1. Know your Why.
2. Imagine what that Why looks like in Action.
3. Take that Action.
The evidence is overwhelming that you cannot begin to achieve your best unless you set some aim in life.
– Henry J. Kaiser
The Right Picture of Success
So how do you get started on the success journey? What does it take to be a success? Two things are required: the right picture of success and the right principles for getting there.
The picture of success isn’t the same for any two people because we’re all created differently as unique individuals. But the process is the same for everyone. It’s based on principles that do not change. After more than twenty-five years of knowing successful people and studying the subject, I have developed the following definition of success:
Success is …
knowing your purpose in life,
growing to reach your maximum potential, and
sowing seeds that benefit others.
– John C. Maxwell
You will never exhaust your capacity to grow toward your potential or run out of opportunities to help others.
Brain and Behaviour
The old nature-versus-nurture dichtomy made have made sense thirty years ago before we learned how profoundly experience shapes the brain. Today, though, we see the influences as more circular: Genes influence behaviour, and behaviour, in turn, can influence how the genes function and how the child grows and develops.
– Magic Trees of the Mind (Dr. Marian Diamond, Janet Hopson)
The Purpose of Life
“Evolutionary theory tells us where we came from, not what we should do now that we’re here. So what does the theory imply?
“To answer this, we need to look at some background ideas. Traditional explanations for the “design” found in organisms (e.g., the design found in the human eye) involved a style of explanation known as teleological explanations. Teleological explanations are framed in terms of purposes and future consequences. For example, we might say that the giraffe has a long neck for the purpose of feeding on leaves high in trees. From a Darwinian perspective, this is actually the wrong answer. In fact, it’s not just the wrong answer; it’s the wrong kind of answer to questions in biology. The giraffe does not have a long neck in order to achieve this or any other future goal. It has a long neck because long-necked giraffes in the past were more likely to survive and reproduce than were their short-necked counterparts, and thus long-necked giraffes were more likely to pass on the genes contributing to their longer necks. This point is crucial to a proper understanding of evolutionary theory: There is no teleological explanation for long necks, only a historical explanation. A historical explanation focuses not on future effects, but on the past circumstances that brought adaptations about.
With this in mind, let’s return to the question of the purpose of life. You probably already know where I’m going with this. We’ve considered various suggestions about why we are here: to get to heaven, to help other people, to propagate our genes. These are all teleological answers. On an evolutionary view, these are not simply wrong answers to the question; they are the wrong kind of answer. Darwin showed that we don’t need to posit any kind of foresight or future-directed purpose underlying the apparent design in the biological world. In doing so, he showed us that there is no reason to think that there is a teleological answer to the question of why we are here. There is only a historical one.
Thus, evolutionary theory provides answers to both senses of the question of why we are here, the historical and the teleological:
Historical: We are here because we evolved.
Teleological: We are not here for any purpose.
That’s right; that’s what I’m saying: We are not here for any purpose. Of course, we all have our own little purposes in life that we choose and that make our lives meaningful in the emotional sense. But if we’re interested in the question of whether life is ultimately meaningful, rather than whether it’s potentially emotionally meaningful, well after Darwin, there is no reason at all to suppose that it is – there is no reason to assume that life has any ultimate meaning or purpose.
“Nothing is important but everything matters.” – Nietzsche