There’s a plethora of research studies to show that people today are generally more miserable than they were even one or two decades ago. The latest data from the General Social Survey, for example, reveals a “significant decline from the nation’s peak happiness” as compared with measurements in the early 1990s. Also, as documented in the 2019 World Happiness Report, data showed that happiness and life satisfaction levels suddenly dropped after 2012, and that by 2016-2017, both adults and adolescents reported a significant decrease in their happiness. The question: Why are so many of us unhappy and unfulfilled?
According to Blake Mallen, a billion-dollar brand builder and lifestyle entrepreneur in the nutrition sector, the key reason why thousands of people are discontented with life is because they’re not pursuing what they’re really ‘meant to’ do. Instead, they’re stuck on a path of what they think they’re ‘supposed to’ do in order to meet the never-ending expectations of family, friends and society. The consequence: No matter how much they try, they don’t feel fully alive.
“I walked that path for the first 19 years of my life and achieved everything I thought was expected of me—top grades, top school, top honors, top job,” says Mallen, “and then I had a defining moment when a mentor asked why I was doing all that, and my only answer was that it was what I was ‘supposed to’ do.”
It was then Mallen first began to realize that every step he made towards what he thought he was supposed to do, was actually one step further away from what he was meant to do.
“By society’s standards, I was ‘doing everything right’ and had checked off all the boxes of what you’re supposed to do to achieve wealth, success and happiness,” he says. “But here’s the thing: I wasn’t happy. Something was missing. My gut told me I was going down the wrong path, climbing the wrong mountain, chasing the wrong dream. I knew I needed to make a shift.”
Mallen felt pulled to do something else—something that felt more aligned with who he really was, and the impact he wanted to make. So, he stepped off a career path headed towards becoming an attorney and took a leap of faith into entrepreneurship. As a result of consistent desire, focus, grind, and a little bit of grace, Mallen became a self-made millionaire by age 25, and had built a company from an idea birthed out of his college dorm room to a $970 million exit by age 31. Mallen is currently focused on leveraging his past experience to help expand a global health and lifestyle brand revolutionizing the Ketones category.
In his spare time, Mallen hosts the popular ALIVE by Design podcast series (available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Google Podcast) that helps people ‘shift the script’ to pursue the life they are ‘meant to’ live. He is also invited to speak on social media and stages around the world, sharing learnings from his own journey on the topics of entrepreneurship, growth mindset and belief systems, lifestyle design, community-based marketing and strengths-based development.
“I meet so many people all over the world who feel like they’re getting pushed in the wrong direction, but they just don’t know what to do about it. They may be alive, but they don’t feel alive, and that void manifests itself into so many of the universal feelings we hear today like: unfulfillment, discontent, apathy, complacency, uninspired, deflated, burned out, or generally unhappy,” he says. However, Mallen attributes those emotive states as merely symptoms of a much larger problem.
“Most people can feel when something is off, but if they are unaware of what the root issue is, or just don’t know what to do about it, it’s hard to create change. So, many of us just ignore the physical or emotional signs, or even worse, mask or medicate them instead of fixing the root problem.”
Mallen believes the inherent problem can be found in the understanding that the more people try to do what others say they should do, and try to be who others say they should be, the further away they get from what they are truly meant to do, and who they’re truly meant to be. Over time this lack of alignment frustrates, disappoints and drains them. Most people aren’t even aware this is the problem, which makes it so hard to come to the realization they need to make a shift in their life.
This shift from ‘supposed to’ to ‘meant to’ was explained in Mallen’s recent TED Talk, whose message has resonated with people from all walks of life around the globe and is already approaching half a million views.
“As more and more people are waking up to the reality that they’re following a life script that no longer serves them, they’re now starting to ask, ‘well, how do I find what I’m meant to do?’ In fact, it’s the most frequently asked question that comes to me in FB Messenger or my Instagram DM,” he says.
Mallen answers that question with the following practical how-to advice.
Learn to follow your own Life Compass to help you move toward your ‘meant to’.
Mallen describes moving in the direction of your ‘meant to,’ as your True North — doing what you are meant to do, being who you are meant to be, and living the life you are meant to live. And the South end of the compass, or the direction you’re constantly feeling pushed by those around you, is your ‘supposed to.’
Recognize the forces that push you away from your ‘meant to’.
Mallen reveals three powerful forces that can often push you in the wrong direction.
#1 – PEOPLE
The people (parents, teachers, mentors) around us, usually in our earlier years, have massive influence on one’s direction. Mallen explains that a lot of times these well-intentioned people gave us a prescription for success (“the Script) for how we’re supposed to live that many are still following today.
#2 –PUBLIC SYSTEMS
Public Systems, such as school systems, corporate systems, political systems and the society around us are put in place to reinforce the Script for us to follow. In his TED Talk, Mallen explains the origin of these scripts and how they’ve shaped (and are currently shaping) the world today.
#3 – PROPAGANDA
Mallen says that a big force that influences us every day is propaganda, or bias information that is used to further a motive or agenda. With today’s technology keeping us so connected, our phones and screens can quickly become doors to instant distraction, often pushing us in a direction opposite of the way we want to go.
Mallen advises to always reflect on whether any of these three things (people, public systems, propaganda) are influencing what you’re thinking, doing and who you are being or becoming. If so, then it’s a clear sign your compass is navigating you the wrong way.
Find your True North.
Once you are able to recognize that you are going the wrong way (South), the next step is to learn how to move the right way. True North is your ‘meant to,’ and according to Mallen, the following three indicators show you’re on the right track.
We all have within us our own potential (all that you’re capable of!). To pursue it, we must tap into our natural talents and gifts. Find your lane, and then stay in your lane. Mallen recommends using the StrengthsFinder assessment by the Gallup organization as a great place to start identifying your natural talents.
Passion is that internal spark that ignites when we pursue the things we love. Aligning your potential with your passion is not only the key to achieving excellence, but being happy along the way.
While your passion is about what you love, your purpose is about what you can do to serve or impact others. What value can you contribute to the people around you?
Mallen describes the intersection of your potential, passion and purpose as your ‘meant to’ (True North). When those are in alignment, it typically means you’re moving toward what you’re meant to do. The more you move towards it, the more likely your symptoms of frustration, discontentment and unhappiness begin to dissipate and get replaced with energy, optimism and excitement. It’s then when you can go from being alive to feeling alive, and for Mallen, that’s the whole point.