Living a Life of Purpose: Breaking Away From the Mental Shackles

If you ask a child of 12 or 13 what she wants to do with her life, it’s a futile exercise. At that age, most children don’t quite know what they want. It’s all about the shiny object of the moment. But we ask them nevertheless. I’ve seen this happen often where I come from in Asia. In many Asian households the child grows up wanting to be a doctor, engineer, or a lawyer simply because of the ingrained belief that by becoming one of these you will be successful. Many talented children give up things they are good at, things they are passionate about—and the world loses a brilliant musician, artist, or marine biologist.

When a person is able to marry their occupation with their vocation or calling in life, often it is because a door opened in their mind, and walking through it filled their soul and excited their spirit. Hence, their purpose was born.

Bear in mind, this door doesn’t open by itself. More often than not, we stumble onto something big through movement, not stagnation. It is cardinally important that you never stop seeking. There is no getting around this rule. If an explorer goes to a forest and stumbles upon a gold mine, it is because he got there by starting the exploration. Not just dreaming about it.

Possibly the biggest impediment to finding and living our purpose, is the mental shackles many of us are tied down to. This is usually a result of being programmed to follow and believe a certain set of norms set forth by family, culture, or society. In many ways, these norms are like blinders we put on horses, to cut out the peripheral vision.

Nature, in her innate wisdom, has designed the human body in such a way that if we pay attention, we can learn some important life lessons from it. Here are two important aspects of the human body from which I personally derive my life’s philosophies.

Forward Movement

The human body is designed to propel us forward, never backward. Walking backward doesn’t allow you to see where you are going, which can be dangerous. The body loses its balance as you try to walk backwards. This also applies to life in general.

If you want to find your purpose and discover who you are meant to be, you cannot regress. You have to focus on the future and keep seeking. The future may seem uncertain, but you cannot keep running back to the past because it’s familiar. It is our life’s purpose that propels us to keep moving forward, even when life gives us no reason to.

Peripheral Vision

Just because you are looking forward, doesn’t mean you lose sight of what is around you. Our eyes, though focused directly ahead on what we are looking at, are bolstered by a 180-degree view that fills in the background with what we are not focused on.

The areas we are not focused on are sometimes far more important than we realize. It gives us a depth of perception and an awareness of things approaching from the side. We are able to successfully steer forward only when we are also aware of the opportunities and threats around us. Otherwise, we are left only with tunnel vision.

I don’t deny that tunnel vision has its purpose, but it needs to be used selectively. When one needs to focus on an activity such as sharp shooting, then your mind objectively shuts out all peripheral vision. This is an important skill to develop so you can build concentration. But when tunnel vision is enforced by virtue of the metaphorical blinders put on by society, by the school system, or by other aspects of the environment we grow up in, then the peripheral vision that helps us balance what we need to see in life, is lost.

What if you could remove those blinders so you could see the world as it is? When we rely on the enforced tunnel vision, they become our shackles. These shackles inhibit us from recognizing our purpose in life.

Someone once told me a story about elephants in a circus. A man passing by saw these huge creatures being held in place only by a small rope tied to their front leg. It was obvious the elephants could at anytime break away from their bonds, but for some reason they did not.

He asked a trainer nearby why the elephants just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” the trainer said, “when they were very young and much smaller, we used the same rope to tie them and at that age it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging on to a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we have been led to believe that we would fail?

To learn more about living a life of purpose and overcoming limiting beliefs, please get a copy of my new book Two Minutes from the Abyss, available as an e-book on Amazon.


Vijay Eswaran is a successful entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist and the author of the best-selling book In the Sphere of Silence. His new book Two Minutes from the Abyss published by Networking Times Press is now available as an eBook on Amazon


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.