear. I discovered that the only way to get over your issues is to help other people get over their issues. If we focus on helping other people, we forget about our own problems. I learned that by losing myself in the service of others, I no longer had any issues that I needed to work on. As I started to do more and more of what I loved, I found that I became more fulfilled. I naturally started to explain how it worked to other people. As the saying goes, 'Until you find a cause greater than yourself, you’ll never be able to get over yourself'. And it was the Buddha who said, 'May all sentient beings reach enlightenment before me'. The fundamental foundation of all his teachings was, 'I want everyone else to get the result way before me, that everybody get there before I do'. If we understand that, in order to get what we want, we must serve others first, then we get there. However, if they get caught up in wanting the house, the car, the abs, the relationship … well, then they wonder why they never get it. If all you do is focus on yourself, you get to places a lot slower in life. By focusing on others and helping them, you actually get what you want a lot quicker. Mystics and gurus have long said that we must be childlike and playful in everything we do, and what that really means is, you do things until they're uninspiring. I learned that when I lost myself in the service of others, I no longer had any issues that I needed to work on.
Connect with your purpose
1. Find your higher service
To start to discover your purpose, ask yourself today - not yesterday, not last week, not two years ago, not what your teacher, your boss, or your parents told you, but today - what are you most inspired by? What do you feel most connection with? What are you most passionate about helping people either create or avoid in their lives? Service is the ability to help any human being create something they don’t have or avoid something they don’t want. What do you most want to help someone create or avoid?
2. Discover and learn
Once you know what that passion is, go and discover more about it! If, for example, you want to help create happier mothers, then go and learn everything you can about happiness, about happy mums, about the psychology, the philosophy, the success model. People are always inspired to learn when they are feeling inspired - when someone stops learning, it’s generally the first indicator you no longer love something. So follow your new passion.
3. Create your masterpiece
Now, go out and create and organise what you've learned. Organise your knowledge, and put it into a process – this might be seminars or retreats or a coaching program or online education you design, or a book you write or a course you teach, but design and plan the way in which people can interact with your knowledge.
4. Get results in others
It’s now time to take your masterpiece and go help others get their results. This is where lots of people trip up, because they feel they need to have the success within their own life first, and as a result of that, they never get anywhere in life. Many people believe they can’t help others until they are completely happy, healed, and whole. But that's actually not the way to think. It's really important that we put other people’s success before ours, because that takes you to where you need to be for your own success. Zig Ziegler wisely pointed out that if you help enough people to get what they want, you’ll always end up getting what you want.
5. Get the results yourself
The final step? Once you've helped enough people get the results that they want, then apply it to yourself. Basically, until you teach someone else, you don’t really know it as much as you can. By sharing your passion and masterpiece and helping others to get the results they desire, you will get what you most desire, too.