Nowhere by Nadeem Chughtai

What’s the secret to fulfilment?

Defining a life purpose

Paul Abela, MSc
4 min readOct 6, 2019


It can be easy to get lost in the what-ifs in life. What would have happened if we were still together? Where would I be if I had chosen that job over my current one? Decisions can’t be unmade, so there’s no point wallowing in the past. You are where you are in life based on the choices you’ve made. But these choices don’t define your future. Establishing a purpose will provide direction to your choices. This is powerful and alludes to why a life purpose is so important to achieving fulfilment.

Nadeem Chughtai’s painting Nowhere helps illustrate this. What do you see when you look at the painting?

I see the journey of life evoked through a simple, yet powerful metaphor.

The man is in the present, looking forwards. But he’s lost in the past. His shadow represents his inability to come to terms with the past. So much so, he isn’t able to appreciate the present. The bags reinforce this. The man is weighed down by baggage he carries with him. Only when he lets go of these bags, let’s go of the past, can he start to appreciate the present.

The white space the man looks towards is the future. It’s empty and unknown. Directionless and weighed down by the past, he fears the future. The man is living but going nowhere.

A star on the horizon

Most people go through life making choices based on societal pressures. Going to university, getting a nine to five job, buying a house, getting married, having children. These are socially prescribed. So many of us make choices based on what we need to do, rather then what we want to do.

These social expectations define our choices and can lead to unintended consequences. The mid-life crisis is a product of someone who is so gripped by leading a life that’s socially acceptable, they lose sight of what they want to achieve. They reflect on a past that hasn’t led to fulfilment in the present. This can lead to discontentment, a lack of self-worth or value. Maybe even an expensive car, purchased to fill the void left by this lack of fulfilment.

If life is represented by the man in the picture, imagine each person asked themselves, what is it I want to achieve in life? What’s my life…



Paul Abela, MSc

Writer and systems thinker | Place a lens on the social, economic and political causes of the climate crisis | Visit my website and blog at