Not a week goes by that I don’t have a conversation with one of my peers on the topic of life purpose.
And you would be shocked at the number of people who are successful and appear happy, but confess that they feel worthless, or as though they have no purpose.
What’s more, this feeling affects their self worth, and they feel undeserving of happiness, love, a healthy income, or anything that would improve their life situation.
(I often see this manfiested in folks who feel that they don’t “have enough information” in order to start a business, take a risk, or make something happen. What they actually lack is a sense of worth or purpose.)
I seem to attract these folks – or, more specifically, I can identify them – because I, too, have spent many sleepless nights worried that I would never amount to anything… that I would never find “my purpose.”
Every week, the topic invariably is brought up by someone I know who seems to have it all. It came up recently while sitting on the couch with a girl who I adore, yet she felt as though she was wearing a mask most of the time. It was loud and clear while taking a class at Second City; I spent time with a young man who everybody wanted to be around, yet he confessed to me that he felt insignificant, trapped, and depressed.
Why do all of us, even the seemingly successful, often feel as though we don’t matter, or aren’t enough?
For me, people looked at my life and assumed that I had it all. Two years ago, at my absolute emotional bottom, I was with the love of my life (at the time), had five years’ expenses in the bank, and had the time and freedom to do whatever I wanted. Yes, and I was still at my emotional bottom. Why? Because I felt as though I had no purpose behind my life, so none of it mattered.
Yet those around me thought I had it all. Indeed, what I have noticed is that, more often than not, the person who feels totally purposeless is usually seen as a hero to his or her peers. He is the “funny guy” or the “businessperson.” She is the “pretty girl,” or the “artist.” In a moment, I’ll explain why these labels are part of the problem.
At the same time, we tend look at our peers or celebrities we admire and assume that they have something that we don’t. Or, we assume that they must be secure or feel significant. However, if my “findings” are true, then almost every single one of us have a part of us that is secretly scared of never being enough.
It is no surprise that the most successful people in the world often have drug abuse or other problems – because they got what they thought they wanted, only to find that it did not give them purpose. Heck, the #1 chorus in the country right now asks, “What do I stand for? Most nights, I don’t know anymore.”
The good news? If EVERYONE is afraid of the same thing, then NONE of us need to fear it any longer.
Dispelling The Myth Of “Doing” Something
There is a strong temptation, especially among Americans, to mistake our purpose with what we “do.” (You could also substitute “do” with “achieve” or “earn.”)
The truth is, purpose is completely separate from what we do. For example, my dream is to one day own a Major League Baseball team. And crazy as it sounds, there were dark days in my life that I felt as though I was WORTHLESS because I did not currently own a team. I had confused what I wanted to do (or achieve) with my purpose, and until I had “fulfilled my purpose,” I was worth nothing.
Under the guidance of this lie, we tend to think that someTHING will “fix” us by making us “feel” purposeful. When we earn a million dollars, THEN we will be happy. If I move across the country, THEN I will find my purpose.
For a lot of folks that I encounter, the temptation is to believe that we have to DO something “big” in order to feel purposeful. For some, that means moving to a new city – maybe you’re purpose is there. For others, it is to get promoted to CEO. And sadly, for many men, it is to sleep with a certain girl, or more often, many girls. Or for women, to feel desired by a certain man, or many men.
When we “do” these things, they seem to fill us up for a short time. We get temporary pleasure, escape, or fulfillment from them. However, they have nothing to do with purpose. It wasn’t until I read “A New Earth” that I realized that all these temporary pleasures did was serve our own selfishness.
Yes, I travel a lot. Yes, I am a CEO. But neither of them are my purpose. We’ll get to that next.
It is possible to build a career around your purpose, but for most people, how we earn our money will not perfectly align with our purpose. Those who are the exception are extremely blessed. I believe that it is more realistic to build our purpose into what we do.
Discovering Your Purpose and Living It Out
Every now and then, I get glimpses of my purpose. I know that I get them because I feel a tremendous sense of contribution as a result. When you feel that, you are getting a glimpse of your purpose.
I feel it strongest after having a conversation with a man who is being less than he wants to be, and something that I say inspires him. I feel it when someone tells me that they now understand what freedom really means and requires. I feel it when someone is touched by something that I wrote. (PS, this is why I blog.)
Let me be clear that the actions themselves are not purpose. Instead, purpose is what you ARE, rather than what you do.
Purpose = What You Decide To REPRESENT
Do not confuse “be” with “do.” In fact, I think we harm children when we ask them, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?” What a ridiculous question, unless, of course, the child says something akin to, “An honorable, inspiration, giving, loving, outrageous man.”
Also, do not confuse BE with external labels that we put on ourselves. If a girl has been told that she is a “pretty girl” for most of her life, it is likely that she will begin to identify with it. For me, I was the “funny guy” or the “business genius.” These are all labels that we confuse as our purpose, except that the minute someone is funnier, more successful, prettier, happier, more spiritual, you name it, suddenly we feel inferior. Our “purpose” is being threatened if it is confused with the labels that people have put on us.
We are not the labels we put on ourselves, and we are not the voices in our head. We are who we decide to BE.
What you ARE has nothing to do with what you DO, and especially what you do for money. However, I do believe that it is possible to incorporate your purpose into what you do in both your work and on a daily basis.
How To Live Out Your Purpose In Your Life
When I get glimpses of my purpose, I write them down (journaling has been the most impactful thing that I have done for my growth as a human being). This week, while on a plane, I took note of the things that I am beginning to see make up my purpose. They are as follows:
- to lead as an example for personal freedom and soveriengty
- to demonstrate to others that anything is possible
- to make other people laugh and brighten their spirit
- to encourage men to rise up, awaken, and be more
- to fight for unity among beings
- to be a model for physical health
- to emanate consciousness.
This is, of course, a running list, and some will be added and taken out as time goes on. But take notice that none of it has anything to do with my work or what I do on a regular basis. That is because your purpose infiltrates all areas of your life, and it can be present in all that you do.
Note that this is quite different from concluding that “my purpose is to be an actor” or “my purpose is to feed children in Africa.” While admirable, these are achievements, not purposes. You can tell the difference because they require you to actively do something. If you are not acting, or if you’re not feeding children, are you missing out on your purpose? No, you just have confused what your purpose really is.
Under this lens, you can begin to live your purpose every day, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Furthermore, you can make decisions according to your purpose, rather than hoping that your purpose just shows up.
While I am still figuring this all out myself, I do believe that I have one thing down:
Your purpose is who you decide to BE, rather than what you do. And who you are infiltrates everything, regardless of what you do.
Being a millinoaire is not your purpose. Winning a gold medal is not your purpose. Curing cancer is not your purpose. None of them are purposes in and of themselves.
If you are like many of my peers who are struggling with purpose, there are two things that you can do:
- Create a list of character traits that you want to embody.
- Make a list of things that excite your and fire you up, or that you feel passionate about.
Your purpose begins there, and you can incorporate and practice them in every day tasks, even among the mundane.
There is a reason why my business is branded as “freedom” rather than “make money.” First, most of the “make money” people on the internet are slimeballs, and second, because I believe that part of my purpose is to inspire and embody freedom. This puts purpose into my work, even though the work itself has changed very little.
If you feel as though you have missed your calling because you didn’t go down a certain path or made the right decision, you have misunderstood what purpose really is. Your purpose goes with you regardless of what decision you make or who you are with.
There is a part of you that is indestructible, that is constant, that has value that never changes, regardless of how much you earn or achieve or do. When you recognize it, then a peace that arises within you.
May you experience this peace, recognize your own value, and discover your purpose.