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In search of purpose: Why climb Mount Khuiten?

<Photo: towards Mount Khuiten, Mongolia - credit Ace Adventure Expeditions>

Mount Khuiten, the highest mountain in Mongolia, has been listed by National Geographic as one of the world's Top 10 Climbs. I am planning to climb Mount Khuiten in August 2017 and as a result have inevitably attracted that most difficult question in life, which consists of only one word - why?

Are you climbing Mount Khuiten because:

- it's on National Geographic's list? No.

- the expedition needed a random person to make up the numbers? Absolutely not.

- you want to see Kazakhstan from the peak? No and there are easier ways to see Kazakhstan.

Whether it's climbing a mountain, getting a degree, applying for a job or simply life itself, we ask ourselves why. Why are we doing it? What's the purpose of life? From a literal perspective, purpose can be easily defined - it's the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. As we dig a little deeper and look at the synonyms and antonyms of purpose, it gets more interesting. The synonyms for purpose includes - aim, intention, meaning, resolve and intent. OK got it. More of the same. Then we have the antonyms - vague, meaningless, aimless and unplanned.

Does it mean that if we cannot articulate the purpose for each thing that we are doing, then it's meaningless?

This is where I, like many people in search of purpose, turn to philosophers, divine intervention and words of wisdom from an eclectic mix of luminaries. First up, the philosophers. Here's a sample of quotes from these wise men who walked in gardens and pondered on all great things and small. I guess this is where the saying "lead us down the garden path" comes from. The logic of philosophers can be dizzyfying.

  • A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. - Lao Tzu

  • He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. - Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. - Confucius

Then we have divine intervention, where we quietly ponder words with reverence.

  • The purpose of our lives is to be happy. - Dalai Lama

  • Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it. - Gautama Buddha

  • "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted" - Bible, Job 42:2

And finally we have the luminaries comprising of billionaires, writers, artists and scientists whose advice on purpose are captured in autobiographies and self-help books. We devour them hungrily, hoping that we might extract the nuggets of wisdom within, and be enlightened with untold riches.

  • The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. - Warren Buffett

  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. - Pablo Picasso

  • Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. - Stephen Hawking

Can we distill the essence of purpose from this short collection of thoughts? Purpose - an elusive but innate part of us; we know it's there and continuous effort is needed to draw it out; and we will know it when we find it. So why do I want to climb Mount Khuiten? I will find out when I reach the summit. #alwaysbelieve

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