Success is the First Mountain. Purpose is the Second Mountain.

July 18, 2023

Success is the First Mountain. Purpose is the Second Mountain.

May 29, 2023

David Brooks wrote a book, “The Second Mountain,” a few years ago that aptly defined some of the fundamental principles of our MEA program. He suggests that during the first half of our adult life, we often become fixated on personal goals based on family and cultural influences.

In many ways, Brooks proposed that our midlife crisis is when we realize that the first mountain wasn’t as meaningful as we’d hoped. That’s when the second mountain comes into sight.

To summarize the book in one sentence, “The Second Mountain” argues that the key to living a meaningful, fulfilling, and happy life is not found in the pursuit of self-improvement but instead a life of service to others. While I struggled with the idea that the second era of adulthood has to be a mountain as opposed to a hill, beach, or desert, I particularly appreciate this quote from Brooks, “The first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self; the second mountain is about shedding the ego and losing the self.” This sentiment aligns with Richard Rohr’s and Carl Jung’s perspective that we experience a primary operating system change from our ego to our soul around midlife. Unfortunately, no one has given us an operational manual for this change.

I have an alternative, possibly simpler way to think of the two halves of adulthood. Scaling the first mountain is fueled by a desire for success and, perhaps, accolades. Many people get to the top and feel empty, as in, “Is that all there is to life?” Determining one’s purpose - why you’re here on earth - is the fuel that propels you up that second mountain and into the second half of a meaningful life.

Sounds easy, but what if you’ve misplaced your purpose or never found it in the first place? In that case, ask yourself three questions:

1. What would it look like if I showed up purposeful and optimistic today?

2. What do I feel deeply passionate about (there’s likely a purpose hidden inside)?

3. How might I serve someone beyond myself?

Move into that action-minded, verb-focused approach to purpose, and you may soon find unexpected gifts coming your way (and a lovely, looming mountain).

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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