What is my purpose?

This is a rather expansive question but one I have been wrestling with since moving to Chamonix. What is my purpose? What am I actually doing right now? And, am I happy with that direction?

Every great change is preceded by chaos – Deepak Chopra

As most of you will know, Sophie and I have undergone a huge amount of change recently; casting off our city lives for a very different way of life in Chamonix, France; leaving good jobs in promising companies; and exploring a more outdoor way of life.

Over the last 6 months, if anyone has asked me what am I doing out in Chamonix, I’ve generally replied with an off-hand joke or comment about climbing as much as possible, consulting a bit, and seeing what we can do out here.

All of that is true but it fails to express the underlying worries, fears, and uncertainties I have been trying to confront. It is not all play out here and both Sophie and I have been working consistently throughout the summer with UK companies in one form or another. However, I have not felt that sense of purpose or drive that I get when I’m truly passionate and even obsessed with a project.

These worries, fears, and uncertainties have manifested themselves in the main question I have been battling ‘What is my purpose?’. I see people everyday who are going great guns after their dreams, making great sacrifices to make them come true and, through hard work, grit and determination, are seeing results. I know I have that in me, but where, and what, am I going to point it at?

Things have felt a little chaotic, somewhat directionless, and a whole lot confusing recently but I think I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

My adoring wife has been helping me through this maze of options and opportunities, supporting my decisions, encouraging me when I feel lost, and protecting me when I want to hide. A few weeks ago, a package turned up for me with a book in it, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Quickly reading the back cover I read it was the story of a psychoanalyst who had spent many years in some of the worst concentration camps in Nazi Germany and was his thesis on the meaning of life following this experience.

Noting that the book was from the spirituality section, I sceptically started to read, then devour it. I would highly recommend everyone reading it, if only as a brutally honest account of life in one of these camps, but also as the conclusion he draws is profound and one that I can really relate to:

Frankl concludes that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living.

I am a strong believer in baby steps, that taking small steps leads to big gains and not to getting caught up in the big picture which often clouds how to actually get started. I have been so caught up in what my purpose might be that I have not been able to see the baby steps that might put me on a path to doing more with my life.

The idea that your meaning is in every moment, in the baby steps, the little things and the small moments resonated with my baby steps beliefs and got me thinking; smaller, more immediate, and more personally.

I love the outdoors

It is no secret that I love everything about being outdoors; from just walking, to trail running, climbing rock or ice, and onto alpinism and the big mountains. I love it all. It feeds my soul, makes me smile from my toes to my fingertips, and is a place I find true clarity.

4 years ago, my outdoor experience was limited to a one week trip to Wales when I was 13 and a yearly trip snowboarding. Since then I’ve found spent most of my free time putting in the hours that have opened up a whole new world to me, a world that has provided me with countless smiles, got me fitter and stronger than ever before, and introduced me to inspiring and incredible people.

I have told people  that I don’t know where I can take my climbing but I want to find out, I want to find out how good I can get, and really touch the limits of what I can achieve. However, I also want to share this with people too, not just through stories and blog posts, but through taking people out and enabling them to try out what I have discovered.

What is my purpose?

I’ve written about my munching, my digesting of everything around me, patiently (or not so patiently, as the truth might actually be) waiting to see what will come of it. Last night, lying in bed, Sophie asked me: If you can only do one thing for the next year, what would it be? One word leapt into my mind: Mountains. If I could only do one thing for the next year, I knew instantly, that I wanted to it be to do with mountains and the outdoors.

This got me thinking, if I were to live and work for a year, just in and around the mountains, how would that come together? What I want to do, more than anything, is to spend a lot of time in the hills, enabling people take their first steps outdoors like I did 4 years ago, and helping those with more experience grow further.

An obvious career choice springs to mind, mountain guiding. However, I also know that being a mountain guide is not for me.

I know a number of mountains guides and, through having a huge amount of respect for what they do, know that guiding is not a path I want to take. If I don’t want to be a guide, how else can I work in the mountains showing people what a wonderful place they are?

I have worked very hard over my life to develop a broad range of skills; I am a web designer and developer; I’ve strong digital marketing expertise; I’ve started my own successful business; I’ve even started my owned failed business. All of this provides me with a comprehensive toolset to call upon and utilise to achieve my goals, to reach my purpose.

So, what actually is my purpose, what is the meaning of my life right now:

I want to share the outdoors with people, from helping them take their first steps to facilitating more accomplished veterans grow further.

In November 2015, I want to look back over the year and know that I have achieved this. Through starting my own projects, working with other people, and working brands and companies, I want to get more people outdoors, discovering what the wonder that I have.

Now, where to begin? What is my first step? I see this blog post as my first baby step. Much like my post for my Alpine Apprenticeship, this is a declaration, a call to like-minded people to reach out or expect my call. So here I am, here is what I want to do, and this is my purpose. For now, at least.

 

by Charley Radcliffe

16 Responses to “What is my purpose?”

  1. Ross Chapman

    Great post Charley!

    We’ve talked about these kind of things before. In my words “how do I know what to do with my life”? Like you, I’ve found it comes down to “what do I enjoy”! We can’t ignore our past experience and the journey we’ve taken so far.

    Recognising what you enjoy is a great first step. The second is recognising what else you can offer. The third, although sometime completely bypassed, is “what do people want/need”. I say that, because some people scratch their own itch, feeling that other people will be the same (look at the beginnings of Rapha).

    I haven’t been content with people telling me that I shouldn’t have a direction. I need a direction, because I need to know what I’m doing will help achieve that or not.

    Finally, we’re all a work in progress. We want to be successful in our own eyes. You’ve set yourself a deadline, you want to do something with the mountains – that’s enough. It may take longer than a year but it will still be the right direction, because without even thinking, you said “mountains”!

    Reply
  2. Donny @Alba Cyclist

    Charlie,

    I have been following both you and Sophie through Sophie’s website and blog.

    I think you are missing the point slightly. You are there already and you are doing it now. Give it a little time mate and the right thing will come along.

    You may have to wade through some opportunities which are not the right fit. But at least you are trying.

    Good luck.

    Reply
  3. Davy Wright

    Good evening Charley,

    Where do I start? What you have written in this post resonates with me massively! Although I have never braved the step to take myself out of the rat race and take the risk of doing it. And it was about 5 years ago I got back into the outdoors, I haven’t looked back. Recently I hadn’t been getting out and it definitely affected me but I am now making a conscious effort to make time for the mountains. I couldn’t do with out it, it’s my reset. There is an aspect of earnings that scares me and it is probably the main factor for not taking the plunge. Family, mortgage etc.

    I would like to be able to take young people into the mountains, especially kids who are maybe a bit misguided. I don’t know if I have the aptitude for it but I know what being outdoors in the tranquility does for me and I know I can’t be the only one.

    I use my own blog as an outlet and log of what I’ve done. I wish I had more time to keep it updated but I enjoy twitter to share and chat with other like minded folks. And I have been following from a far your progress. I will be watching your progress more closely now with much interest.

    I wish you well for the next 12 months and I hope it brings you everything you want in life. Maybe we’ll pass on a track some day.

    Keep your crampons sharp and your ice axe handy 🙂

    All the best, Davy

    Reply
    • Charley Radcliffe

      Hi Davy,
      Thank you so much for writing and it is great to find a like-minded soul. Thankfully, Sophie and I are freer of commitments, allowing us to risk a little more but I honestly believe that just getting out at weekends and volunteering with organisations like Raleigh International will give you a idea of if the grass is greener before taking the plunge.
      Good luck and I’ll follow your journey too!

      Reply
  4. Conrad

    Great post Charlie and I’ve only been following you for the best part of a week. I’m very much in the same boat. The last two years have seen huge upheavals in my life. Became a single dad, lost my house, had a pretty bad health scare and have battled with some of the worst mental demons imaginable however through persistence and continued “try try try again” I’ve started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For me though, a “life’s purpose” and the question around it hasn’t been the best approach. “Life purpose” almost reads like a specific thing you should be doing, however continuously searching fro anything especially an emotion or a feeling of “I’m here, I made it,” for most people, never comes. It’s like chasing for something that then moves further away all the time.

    For me, working on what my “core life values” are, has had much greater impact. They can cover more than one thing, and even if your values don’t specifically read exactly what you should be doing, they are a lot easier to consistently follow. If you’re values are true to yourself, your abilities, goals and dreams then you’ll find you’ll have more opportunities to find your life purpose than one specific thing.

    Reply
    • Charley Radcliffe

      Hi Conrad, yes I completely agree though maybe didn’t word it quite the same. For now, I want to focus on enabling people to get outdoors and reap the benefits I have through adventure, excitement, and sharing both with others. How that takes form exactly, I don’t know nor mind, as long as the underlying aim is attempted.
      Thanks for your message and well done for staying strong, persevering, and coming through the other side.

      Reply
  5. Ryan

    Hi Charley

    What a refreshing, honest, open blog post.

    I completely recognise your thoughts. My fiancee and I spent a year in La Plagne a couple of years back. It didn’t really work out for me there as I was plagued by the very same questions you are, but I was unable to find a workable solution or suitable answers (albeit the circumstances of me going there were much less planned).

    We are back in the UK (with a baby now) and after feeling lost and directionless for a couple of years I think we are now finally finding some direction. This has only come about, however, through a great deal of soul-searching, countless days of despair, questioning the questions, and too many lattes spoilt by trying to work out the answers to the big questions.

    Thanks to my wonderful fiancee who has continually promoted the life values of ‘One Life, Live It’ and ‘Adventure is Waiting’, we are now grasping life by the neck and shaping it for what we want it to be rather than let it push us around. But we are only starting to achieve this through taking small steps and crossing hurdles when they need to be crossed. It’s amazing how versatile we can be when we have problems to solve (physical or mental). And also how clear things can become when you start on a path, where no clarity ever seemed possible.

    I have recently ditched the world of marketing to set up my own business in my trade and passion; landscape gardening, and my fiancee is looking to leave the same industry for a world of fitness instructing. The only demon we need to battle now is coming to terms with having given up the alpine life we had. I have to work hard to remind myself of the circumstances which meant I couldn’t stay in Savoie and that, in there somewhere, is a life lesson on timing and knowing when to listen to the world (though will never be 100% sure I got it right).

    We regularly return to Savoie/Haute Savoie to get our alpine fix and still harbour dreams (plans?) of making a go of it out there, especially now that we have a much clearer and more positive direction for ourselves. Perhaps this was what was missing when we were in the Alps before? But for now, we are ignoring the big picture of Scotland vs. The Alps and just seeing where the baby steps will take us.

    Maybe catch you for a pint when we’re next in Cham and see how you’re getting on with it all.

    Good luck and trust in the world.

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Charley Radcliffe

      Thank you, Ryan. It is difficult and timing is crucial. Sophie and I first trid to move here last summer and, after two months, returned to the UK with our tails between our legs. We gave up on the idea but it was only at Christmas we decided we wanted to try again and here we are. Who knows if this will work this time but, as you said, baby steps are crucial to these life changing decisions.
      Please do drop me a line when you’re in town and we can swap war stories!

      Reply
      • Ryan

        Sure thing. We’re out in Chamonix at the beginning of Dec and back again for the Mont Blanc Marathon in June (and maybe some point in between if we can swing it!). Will find you on Twitter now. Cheers!

        Reply
  6. Nate

    Charly.

    Good post and an enjoyable read. Once (about 25 years back) I asked my Dad the question “I don’t know if I am doing the right thing”. He replied “I am nearly 60 and I still don’t know”.

    It’s one of the most interesting things he’s has ever said, along side this gem “If it hurts don’t do it”.

    I think his overall position was that uncertainty is normal. Embrace it, but also our time here is short. Do what makes you happiest.

    Perhaps uncertainty is a good thing. It shows you have the inner sense to question your position. Could I do more? Am
    I making this most out of this time, this life. I can’t say for certain I am/have but the fact we question it should lead us to make sure we do. Better that than being a sheep.

    Best of luck. Embrace the uncertainty. It shows you care.

    Nate.

    Reply

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