How to conquer the 7 enemies of Authentic Purpose
- The “not enough” wound
- The desire for security
- The desire to fit in
- A fear of experimentation
- Lack of self-awareness
- A lack of trust in ourselves
- A lack of “basic trust” in life itself
Here’s how to conquer each and live your Authentic Purpose with courage and confidence:
1. Heal the “not enough” wound by finding your True Self
The French philosopher and Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin famously wrote,
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
We leave Home and come to this earth as pure beings, wide awake and open. Over time, in our vulnerable state as babies and children, we get wounded and start falling asleep to our true nature.
We develop defense mechanisms in response to painful experiences. We become hardened, distrusting, fearful, anxious, angry, frustrated, jealous, etc.
These defense mechanisms form the ego, or our self-image. The basis of the ego is a deep, personal sense of fundamental brokenness, inadequacy, deficiency, and/or unworthiness. The ego covers up our true nature, which is goodness, light, wholeness, and love.
In our egoic state we seek happiness, peace, and fulfillment in counterfeits that can never deliver what we seek. We become addicted to patterns of behavior, feelings, and substances, all of which take us further from Home.
Awakening is the process by which we shift our consciousness to separate thinking and awareness. We stop identifying as the ego and as our thoughts. We recognize ourselves as the awareness that sees our thoughts.
We see that all our frustrations, anxieties, worries, and fears are all the product of the ego. We cultivate an abiding awareness of how our mind hijacks everything in the form of ego.
Fundamentally, awakening is REMEMBERING who we really are.
As Tara Brach puts it in her profoundly healing book, Radical Acceptance,
“Spiritual awakening is the process of recognizing our essential goodness, our natural wisdom and compassion.”
When we remember and come home to our True Self, which is the work of mindfulness, the “not enough” wound is healed and naturally dissolves.
When this happens, we find and live our Authentic Purpose naturally, peacefully, and confidently, with no need to prove anything to ourselves or anyone else.
2. Create a foundation of security from which you can take wise, calculated risks
Don’t force yourself to take crazy risks in the name of purpose. Rather, acknowledge the natural and true need for economic security and deal with it.
No one makes good, purpose-promoting decisions when under financial duress. Whatever you have to do, create a stable base of predictable income. Then and only then can you explore more purposeful options, which you do on the side, without compromising your financial security.
You’ve heard it said, “Leap and the net will appear.” In some contexts there may be truth to this. Usually, however, it’s folly. A safer, wiser approach is to build a safety net of income from your purpose venture on the side before taking the leap.
For example, I started my first business, window cleaning, in August of 2004 while working full time as a water route delivery driver. By November of that same year I was earning more money from my part-time business than in my full-time job. That allowed me to quit my job — and I’ve never had another one since.
3. Create belonging within yourself and with the right people
The need for belonging is fundamental to the human experience. As with financial security, you don’t overcome this by simply ignoring and/or fighting against it. You acknowledge it and use it to work in your favor, rather than against you.
First and foremost, you create a deep and abiding sense of belonging within yourself through self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-care. Learn to be completely at home within yourself regardless of what anyone says about you or how people treat you.
Next, you must create a core group of friends who share your value of seeking and living purpose, who value true freedom over false security. You must associate with them often and regularly and lean on them for support when times get hard.
4. Transform fear of experimentation into science and play
To the ego, experimenting by starting ventures feels risky and scary.
The fear of experimentation is fundamentally the fear of failure. And what we really fear in failure is the shame of feeling broken, inadequate, deficient, and unworthy, and the shame of how it looks to others who may judge us.
There are two ways to overcome this fear: 1) learn to see your experiments in scientific terms, and 2) learn to see them as play.
First, think of experiments scientifically. As I explain in this article, an experiment is simply a scientific test to see what works and what doesn’t work. In an experiment, there’s no failure; there’s only learning.
Second, learn to see new ventures as play. Think of children playing with Legos, for example. They’re not worried that the car they’re trying to create won’t turn out right — even if it does, they can fix it.
What you’re really doing with experimentation is pursuing love, passion, and joy. Get out there and start playing like a child to find what makes you happy. Experimentation doesn’t have to be scary, it can be fun!
5. Go on a journey of self-discovery
Become obsessive about learning about yourself — your likes and dislikes, your interests and preferences, your natural talents, what makes you tick.
Take as many tests as you can find, such as the Color Code, the Enneagram, the StrengthsFinder, Personality Plus, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Kolbe A Index, the Fascination Advantage Assessment.
Read tons of books, starting with these:
- Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- The Conscious Creator: Six Laws for Manifesting Your Masterpiece Life by Kris Krohn
- True Purpose: 12 Strategies for Discovering the Difference You are Meant to Make by Tim Kelley
- Emergence by Derek Rydall
- Mastery by Robert Greene
- Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Experimentation is also a critical part of this. It’s through experimentation that we find what we dislike and what we enjoy, where we’re weak and what we’re good at.
6. Understand intuition and learn to trust it — without attachment to outcomes
In Self-Reliance Emerson wrote,
“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.”
That “gleam of light” is intuition. I define intuition as your Divine Self communicating to your body and mind. It is your Soul’s certain knowledge of precisely what you need to progress.
This DOES NOT mean that if you follow intuition, everything will work out as you expect. It doesn’t mean you’ll become rich and famous. It simply means you will learn what you need to progress.
Therefore, you must learn to trust and follow intuition without being attached to outcomes. Your part is to do the work intuition guides you to do. Whatever comes from that will be to your benefit — even if you technically “fail.”
7. See the benevolence and guidance in all your experiences
Speaking of failure, we all too often misinterpret failure and get “burned” emotionally and psychologically. We lose our sense of basic trust. We can even feel like the universe is somehow out to get us.
But pain is one of the greatest expressions of Divine love. Without it we could never learn and grow. Pain, properly understood, increases our basic trust.
God taking away all “burns” from us would be a disservice to us, not an act of love. Therefore, there is a fundamental benevolence in all our experiences — including and especially our most painful ones.
When we try things and fail, the key is to see what we’re being taught in the failure and its pain. Because it’s always something positive and useful — when we choose to see it.
You were born for a purpose. God, the universe, all of existence is entirely devoted to helping you discover and live it in its fullest expression.
When you come home to your true nature, you also come home to the true nature of the universe and see how everything — including and especially the suffering — exists for your benefit.
And in seeing that, your fear and anxiety dissolve, you trust yourself, and you find your purpose and learn to live it with peace, confidence, and joy.