I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 7 years old. I didn't waver on that path and graduated from veterinary school at
the University of Georgia in 1974. But after 12 years in practice, I found I could hardly stand going into the office each
day. I was frustrated, tired and worn-out by the constant stresses of practice. On top of it all, my work stress had a profoundly
negative influence on my personal life. I felt disjointed and disconnected from those I most cared about. The pain of burnout
became so bad I abused alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb myself.
It was a classic case of mistaken identity—I'd misidentified veterinary medicine as my life purpose.
Getting back up again
The long road back was arduous, yet well worth the effort, because along the way I learned some important lessons that have
shaped the rest of my life. One of the most important ones is the realization that a life purpose is never just about what
we're supposed to do with our lives. Our life purpose is more about who we are as spiritual beings and what we came to this
life to be and experience.
I recall one veterinarian who needed my assistance some time ago. He had been in practice for more than 20 years, but over
time had grown bored and disenchanted with it. He discovered he just needed to clarify his life purpose and in turn, redesign
his practice to be a reflection of that purpose. He created a new vision for his hospital and vowed to be an advocate for
pets and people.
It's a simple recipe to "cook up" our own life purpose—a purpose that becomes a powerful force in shaping our lives and can
last a lifetime while still providing plenty of room to play and express ourselves. The ingredients include our vision of
what's possible, our core values and who we are. You can begin to cook up your own batch of life purpose by asking and answering
> What is the vision or possibility you see for yourself and the world?
> What are the core values you stand for and are willing to give your life for?
> Who are you? What can people count on from you?
Remember, we're all human beings, not human doings. Don't forget that when you're "cooking up" your own life purpose.
Dr. Brad Swift is the co-founder of the Life on Purpose Institute and author of Life on Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired