How to know your life purpose in just 5 minutes

Adam Leipzig is a Hollywood film producer and entrepreneur. In this 10 minute TED talk he walks us through 5 simple questions to help us understand what our life purpose is. From this life purpose we can then go on to do the work we sense we were called and even born to do. This is so much more than having a job or earning a paycheque.

Leipzig tells us that the idea for the talk came at his 25 year reunion from university. While there he noticed that the vast majority of his classmates were unhappy with their lives. From an external perspective there appeared to be so much in their favour. He describes them as "privileged, and highly educated, and financially well off, and in positions of power. And they had the first house, and the second house, and they had the first spouse, and the second spouse. And 80% of them were unhappy with their lives."

What was different about the other 20%? Leipzig noticed that they had not pinned their expectations on a chosen career path that would be the source of their fulfilment, satisfaction and financial security. This is how he describes this happier minority which included himself:

"We had studied literature and Renaissance rhetoric, and we were the theatre people, and the history geeks. We had studied classes for the joy of learning, not because we thought they were going to put direct us to a specific job. We still got jobs, we were living our lives expansively, with life’s ups and downs, and we did not feel that we had wasted a single minute."

From this positive and enriching perspective he talks us through 5 simple questions to help us articulate our life purpose:

  1. Who are you? Simply your name!
  2. What do you love to do or feel supremely qualified to teach others?
  3. Who do you do it for?
  4. What do they want or need?
  5. How do they change or transform as a result of what you give them?

The power of these questions are that three of the five are outwardly focussed. The more clearly you can see what you do makes a beneficial difference in the lives of others the more likely you are to come closer to your life purpose.

What is my take on the talk?
I can certainly identify with the disappointment and frustration of expecting my career to provide the fulfilment and security I was looking for. I have also began to see how identifying too closely with one's career can be somewhat stifling and constricting. In many ways this blog and podcast are an attempt to expand and develop my own areas of passion and interest.

Here are my answers:

  1. Who am I? Sunil!
  2. What do I love to do? I've broken it down into reading, reflecting and relating. What I love about his summary is that it covers my day job as a psychiatrist, and as a coach and spiritual teacher.
  3. Who do I do it for? Those people who find they self-sabotage or get stuck in negative thoughts and habits. This derails them, preventing them living life to their full potential and reaching the life of their dreams.
  4. What do they want or need? A greater clarity or motivation to break free of their self-imposed limitations.
  5. How do they change or transform as a result? They live life with a greater sense of purpose and direction, knowing the best and most exciting part of their lives is ahead of them.

If the concept of life purpose is hard for you to grasp, the following definition of life work from which purpose flows may be helpful. Your life work is:

  1. Work that gives your life meaning.
  2. Work that lets you be your best self and helps you become a better self.
  3. Work that is an unparalled pleasure when it goes well and is worth fighting and sacrificing for when it goes poorly.
  4. Work you are willing to organise your life around.

Dan Sullivan also talks about this in terms of unique ability:

Work you love doing.
Work that you are very good at.
Work that gives you and others energy when you do it.
Work you always want to get better at and endlessly improve.

How does Adam Leipzig's talk resonate with you? What questions or comments do you have? How clear are you on your life work?

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #032: How to know joy when life feels tough

Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment.

When Jesus seems just so confusing

It is the story of an encounter with Jesus in the Gospels that is so puzzling and even confusing.  A certain rich man (we don't know his name or much else about him) comes running to Jesus, falls on his knees, and asks "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The more you think about it the more radical and even shocking is the way Jesus takes the conversation from there. 

You can read more about what happens in three of the four gospels. Each provides a different perspective on the same encounter. (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30).

It seems like a great question to ask and in terms of who you ask the question to, I think you would be hard pressed to suggest anyone else who would have a better handle on knowing what it takes to inherit eternal life. This young man has achieved a lot in terms of worldly success and significance. You have to commend him for hungering and thirsting for wanting something of more lasting value in his life than his apparent success and achievements.

At first glance Jesus' response is puzzling. He says, "Why do you call me good? No-one is good - except God alone." He almost seems to be pushing him away by questioning what does this young man mean by calling Jesus good and then getting him to focus on some of the 10 commandments.

The rich young man says he has kept them all since he was a boy. Jesus then gives what seems to be the killer punch by telling him if that really is the case to then sell everything he has and give to the poor!

We're told that on hearing this "the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth."

Everyone is amazed as Jesus says how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Its where that famous saying of getting a camel through the eye of a needle comes from - something that is ridiculously impossible.

The disciples are shocked and confused. If this rich man with his exemplary record of doing good cannot be good enough for eternal life then what chance does anybody else have?

This is where Jesus' reply “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” is loaded with so much deeper meaning.

Trying to please God through human effort is always doomed to failure, no matter how good and commendable that effort may seem. It is so hard for us to see that. Jesus hints at that earlier in his conversation when he tells the young man to keep the 10 commandments, gives examples but seems to deliberately omit the omit the ones about having other gods and not coveting. The young man holds onto his exemplary record as the way to reach God and get eternal life. And that is his major problem.

Its rather like trying to swim the Atlantic Ocean by your own efforts. Some people can be great swimmers and manage a few hundred miles. Others may only be able to do a few yards or metres. But no one can manage the 5,500 miles. With human effort it is impossible.

That is why we all need mercy and grace.

Now I can’t prove it, but I wonder if this rich young man rather than walking away downcast, if he had looked for mercy and grace things would have been very different. If he had thrown himself at Jesus feet and said something like,  "Jesus I can’t do this. I know you are truly good – that you are the perfect holy one of God. But I am enslaved by my good deeds and my great wealth. I am trapped – rescue me!"

I can’t prove it, but from the rest of what we know about Jesus, I’m pretty confident that if had done that, thrown himself at the mercy of Christ, then the outcome would have been completely different.

But this young man's focus was on his physical treasure and not the treasure that is Jesus. Having said that Jesus' mercy and grace did not come cheaply or easily.  In Mark's account only a few verses later in 10:33-34 Jesus says:

"We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,  who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

(For more on this see A Day That Changed The World and What Is So Good About Good Friday?)

Here is how the famous writer C. S. Lewis put it:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form."

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #011 Money

Podcast #007: Religion

For the story of another rich man who had a very different encounter with Jesus also see Podcast #014: Filthy Rich

Podcast #028: The God I Don't Understand



Podcast #038: How technology impacts time and sex

"The new is always better than the old." Do you agree? Disagree? As the impact of technology on our lives has accelerated this assumption has become increasingly taken for granted.
In our third and final conversation with Pete Nicholas about his book 'Virtually Human: Flourishing In A Digital World' we explore the powerful messages that come to us through technology around the subjects of time and sexuality.


While technology presents a narrative of never-ending progress when it comes to new devices and software , the impact on us as human beings grappling with its ramifications is far from straight-forward.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this in terms of what he called "Chronological snobbery." That is 'the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of of date is on that count discredited.' Pete in his book (p.114) shows us how this leads to the following kind of thinking:

  • We think we are the most technologically developed culture on earth.
  • Since time is an arrow to the future, that means we are at the head of the curve.
  • Therefore, our decisions (about morality, society, technology) are the most 'progressive'.
  • So, if other people/countries/cultures disagree, it is because they are lagging behind (but in time they will catch up and probably agree with us).

We tend to think of time as linear with a beginning and definite end, ultimately when the universe at some point in the future will come to a grinding halt. Here are some challenges to these assumptions we discuss from the book:

  • "Time is not a straight line heading for a finish. God is taking the cosmos towards its goal. In one sense this goal is the end of time; in another sense it is just the beginning.
  • The timeline is God's and not ours. We are graciously part of His story, but we need to watch out for the ways technology can be used to write Him out and put us centre stage."
  • Time is not a commodity, but a gift to be stewarded. As technology gives me such a variety of choices with what to do with my time, I need to become discerning about what I should do today and what can be left for tomorrow or another time.

For more on this also see Podcast #024: Making Sense of Time.

Technology has also had a huge influence on our view of sex an sexuality. On this podcast we go on to discuss:

  • How the digital story of sex is linked to the sexual revolution of the 20th century with its desire to liberate from previous norms and taboos.
  • How my sexual identity cannot be separated from my psychology and spirituality.
  • The dangers of pornography in objectifying women and men.
  • How the male editor of a pornographic magazine radically changed his views following the birth of his daughter.
  • How pornography while promising satisfaction and fulfilment actually leads to a growing addiction and enslavement with significant problems in relating to others.
  • How the Bible is able to be both open about sex without being crude and objectifying. There is emphasis on restraint without being oppressive while emphasising the beauty of sexual love within the marriage covenant.

In conclusion, the challenges technology brings into our lives are about living in wisdom. Tomorrow's problems from technology are going to be very different from today's problems. The key is becoming the right kind of person who can learn to cope and flourish while living by grace. In other words we need to live in wisdom.

Details on Covenant Eyes and more resources on sexual addiction we mention in our discussion is here.

Our previous discussions on the book are at Podcast #036 and #037

More details on the book are available at the Virtually Human website here.

What questions and comments does our discussion raise for you?

The power of money to transform a life

The book Les Miserables by  Victor Hugo is a classic novel from the 19th century. Its complexities and twists and turns remind me of a traditional Hindi Bollywood movie with the intense emotion and complex story line. In fact, Les Mis (as it has colloquially come to be called) is now internationally famous as a sing through musical. It has been seen by more than 70 million people in 44 countries and in 22 languages around the globe. It is still breaking box-office records everywhere. The original London production celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015 and is the world's longest running musical.  There are also two film of the same name released in 1998 and 2012. The most recent one has also become a widely acclaimed with three oscars and a further four nominations.

The film and book follow the life of Jean Valjean who has spent 19 years in prison. This was made up of 5 years for stealing bread for his starving sister and 14 years for numerous escape attempts. On becoming a free man he is turned away by innkeepers because his yellow passport marks him as a former convict. He sleeps on the street, angry and bitter.

However, the local Bishop Myriel gives him shelter. At night, Valjean attacks and runs off with Myriel's silverware. The local paramilitary police officers (gendarmes) bring Valjean back to the Bishop. Valejan is expecting to be convicted and to return to prison. This is the point of radical transformation in Valjean's life. Here is how the 2012 movie in song describes what happens when the gendarmes arrive with Valjean:

Monsignor, we have your silver
We caught this man red-handed
He had the nerve to say you gave him this
That is right
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind
You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
Monsieur, release him
This man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
And God's blessing go with you
But remember this, my brother
See in this some high plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs
By the passion and the blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have saved your soul for God.

Valjean is the recipient of radical undeserved grace and realises he cannot live the way he did before. The Bishop's mercy in not convicting Valjean but by giving him candlesticks in addition to the stolen silverware changes something deep within his soul.

(For copyright reasons I cannot show the actual videos on the website. You can access on YouTube the 2 minute clip from the 2012 film here and the 3 minute clip from the 1998 version here.)

Here is how the book describes the scene from when Vlajean realises the undeserved kindness of the Bishop to him:

What is money?

A helpful perspective

As money is such an integral part of our lives that can seem like a  ridiculous question to ask. Money can occupy so much of our thinking. It can also be the source of so much emotion, both negative and positive.

But what is it? Put most simply money is simply a tool to facilitate deferred bartering.
Of itself money is just a piece of paper. But what that paper has come to represent is access to products, possessions and ultimately dreams. The 2 minute video below captures some of these sentiments:

Money is so more than just paper, or plastic, or metal or numbers on a screen. It is an amplifier of who we are and the impact we can have on the world we live in. If we are basically living selfishly then money increases the opportunities to be more selfish. And if we want to live lives of generosity then money can increase the potential to do that in so many more ways. The simple equation is:

A tribute to my uncle Mohinder Singh Sukheja

01.01.1932 - 26.12.2017

Mohinder Singh Sukheja was the husband of my Dad's second cousin. Over the years and  living in England he became a dear uncle to me. He sadly passed away at the end of 2017. This is a tribute to my Uncle and the fond memories I had of him.

Mohinder Singh Sukheja was officially born on 1 January 1932 in Kamalia that is now a part of the Punjab part of Pakistan. He was the second child of a family of seven with 4 sisters and 1 younger brother.

At the age of 15 with the horrors of Partition he had to flee with his family to India. Along the way he became separated from his family and lost. I remember him telling me how in the intense heat, with all the walking he had to do, he became very tired and dehydrated. He literally thought he was going to die. He told me how he desperately prayed to God to rescue him. He was later on picked up by an army truck and reunited with his family. He never forgot how God had been merciful to him.

He settled in Kapurthala in Punjab. He graduated with an MA in History from Chandigarh University. He did teacher training and eventually progressed to becoming a deputy head. In July 1964 he married Daleep. He was encouraged by a colleague to apply to teach in England and so arrived on his own in September 1965. By the second day of arriving he was working in a factory in Shepherds Bush. His landlord did not allow him to cook so for a number of days he laughingly told me he lived on a diet of just bananas! He then spent 5 years working in a post office.

His wife Daleep joined him in March 1966. They had two daughters Baljit Daisy and Prabhjot Lily. By 1968 they had bought and settled in their home in Southall.

Uncle kept his strong desire to teach. So eventually he started a teacher training course in Coventry for 9 months, staying up there for the week and coming home at weekends. He spent 6 years at Thomas Buxton Junior School in Tower Hamlets, East London before coming to North Primary School in Southall where he was a multilingual teacher until he retired in 1997.

What are my memories of Uncle Sukheja?.....

What am I learning about you?

Analysing our 2017 reader survey

Thank you for taking the time to contribute to my recent reader survey. This is only the third time I have undertaken such an exercise in the five years the blog has been going. That is way too infrequently! I have found it a useful way to understand you, my readers. I think in the long run you will also benefit as it will help me improve my blog, writing and podcasts. I intend to repeat the survey more regularly so as to keep what I write about and present as relevant and helpful to you as possible.


In December 2017 we had 93  responses from the 483 email addresses in our database. Although these are relatively low numbers (19%) they do provide a baseline from which we can build on to develop an understanding of who is reading and how to improve content.

Summarising the results gives the following 'reader profile':

Podcast #037: Making sense of technology

Learning to flourish in a digital world

Technology impacts and influences our lives in increasingly powerful and profound ways. How do I make sense of technology in a way that truly enhances and enriches my life? This podcast is a continuation of my conversation with author Pete Nicholas on the book he has co-authored with Ed Brooks called "Virtually Human: Flourishing In a Digital World".

In our earlier discussion (Podcast #036: Virtually Human Part 1) we looked at while new technologies hold awesome potential for good there is another side to them. Surprisingly the essence of technology is not technological, but what it truly means to be human. When we engage unthinkingly with the online world there is a danger we begin to become like the technologies we use, relating and thinking without human connection. We fall short of what we were made to be and become virtually human.

So technology is much more than just a tool by which we engage with the world. It also changes us in both subtle and profound ways. Those who uncritically promote technology are keen to tell a story of never ending human flourishing and progress (For an example see the short Facebook video: The Things That Connect Us). However, this is far too simplistic. We need to both affirm the good that technology provides us while at the same time being realistic about its limitations to change basic human nature.

On this podcast we particularly focus on how technology impacts our identity and relationships. Do join us as we discuss:

  • How digital technologies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram enable us to re-imagine and re-create who we are. What kind of online identity am I going to create and how much is it in integrity with who I am offline?
  • How Rene Descartes from 1639 has deeply affected our understanding of identity and the way we think of ourselves in the online world. We find ourselves caught between two conflicting narratives of 'be true to yourself' and at the same time 'shape yourself as you have no ultimate identity'.
  • While there is a very positive outworking of this in empowering someone like Malala Yousafzai to have a global voice in influencing and challenging the oppression of women there is another side in terms of raising questions around what ultimately is identity that can lead to loss of a sense of belonging anywhere.
  • How John Calvin from 1589  gives us a framework for understanding identity. We are made for worship - that is to find our ultimate identity and fulfilment in someone, something or some idea. We cannot stop ourselves from worshipping and the implications that has for us.
  • How social media has affected our relationships. There has been huge benefits in being able to connect with people from around the world and find out what friends and family are doing.
  • At the same time, quoting psychologist Sherry Turkle, "we have moved from conversation to connection, from talking to texting, from solitude to isolation, from interdependent to interconnected". (p.104)
  • How big business and huge amounts of investment and research is undertaken to make sure we stay connected to technology as much as possible.
  • The seriousness of these challenges when you consider how many Silicon Valley executives send their children to schools with a no device policy.
  • How technology makes it so easy to separate ourselves from people we don't like or whose views we disagree with. We lose the ability to work through problems we have with others and instead take the path of least resistance by dismissing them from our lives.
  • Why we need to learn how to dialogue with people who hold views different to our own without getting abusive or dismissive or demonising them.

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #025: Is there a difficult person in your life?

Discovering Silence and Solitude

More details on the book are available at the Virtually Human website here.

What questions and comments does our discussion raise for you?

Looking back with gratitude on 2017

7 questions to learn from and grow forward

As I get older I'm always amazed by how fast time flies. Another year has so quickly come and gone. Its sometimes hard to remember where all the time has gone! The end of one year provides the opportunity to reflect on all that has happened. From those reflections we can explore life lessons and patterns of behaviour we want to change or perhaps continue with. By doing this we can find wisdom that can be useful for the future.

I am grateful to Michael Hyatt for the following questions to appraise the previous year and look ahead to the coming year. I will share my answers with you to help you think through your own thoughts about 2017 as it comes to an end.

I would strongly encourage you to also write down your own answers and not just keep them in your head. As we write our thoughts begin to disentangle themselves and bring clarity in a way that is otherwise just not possible. Or as someone has said, "The softest pencil is more powerful than the sharpest mind." It becomes even more powerful as we find a way to store what we learn over several years at a time.  As philosopher and poet George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Repeating the past without change then condemns us to repeating the same mistakes or doing the same things expecting a different result.

As I share the questions below I have added some of my own reflections to help you think through your own experiences. If you want more clarification from me feel free to ask in the comments section below. My hope for you as I indulge myself in this way publicly is that you will be prompted to have insights that will put you in a stronger position for whatever this new year has in store for you....

Why being thankful is not just for Christmas

Have you done your Christmas shopping? Are you still wondering what to get for your loved ones? While this 2 minute video is somewhat a little bit too cheesy for some people, I think it does illustrate an important point about giving and gratitude that is so easy to overlook. While the characters may for some of us have over-exaggerated emotions, the sentiments they convey are so easy to take for granted.

The point is that it is incredibly easy to take for granted other people and all the things we enjoy and have access to around us. They appear ordinary and commonplace. With that sense of ordinariness comes a sense of entitlement and subconsciously feeling or thinking we somehow deserve or have earned everything we have. The reality is that most of the basic details of our existence, from the family we were born in, to the place, time and circumstances of our birth are completely out of our control. We had no say or choice in any of these fundamental things about who we are. But what if we could look at everything around us as a gift?

Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology in the United States, has spent many years researching the link between gratitude and wellbeing. He has been able to show from research that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. He has also highlighted how when you practice gratitude you are less likely to feel stressed, envious or negative. Gratitude also has the effect of enabling you to be able to appreciate other people's accomplishments without feeling resentful that they have something you don't.

According to Professor Robert Emmons for gratitude to be effective it needs to cover 3 key areas:....