How To Use Awe Inspiring Moments To Find Your Purpose And Forge Your Identity

How To Use Awe Inspiring Moments To Find Your Purpose And Forge Your Identity

While we are going about our lives, something stops in our tracks.

I remember the day I stood before the Matterhorn, its majestic peak piercing the heavens.

But this story isn’t just about mountains; it’s about the heights we can reach within ourselves.

While we are going about our lives, something holds us in its thrall for an endless moment.

When I first saw the Matterhorn, I was in the presence of something powerful and transcendent. My gaze moved all over the mountain while my body stood stock still.

Right there, I decided I would climb it one day. The decision was not one for my bucket list, but it became a part of my life, a part of me.

Those who have experienced such awe-inspiring moments will know how they drives us to lean into deeper feelings. They resonates with our ability to continually pursue a goal with the knowledge that it’s the right goal for us.

If you ask me to analyse how I reached this decision, I can’t tell you.

That is the way with feelings of awe.

It’s a mystery how they can and cannot tell us some things. And when they should or should not serve as a compass for guiding our actions.

Awe-worthy moments like these, without context or the constraint of time, evoke emotions hidden deepest in our minds and give us the push we need.

To find our purpose and to see who we are.

Tying Identity and Purpose

As kids, we are often asked, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s never who you want to be.

You are fighting a losing battle when you are forced to define yourself by WHAT. You are stripped of an identity as soon as the WHAT goes away.

Try responding this way to someone you meet for the first time, and when they ask you what you do, say, “I try to be happy”.

Tell me if you don’t get strange looks.

You might have tied your purpose to ‘being a happy person’. But the expectation is of ‘being a financial accountant who is a happy person”.

Reactions like these question everything you thought you knew about yourself.

When people are forced to abandon an identity they held for a long time, they struggle to embrace their new selves.

This feeling of being tied to a ‘WHAT’ identity — a phenomenon called identity paralysis — leaves people feeling angry, frustrated, and hopeless about their situations.

You lose the courage to imagine what a different future could look like for you.

We cannot do away with identities. They are at the core of who we are.

But if we anchor them to why we do what we do or to values that we cherish rather than the things we do, we begin a process to discover our identity and purpose.

And ourselves.

Tying Success and Purpose

Society has a set of criteria to declare someone successful – wealth, status, and privilege, among others. Being happy, content, or living on your terms does not make that cut.

As a young person, your parents or peers impose their identity constructs on you. This limits your mindset to what you are capable of, what you want to achieve or what you want to experience.

You seldom get a say in deciding it.

As teenagers and eventually adults, everyone needs to take many active steps to overcome whatever biases or limitations they have been subject to.

We must discover that ‘I’ can also be about what I believe in. We need to reexamine our belief systems in new contexts. All the time, over our lives.

In short, we need to move on from our old selves. And reimagine our new selves.

Why Awe

As we evolve, we carry certain mental models of the world for a long time.

“This is how New York feels like.”

“Here is how pizza is made and served.”

“This is how I will lead my life.”

When new information is thrown at us (constantly nowadays), we need to assimilate this information with our existing models.

Our models get challenged in ways we never thought possible. And with a frequency we are uncomfortable with.

In this scenario, we need an open mind to avoid the model-information conflict and its ongoing friction.

Awe has the quality and the ability to get you to set aside objections your mental model has with the new information.

When you feel something so powerful and transcendent, you are lost to everyone, including yourself.

Try to remember that sunset with a loved one. Time flew, you barely realized when it became dark. Not a word was spoken but you had a million conversations with yourself.

Your first reaction when you reached a summit. You did it. Against all odds. Beating your own tired body. To see the outrageous magnificent of nature, laid out as a feast. You forgot thirst, hunger and fatigue. And simply gazed and gazed at the interminable peaks jutting from the mist.

Or even when you heard beautiful music, a melodious voice. You closed your eyes, felt your body lift with the music, take you somewhere else. You saw a sunny day, smelt freshly cut grass, held hands with your beloved as you ran across the meadow.

The moments felt otherworldly.

I am not an accomplished mountaineer by any means. I don’t have experience with hard rock scrambles on steep terrain. And I am not fast enough to run a sub 2-hour half marathon.

What is this audacity that enables me to imagine I will climb the Matterhorn soon?

This is the power of awe. It leaves you in an altered mental state and with a mind which is receptive and accepting.  

A mind that is open to seeing yourself in a different light.

Using the Moment

The vastness of the awe-inspiring experience lets you travel in time. You are transported along a temporal horizon – what is this new thing I am experiencing?

How do I integrate it with my existing understanding of the world and find a place for myself?

While my description of the moment is three sentences long, these thoughts pass through your mind at the speed of light.

There is a transition process where you commit to something bigger than what you thought you could be.

The awe-worthy moment itself is transient. But it is delightful to realise that this is not an emotion that wells up and dissipates.

This moment changes our nervous system and rewires us to access new abilities deep within ourselves. The ones we never knew about.

Today’s environments are competitive and we often feel vulnerable about how much can be taken away from us quickly. And yet, we are expected to compare and benchmark ourselves against a social construct.

The awe-inspiring moment is the real breakthrough. It is an entry point to defining our identity in the new mental space we occupy.

That is the right time to define your milestones and abandon the constructs that constrain.

As you navigate life’s twists and turns, remember that awe is your compass.

In awe, we find our purpose; in purpose, we discover our true identity.

Let the moments of wonder shape your path, and you’ll find a life richer than you ever imagined.

In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke,

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.”

2 Replies to “How To Use Awe Inspiring Moments To Find Your Purpose And Forge Your Identity”

  1. This is by far one of your best pieces from all that I have read.You are an accomplished writer as accomplished can be in that words flow at the same pace as your thoughts. It is as you think.
    To be in awe of something / someone / space in time truly leaves one in altered state of mind and consciousness.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.