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Aaron Hill served in 45 Commando Royal Marines and 22 SAS for a total of 10 years, seeing operations and gaining experiences from across the globe during a very "busy" period of service. He is now an entrepreneur and resilience coach.

"Where do you find your purpose?

I don’t think there is anything to find.

It already comes uniquely woven into us.

The end….

Well maybe not quite the end.

What I do know is that purpose is not born from chasing validation, nor is it revealed when coming from a place of need. I’m a living example of that.

But before you read any further, I ask of you this small courtesy, read this piece, not through my lens, but yours. Rather than reading to judge, disagree or even agree with my choice of words on your screen, let this spark your own insights and curiosity.

My hope for you, is that you have your own realisations about your life. That you learn something about yourself. Because it is that internal feeling that can give clues to the purpose that is already uniquely and beautifully part of the fabric that makes you, you.

Purpose comes in small gentle waves that are easy to miss, it’s the magic that happens daily but we forget to acknowledge, because no one taught us and … life.

My brief story is an extreme example of hunting for things out there, to make me feel something in here, we all have our own moments of that …

… delaying satisfaction until the promotion,

not relaxing until after the next phase of the project,

dismissing our accomplishments compared to our partners,

feeling special when we find that one person ... and a thousand more.

After years of self-reflection and discovery, being coached, getting asked some tough questions and getting to really know myself, I can recognise that a large part of me as a young boy, had a burning desire to be acknowledged. In spite of coming from a loving and supporting family, who only ever encouraged me and championed me, I grew up with a perception that in order to be loved and accepted, I had to prove myself by doing difficult and challenging things.

I failed most of my exams at school, I wasn’t inspired to learn at that age and so a large part of me felt like a failure. I felt that I was a failure, not that I had failed some exams.

Read that again, I felt I was a failure, NOT that I had failed some exams.

Anything come up for you? Just thought I'd ask …

Where I was starting to excel, thrive and get external validation, was through sports and doing physical things. Football, rugby and mountain biking gave me temporary relief, like the cool, deep brook that washed away the sticky summer heat. I could allow myself to feel like I belonged. My efforts were recognised and even encouraged. Although a large part of that fuel was fear and frustration, I knew no different.

As a skinny insecure lad, I didn't really do those sports because I loved them or enjoyed them at the time, I did them because I felt seen and valued. Which was great, now I had a formula to find my place in the world.

Push as hard as I could, push some more and then make sure people saw it.

This short sighted but potent mindset set me on a path of:

joining the military in the form of the Royal Marine Commandos,

passing the UK Special Forces selection process to serve with 22 SAS,

completing numerous Ironman triathlons and various forms of mountain bike racing.

Some may consider the above list as impressive, yet my message is not of the hero type who fears nothing, quite the opposite. My message is to speak of courage and compassion, especially towards myself, after a few potentially life changing moments, both as a child and as a young man.

It’s about the buckets of acceptance I can show myself, which whilst it won’t change what has happened, it shifted the perception I hold of those events and then subsequently of myself, but that is another story and a clue.

Without going into too much detail this time, a summary of some of those stories are as follows:

Being ridiculed by a teacher for being slow.

Wetting myself on stage as a 10 year old during a school play doing a recorder solo.

Reacting to a firefight in a way that I thought was cowardly, whilst on operations during service.

My story to share is that we are normal people, who go through normal things, humiliation, fear, doubt, stress and judgement and that we are also powerful beyond measure, each in our own way.

For what it’s worth, I can now acknowledge that the things I did were impressive, they make up part of who I am, but they are not all I am. I consider myself an average lad who just happened to do a few extraordinary things.

It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are and how we show up, there is another clue.

Despite my efforts and sacrifices, I never found myself satisfied. Funny old thing. The recognition was fleeting and impossible to hold. It felt shallow, uncomfortably false and shamefully slippery. Until only a few years ago, I was embarrassed about my military past, I was certain I was the odd one out, I didn’t fit in or belong.  

But I don’t think like that now.

I have changed my relationship with myself, my perspective of past events and have peeled back the layers that make me who I am and I speak of that, in the hope others may do the same for themselves.

And it is in that process, that when we gently strip away the layers we start to get to the “who we are,”  and the patterns and clues that point us towards our purpose, another clue.

Purpose shines ever bright, always there, waiting to be acknowledged and carefully nurtured.

Revealing purpose is all internal and often highly uncomfortable. We are not used to standing in front of our own image to explore the dark spots of our thoughts, emotions or feelings. We assume that in those spaces are monsters, when really, most of the time they are not. It’s in there that we find the golden threads of our joy, character and strengths.  

But the discomfort and overwhelm of the clenched stomach, dry mouth, sweaty palms, fidgety legs and trembling lips, are enough to persuade us that there is nothing worth looking for there. So another day passes where we don’t get to know ourselves or the gift that lies within. For most of us that energy is rarely drawn out of us or encouraged, at least that is my experience. So when we do meet discomfort, we often flee in the opposite direction, looking to drown, distract or dismiss the very feelings that are trying to serve us.

So as a 44 year old man, I can now see and feel my purpose. To stand up as a leader and speak my truth. Not the truth, my truth.

It is this purpose to serve that gives me the courage to commit to writing here alongside so many interesting, inspiring and accomplished people, despite the emotions that come up within.

My purpose is to help people grow, to see their own potential and power. I happen to do that through coaching and I like the word resilience, so I am a resilience coach.

What is my truth? To speak and act from a place of compassion and courage, to look for inspiration and provoke progression.

And I hope on some level, that there is the smallest spark of something within you, that you find the courage to live into your purpose, by taking the first and smallest step you can, today, from where you are.  

What does your gut say about purpose after reading this?

A few final thought on purpose:

It requires a support network of like minded people that will hold us to our higher standard.

It is peeling back the layers of who we are to reveal the gift that is already there.

Clarity of purpose comes post challenge with hindsight and reflection.

At best it’s underneath the assumptions and hand me down beliefs.

That it’s a journey rather than a destination, it’s a guide.

Purpose is presence, not the past or unknown future.

Purpose evolves and changes, as we do, it grows.

Purpose is recognising we are enough as we are.

Purpose is courageous and compassionate.

Others don’t have the answer, we do.

It’s uncomfortable and challenging.

It’s letting go and accepting.

It’s based on serving.

It is not out there.

It’s joyful.

It’s in you.

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