It was Socrates who said ‘I know that I know nothing’ — are you ready to say the same?

All humans are born with an innate purpose. This is certainly my belief and seems to be backed up by the fact that we all have different interests and abilities. This innate purpose, or divine or universal will, as it also called is born out of nature, as opposed to personal will, which is the product of nurture. Purpose or universal will is the engine that drives us; personal will the place we want to get to. It is Being vs doing; I am vs I want.

Knowledge is a tool of purpose. Take Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay, both it seems born with the necessary ingredients, however, for this self-expression to end up on a plate, they also had to acquire considerable knowledge with regard to technique, flavors etc. We might conclude by saying knowledge resides in the head, whilst the effortless component, the purpose, resides in the metaphorical heart. The former is all second-hand, learned information. The latter, something we are born with.

we might be forgiven for thinking we are ‘brand new’; but a new-born baby is the result of an unbroken chain of life that has been evolving for the last 3.5 billion years

Something to consider: if you are struggling you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins or (or insert name of wildly successful human) probably put in as many 18-hour days as anyone, but I doubt they ever considered it work.

Personal will is driven by knowledge, mostly unconscious knowledge, about who we think we are and who we need to be. To give a simple example, many people, despite any supporting evidence, believe that being rich will make them happy. This knowledge or information, in the form of beliefs, drives their personal will even though for the majority of the time they are unaware of its influence.

Knowledge, according to the dictionary, is facts, information and skills acquired through experience or education. Knowledge then seems to be derived from external sources. Purpose, by contrast, is that intuition (inner tutor) that springs up from within. With this in mind, it was interesting to learn that the word education comes from the Latin word ‘educare’, which means to bring forth or draw out.

‘I am a Christian or a democrat or a vegan’ versus ‘I believe in Christ, democratic policies and eating a vegan diet.’

What this points to is that education should be about discovering what is in us, to draw out our natural interests so we can pursue a life of purpose. Alas, modern education became about putting information in and training us to respond to a bell, without, it seems, any nod to individuality; often achieving little, other than to suffocate the beautiful self-expression — the life — which dwells within us all.

Taking a closer look at our early years, we might think we are ‘brand new’ as we emerge from our mother’s womb; but a new-born baby is the result of an unbroken chain of life that has been evolving for the last 3.5 billion years. The baby knows exactly what it is here for and what it needs to do; but instead of letting it get on with it, we spend the ensuing decades thinking we have a better plan; hence our struggle.

Practical knowledge in service of purpose is valuable. Knowledge in the form of beliefs and opinions is not, unless those opinions and beliefs are held lightly and not conflated with our identity; for example, ‘I am a Christian or a democrat or a vegan’ versus ‘I believe in Christ, democratic policies and eating a vegan diet.’

Just think of the last time you walked into a room full of strangers, and how quickly you limited the potential with beliefs about who you should and shouldn’t talk to.

When we are born, we are nothing but possibility and potential. Then we start forming beliefs about ourselves and the world around us as we begin to be conditioned by our environment. These stories — I’m this way, the world is that way — become what we refer to as our ‘comfort zone’. In reality, all these beliefs (stories) really achieve is to limit us. Just think of the last time you walked into a room full of strangers, and how quickly you limited the potential with beliefs about who you should and shouldn’t talk to.

How closely your beliefs conform to reality will generally determine the quality of your life. If you haven’t had a particularly productive childhood those beliefs may well be distorted, such as ‘I’m not loveable’ or ‘the world isn’t a safe place’. Then, without grounding yourself, you will likely grow up ‘in your head’ and continue to think these beliefs are actually who you are. This is why people who identify with their beliefs get so agitated when they are challenged. As far as they are concerned, you are literally kicking at the very foundations of who they think they are.

At this point we stop doing what we thought would make us happy, and start choosing what we know will make us happy.

This was demonstrated by the neurologist Sarah Gimbel who took a sample group of people with strong political identities and wired them up to neurotransmitters. When their beliefs were challenged they registered the same brain activity as they would if they were being attacked by a large bear: they were literally fearing for their lives.

Consider that the quality of your life right now is a direct reflection of everything you think you know. Yet even if we’re not, to use the jingoistic phrasing of the self-help marketer, ‘living the life of our dreams’ we still tend to cling on to our knowledge, even though it clearly isn’t making us happy. In fact, it is usually the case that the less happy we are the more we cling.

If your purpose is strong enough, however, this will often precipitate some life-changing event — bankruptcy, divorce, midlife crisis, or all three — when nature finally kicks nurture’s butt. At this point we stop doing what we thought would make us happy, and start choosing what we know will make us happy.

But worry not, once you start getting comfortable with who you are or, more accurately, what you are, you will naturally cease holding on to what you know. But this takes time, and is why teenagers know everything and why Socrates knew nothing.