What is your life’s purpose?
To help other people break their routines and discover the beauty of personal growth that can only occur outside of comfort zones.
How are you living your purpose?
At the age of 36, I retired from the corporate world and jumped into the unknown world of self-discovery. For the past 17 years I have traveled the world, given countless seminars, written a book, and shared my experience with anyone who will listen.
Growth does not happen inside of the cocoon of comfort where many of us spend most of our time. The repellant that keeps us inside the outer edge is fear. The first step to breaking through this artificial barrier is to shred routines. Take a moment to evaluate the past 30 days of your life and note the glaring similarities that happen over and over. Make a list of the top five and strive to replace them with new experiences. This can be as easy as driving a different route to work or as bold as quitting your job and following your passion. Making the change is key to being in life instead of sleepwalking through life.
I try to lead by example. In 2012, I decided to visit Spain and walk 500 miles on the ancient pilgrimage route named the Camino de Santiago. I had never been to Spain, never slept in hostels, never hiked more than 10 miles in a single day, and never faced such constant uncertainty. The walk was a life-bending experience that resulted in my first book, A Million Steps.
The book led to public speaking and exposure to many new opportunities to dive into the unknown. One time, I was speaking at an event and the hostess invited me to join her on a walk to Bhutan. I had never heard of the country and knew very little about Buddhism. Six months later, I was one of nine people on a multi-week hike through the sacred Himalayas.
Three years ago, a woman who had read my book contacted me on Facebook. She is a fellow Camino pilgrim and understood my interest in travel. Her message was an invite to Rishikesh India, where she was in service at an ashram. I looked up the city and noted that this was the location The Beatles chose for their iconic journey to India. Good enough for George, Ringo, Paul and John means good enough for me! One month later, I found myself on the banks of the Ganges River enjoying nightly Hindu festivities and daily yoga classes.
Life is very short and getting shorter all the time. When taking the first of a million steps in Spain, the end seemed to be impossible. Let’s say you have 82 years to live; that’s just shy of 30,000 days. Pull out your calculator and figure out where you are on the path of life. The time to start living life on your terms is today!!
How did you find your purpose?
Alcoholism runs deep in my family. As a serial overachiever, I dove into the party scene in my very early teens. In 2001, my father was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with fatal alcoholic hepatitis. A few days prior to his death, I made a promise to myself that I would stop drinking. It took about a year for the fog to lift, but the clarity was well worth the wait.
When I stopped drinking, the reflections were quite astounding. I started thinking and feeling again. While stuck in the fog of alcohol, I had no ability to see that it completely permeated my life. I was like a person wrapped in a big wad of blankets who could not feel the chill of winter due to the insulation. Alcohol prevented feelings from penetrating my head, heart, and soul. Booze infiltrated 99% of social occasions and was usually a precursor to most activities. What else would one do at a tailgate party? Dinner without wine…are you kidding? Friday night…bring it on. I think alcohol halted my emotional development in my early teenage years. At the end of the fog-clearing stage, I began to grow as a person. This personal journey is much more fulfilling than booze, and it has no end.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Most people live life in a manner that defers happiness to a future time or event. We accept current misery with the illusion that it will be better down the road. My recommendation for keeping the inner light aglow is to live in the Now. It is impossible to eliminate the past or avoid all pleasant or unpleasant memories. However, when I visit my past now, I try to go in, learn, and get the hell out! I am not going to be anchored by some event or trauma from my past. The same goes for the future. While hopes and dreams for a bright forecast are always present, I refuse to walk the rest of my life with eyes solely focused on the horizon. I yield to the current moment.
My second piece of advice is to stop waiting for the perfect moment. It does not and will not exist. There is never a time when your family, bank account, boss, and the weather will say, “Hey, why don’t you take six weeks, fly to Spain, and saunter along a magic pilgrimage route.” Make things happen!
Divorce your attachment to material items. There is nothing wrong with satiating the desire to have things. Just make sure that your things do not own you. Does your current mortgage force you to work for a company that is not aligned with your pursuit of happiness? A new car is great, but it eventually becomes a means of transportation. Create a lifestyle that allows for experiences and flush the stuff.
Turn off television news and start a yoga practice. I am beginning a 4-week yoga/meditation 200-hour teacher training with Surinder Singh, my all-time favorite yogi. I have no interest in teaching. Instead, I want to spend all day, every day, with this guy in hopes of soaking up some of his wisdom. I have taken about 30 classes with him and he is truly amazing.
What resources do you recommend?
Spend part of every day reading books that provide an uplifting message. Here are some of my favorites:
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life by Deepak Chopra
I Can See Clearly Now by Wayne Dyer
Happy This Year!: The Secret to Getting Happy Once and for All by Will Bowen
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer
Connect with Kurt Koontz
My Book: A Million Steps
Kurt Demo and Speaking Reel
After retiring early from his job as a successful sales executive for a Fortune 500 technology company, Kurt Koontz volunteered in his community and traveled across Europe and North America. He never considered writing a book until he walked nearly 500 miles across Spain in 2012. Those million steps were so compelling that he returned home and began writing and speaking about his life-changing adventures. He lives and writes on a tree-lined creek in Boise, Idaho.
What a wonderful and inspiring story. I need to check out his book.
Shari E, Thank you for taking time to read my story. I am honored that you are planning to read my book. I hope you enjoy the journey. Kurt