“We often teach what we most need to learn.” ~Dan Millman

What compels you, entices you, lingers on your mind through restless nights, begs your attention even against your will?

What in life demands that you learn it, study it, nurture your understanding of it? What subject matter or pursuit or thing or emotion drives you to tears — whether of joy or horror?

Understanding what each of us is truly driven by — something, anything, that captures our attention to such an extent that it could become a central focus of our life — is no easy task. For many, it can take a lifetime to understand. I myself cannot really define or label what it is in my life that truly drives me every day.

The Backwards Perspective

It’s terribly difficult, troubling and disheartening for a human being to try to understand what his or her purpose is in life from the perspective that we, in fact, always take first: a backwards perspective. In the search for fulfillment and purpose in life, we naturally ask ourselves,

“What could I do that would give me fulfillment? What job or career would give me purpose? What would make me truly happy?”

In theory, these questions would aptly unlock doors to their respective answers. In practice, they often distract revealing indicators of what offer this world. This is a “backwards perspective” because we begin by envisioning the end goal — the achievement of happiness, purpose, and fulfillment at some point in our lives; and in reverse chronology imagine how from that point we can might work backwards and get there from today.

What You Offer This World

I’m not so sure there is an “only, absolutely surefire way” to realize what we each offer this world. But if there is but one, we would each start to understand what we offer this world — what would give us true purpose and fulfillment and happiness — by forgetting what we should offer at all and better understanding what we most need to learn.

Think about it: whatever we could teach others — what could greatly lead us to fulfillment and purpose in life —  is what we most want (or need) to learn. What compels us to learn it is what we will be in the best position to one day teach others. I’m not talking about attention-consuming distractions like reality television, or a simple (even fanatical) enjoyment of professional sports. What we are absolutely compelled to learn, explore, understand and hopefully some day master in our lives is the very subject we, in turn, will ultimately come to teach others.

What we most need to learn, we can some day teach. What we can teach others is what we offer this world in a way that no other can.

As I wrote above, understanding what it is that consumes our attention so much that it could become a subject we grow to not only learn, but master, is no easy feat. Me, I am consumed by learning about life, people, happiness, improving our inner selves, developing our spirits, nurturing compassion, embracing goodness, sharing positivity with others, and so much more. I don’t think I can describe “what drives me” succinctly, let alone accurately.

But what I do feel, I trust.

I trust that what I am compelled to: explore; to better understand; and to ultimately share with others is, in fact, exactly what I offer this world.

Through this offering, I will realize contentment, fulfillment, purpose, and lasting happiness. And you will, too.

What is it that compels you to learn it? Whatever you must learn, you can ultimately teach. And what you can teach, you offer this world in a way that no other can. From this special place we each can harness our individual potential and truly thrive.

Flickr photo credit: Stephen Kim