Seeking Purpose and Connection in Disconnected Times

Many of us feel a sense of disconnection and unease in the post-pandemic world. Where do we find everyday guidance?

Many of us feel a sense of disconnection and unease in the post-pandemic world. “Something's not right,” countless friends confessed to me, “but I don't know what to do about it.”

I call it the “Weirding of the World.”

In a society that favors spectacles of pain, endless optimization, and infinite productivity, the most revolutionary thing for them to do might be: “Nothing.” Literal nothing. Sit. Nap. Laugh with a friend.

But beyond that, where do we find everyday guidance?

The Timeless Wisdom of Humanistic and Spiritual Values

Across diverse traditions—from the Abrahamic faiths to Buddhism to Stoicism—we find common threads of humanistic and spiritual values. Many ancient philosophies offer guideposts for living with integrity and meaning, some without even imposing rigid dogmas.

I'm hardly a fan of big religions and angry commanding gods, so I'm simply inviting you to ponder, “What do I believe in?” and then embark on a journey of exploration.

At their core, many ethical frameworks that have been around for millennia, like Buddhist precepts, Christian commandments, or Stoic principles, all just say “Don't be a jerk!”

I'd make that the first ethical principle to commit to. It's full of jerks around, so try not to be one (once you find out how, please teach me.)

Then we can add stuff like don't kill, don't lie, don't steal, don't put oil in the boiling water for pasta, don't cross the streams, don't talk about the Fight Club, etc. etc.

But seriously, committing to an ethical set of principles helps us recognize that there are some things that we can control, and some that we can't. They remind us that even in a chaotic world, we have the power to choose how we show up in each moment, and what to focus our attention on.

I can't point exactly what those are for you because it's your exploration. If you need a prepackaged one, maybe start reading some stone tables.

Embracing the Struggle to Live Your Values

When I first considered deliberate commitment to any ethical principle, my immediate reaction was a mix of relief in trusting something bigger than my immediate self. And my second reaction was imposter syndrome panic, making me feel like I wasn't good enough to even attempt living up to any lofty ideals.

Passage at the Art Institute. Chicago, USA. 2024.

That's an easy Ego trick to fall into, especially when you look around and see so many others (at high social levels and among spiritual leaders) disregarding any set of values.

But then I realized: these values are not meant as impossible standards of perfection. It's not like commandments were imposed on me (I escaped that cult in my teenage years.) Ethical principles are just tools to help you navigate life's complexities with intention and humility.

Falling short is inevitable, but what matters is how we respond: Do we let missteps paralyze us, or do we keep reaching for our highest selves?

Attuning to Ancient Wisdom in Modern Times

If you feel the Weirding of the World you are lucky because that's the first step to feeling that there's also something else out there, some core ethical truths that you can feel and explore.

Like a familiar song lyric that strikes a new chord the millionth time you hear it, this timeless wisdom waits for us to tune in. It's always broadcasting, all around you.

I was recently driving out of the city with a friend when a rock station started playing The Who's famous “Who Are You”. As the chorus of “Whooo are you? Who, who? Who, who?” repeated for minutes while I was driving, I found myself entranced, “Yeah, who am I, really? What is this song really saying? This is genius!”

Yet at the same moment, my friend blurted out, “this is the stupidest song ever.”

I laughed hard, both at myself seeing meaning where there may be none, and at my friend being blind to this potential truth.

But then again, maybe not. Perhaps not only you need to be ready for a truth, but also a truth needs to be ready to reveal itself to you. A gradual, reciprocal reveal from something you have experienced a million times, and you seek.

So the first day, the basic principle of “not killing” may mean to you “Hey, I'm a saint! I didn't murder anyone today!” But fast-forward a decade, and suddenly, you're imagining sea turtles with your plastic bottles lodged in their throats. So stopping from buying plastic bottles supports your exploration of “not killing: Sea Turtles edition.”

That's seeing deeper into an ethical principle you felt and committed to.

The Grace of Imperfect Commitment

You will never flawlessly embody your chosen values—and that's alright.

In a society where many aren't concerned with the consequences of their actions, the intentionality of deliberate commitment to anything is everything. Give yourself grace to stumble. When the Weirding of the World feels too heavy to bear alone, remember that there are kindred spirits who also feel called to live by a deeper sense of purpose. Seek those people, let the power of shared intentionality uplift and sustain you.

There's nowhere new to look for guidance, the song is already playing all around and inside you: just ask yourself, “What do I believe in? What do I commit to?”

The search for what to do is like the one for a pair of glasses or the remote: the moment you stop wondering where your path is, you're walking it.

Ready to make more by doing less?

Unlearn everything you thought you knew, find tools that won’t turn you into their tool, and discover why being too efficient is just inefficient.

Oops! There was an error sending the email, please try again.

Awesome! Now check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription.