Have you ever struggled to find your unique passion in life? Have you ever felt like you didn’t have a clear purpose? We are often told that we are unique and special. But sometimes we struggle to experience our individuality, feeling almost lost in the crowd. If you’ve ever walked the streets of a crowded city, surrounded by thousands of people walking in different directions, you may have felt almost invisible. We live on a planet with over seven billion people; Earth itself is a speck in the universe. If our planet is so infinitesimally small relative to the universe, and within our planet, each of us is only one of more than seven billion people, how are we supposed to feel special and unique?
So many of my clients struggle to be genuine, to discover who they really are, and to live lives of passion and purpose. With social, financial, and other pressures weighing us down, we often get trapped living inside a shell, stuck and immobilized, unable to find our unique path in life. We struggle to develop ambition and aspirations to become more, because we feel stuck, empty, and aimless. We watch our potential sit unused, but we don’t know where to channel it.
However, there are a few simple keys that can help us unlock our dormant potential and develop drive and passion to achieve our unique purpose. Before beginning the journey towards self-mastery, towards unlocking our dormant potential, we need to understand the secret behind all self-development: Hashem did not put us in this world to create ourselves; He put us here to discover who we truly are. Each and every one of us is unique and equipped with a special blend of capabilities to live our ultimate lives and make our own unique contribution to the world. In this article, we’re going to begin developing some of the fundamental tools and principles that will help you find your uniqueness, cultivate your passion, and ultimately, discover your purpose.
Becoming Your Best Self
You are unique. No one else in the history of the world has your unique combination of DNA, your specific family, your mosaic of internal and external influences. As the Ramchal explains, you were born at a specific time in history, with a specific set of capabilities, and a very unique purpose that only you can fulfill. The key to learning and growing is not only about the time and energy you invest; it’s about discovering “how” you learn, “how” you grow, and “how” you process. As simple as it sounds, all of growth is about one simple skill: self-awareness.
How Do You Learn Best?
We need to discover how we work, what drives us, and how we learn best. I remember teaching myself how to play guitar and piano. After much trial and error, I realized that I learn best through modeling success and personalizing it to my specific taste. I immersed myself in the musical masterpieces of the very best guitarists and pianists I could find, worked to understand every single thing they were doing, down to the smallest detail, and practiced day and night until I could do it perfectly. Then, I began using these skills to develop my own creations, ultimately writing my own music.
I used this same model for developing and giving shiurim. I began by immersing myself in the works and ideas of the greatest Torah minds, both of our generation and of our tremendous mesorah (tradition). I spent years learning Torah with my rebbeim, reading and listening to endless shiurim, and thinking about all aspects of Torah thought and practice. At first, when I gave shiurim, I simply repeated exactly what I had heard from my rebbeim, keeping to their exact structure, word-choice, and formulation. After years of learning, I finally understood the inner system of Torah wisdom enough to create my own shiurim and to bring in additional Torah sources that added different vantage points to the topics in discussion. I also used this same model for building my business, for becoming a professional speaker, and for just about every other passion and skill that I have.
Once you understand how you learn, you can spend the rest of your life developing and unlocking your greatest self. So spend some time thinking about how you learn best. Do you prefer in-person learning or online learning? Do you prefer learning through video, audio, or written format? Do you enjoy interactive learning, or do you prefer processing and practicing by yourself, at your own pace?
Compete Against Yourself
The world is a competitive place. In western culture, and the capitalistic society we live in, competition is the pulse of life itself. If you’re not better than the other applicant, you won’t get the job. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve tried or how much you’ve grown to get here; what’s valued most in the workplace is results and performance. Our inner world, our personal dreams, and our unique passions and goals can easily be crushed by such a reality and its unbounded force. Furthermore, we can easily spend our entire lives comparing ourselves to other people, competing against them; we can easily find ourselves fighting for our self-worth, trying to beat everyone else.
But the key to self-worth is to compare yourself to one person and one person only: your past self. Self-worth comes from becoming the very best version of ourselves, from the realization that we are heading on the journey towards our greatness and fulfilling our purpose. As such, there is no need or place for external competition when it comes to our self-worth. We aren’t here to be better than anyone (or everyone) else. We’re here to become the very best version of ourselves and achieve our personal, unique purpose. When we compare ourselves to others, it only leads to depression; we end up giving up or falling apart. Or worse, we can spend our entire life trying to be better than other people instead of becoming our true selves. This leads to burnout and self-hate. As long as we are making progress and becoming better than we were yesterday, we are succeeding. What other people are or aren’t doing should hold little significance for how we feel about or view ourselves. No one else has our unique package, so their progress or success should have no bearing on our own.
How to Find Your Unique Role
Once we accept the premise that we are each unique, and that we are on our own individual path to greatness, we must begin the journey of self-awareness and self-exploration, trying our best to discover what “awesome package” Hashem created us with. Hashem equips each of us with a unique package containing everything we need to fulfill our unique potential; Your unique package could contain empathy, intellectual curiosity, people skills, love of halacha, love of mussar, mathematical gifts, and any number of other skills, talents, or inclinations. Discovering our unique package allows us to understand what we can and should become. Here’s the best way to approach this wonderful and exciting stage:
Experiment: What Are Your Gifts?
The first stage is experimenting. Many of us walk around without any idea who we are, what we are capable of, and what we were designed to do. We need to devote a significant amount of time to trying out various areas of life in order to discover what’s lying within us, ready to be developed and actualized. Each of us has a unique chelek (portion) in Torah; what area of Torah do you connect with most? Spend time learning Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Machshava, Jewish History, and other more specific areas of Torah to see what areas resonate with you. What hobbies, skills, and talents do you have? What have you always wanted to try, but never found the time, energy, or courage to explore? What areas of science, psychology, and general wisdom are you curious about?
For example, I would have never known that Hashem gave me the ability to play and even write music had I not spend years exploring and experimenting, trying to discover what lay dormant inside of me. The same is true for all of us. There is nothing as amazing as the smile I see on my clients’ faces when they begin discovering who they uniquely are and what they are truly capable of becoming.