The pitch-black sky matched my mood as I stepped out the back door of the hotel to stare at the ocean. This trip to Cotonou had been a last-ditch effort to make sense of my life. But after being swindled out of my last ten thousand dollars, the only good thing about being in West Africa was the fact that I’d somehow managed to avoid the rainy season.

I couldn’t believe that my life had veered so far off course. Two years earlier, I was a signed contract away from realizing my dream of becoming a successful international businessman. And now I was out of money and five thousand miles from home. I felt achingly alone.

Lost in a wave of severed dreams, I looked up at the sky and muttered the only God-words I could muster at the time:

“Why am I here?”

When the Divine failed to intervene with an answer, I figured that even God had deserted me. So I headed back to my hotel room for another night of staring at the ceiling.

For two decades I asked myself that same question whenever my dreams went south. And just like on that night in Cotonou, there were no immediate flashes of insight, just a seemingly open-ended question in search of a solution.

What I realize now is that asking the question is often more important than receiving an immediate answer. Because it opens us up to the possibility that our lives are meant to be more than our present-moment reality; and that with each ask we get closer to the answer that will resonate with our soul’s call-to-purpose.

So if you believe that you were meant to do more with your life, ask yourself the question. And if all you hear is crickets, understand that the answer may not come in “your time,” but it will come at the right time, so keep asking the question. Because it’s true what the Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”