The 7 greatest enemies of Authentic Purpose
The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote,
“Among his various possible beings each man always finds one which is his genuine and authentic being. The voice which calls him to that authentic being is what we call ‘vocation.’
“But the majority of men devote themselves to silencing that voice of the vocation and refusing to hear it. They manage to make a noise within themselves…to distract their own attention in order not to hear it; and they defraud themselves by substituting for their genuine selves a false course of life.”
From its Latin roots, “vocation” means to call or be called. It originated in early Christianity when people felt called by God to a life in the church.
We each have our own calling, whether it comes literally from the voice of God or something which emanates from deep within us as an expression of our individuality. It is our natural gifts and interests, the things to which we’re drawn, the things that keep us up at night and get us up in the morning.
Vocation — our Authentic Purpose — is something integrally connected to who we are, rather than being a separate compartment of our lives.
Here are the seven most common reasons why we don’t live our Authentic Purpose:
1. The “not enough” wound
This is by far the most universal and most crippling factor that prevents us from living purpose, and it’s usually at the root of every other factor.
All of us have a deep wound from our most painful and traumatic life experiences that tells us, “You are not enough.”
Each of us have our own unique manifestation of it:
- “I’m not smart/talented/competent/pretty enough.”
- “I’m not worthy of love.”
- “People don’t value what I have to offer.”
- “Nobody listens to me.”
We get wounded as children and subconsciously carry the wound with us for the rest of our lives until we become aware of it and heal it.
At its core, the “not enough” wound is a deep and abiding sense of inadequacy, deficiency, unworthiness, and/or brokenness.
It manifests in a wide variety of ways:
- Fear of anything new or putting ourselves into situations where we will be exposed.
- Pervasive self-doubt and lack of confidence.
- Acute embarrassment.
- Constantly worried about what other people will think.
- Hiding out in comfort, security, mediocrity. “Don’t stand out.”
- Anxiously grasping for the limelight. Prideful bragging. “Look at me!”
- Quick defensiveness any time we feel criticized.
- Desire to numb the pain with addictions (food, TV, excessive sleep, work, depression, pornography, gambling, drugs, etc.).
This wound causes a deep yearning to be seen, to be validated, to be valued and cherished.
Instead of truly healing this wound, we try to cover it up by following the cravings of the ego.
The ego feeds on external forms of validation and pursues fame, fortune, prestige, status, security, comfort, praise, and recognition.
This only makes the wound fester and enhances and perpetuates the pain of not enoughness.
Authentic Purpose gives us internal bliss and fulfillment. Our Authentic Purpose is what we love to do even if we didn’t get paid or recognized; doing the thing is its own reward.
When we are on purpose, there is an intrinsic and lasting joy that trumps all the counterfeit rewards of the ego.
2. The desire for economic security
There’s nothing wrong with the desire for comfort and security. We all have it. The problem is when we crave it at all costs, above any other factor.
Living Authentic Purpose to the fullest requires taking calculated, wise, strategic risks. It requires courage and audacity. It requires treading new paths where none have ventured before.
We have to leap into the unknown for our true purpose and full capacity to be revealed.
3. The social desire to fit in
Again, there’s nothing wrong with this natural, biological desire. It can be a healthy thing that keeps us safe and helps us to find belonging.
But true belonging is a far cry from compromising our truest self in order to merely fit in. True belonging makes us whole and healthy. Fitting in makes us mediocre and guilty.
Living Authentic Purpose can be lonely. But nothing is ultimately more fulfilling.
4. A fear of experimentation
Finding and living purpose isn’t a straight line. It’s a journey with many twists and turns. We don’t shoot straight toward our purpose — we zigzag our way into it. This is called “precession.”
As Robert Greene explains in his outstanding book, Mastery,
“You begin by choosing a field or position that roughly corresponds to your inclinations. This initial position offers you room to maneuver and important skills to learn. You don’t want to start with something too lofty, too ambitious — you need to make a living and establish some confidence.
“Once on this path you discover certain side routes that attract you, while other aspects of this field leave you cold. You adjust and perhaps move to a related field, continuing to learn more about yourself, but always expanding off your skill base…
“Eventually, you will hit upon a particular field, niche, or opportunity that suits you perfectly. You will recognize it when you find it because it will spark that childlike sense of wonder and excitement; it will feel right.
“Once found, everything will fall into place. You will learn more quickly and more deeply. Your skill level will reach a point where you will be able to claim your independence from within the group you work for and move out on your own.”
If we’re not willing to follow those side routes and experiment by trying lots of different things, we never find true purpose.
5. Lack of self-awareness
Many people don’t live purpose because they simply don’t have enough awareness of their gifts, talents, interests, and passions. They either don’t have enough experience or they haven’t spent enough time on self-reflection.
But as the ancient Greek poet Pindar wrote,
“Become who you are by learning who you are.”
6. A lack of trust in ourselves
This is a common symptom of the “not enough” wound. We try things and fail. Then we learn the wrong lessons:
- “I knew I shouldn’t have done that.”
- “I knew I couldn’t do it.”
- “I’m such an idiot.”
And as we internalize these wrong lessons, we trust ourselves less and less. We’re afraid of trying new opportunities for fear we’ll screw them up.
7. A lack of “basic trust” in life itself
As I explain in this article, basic trust is the deep, innate knowing that life is fundamentally benevolent — that everything that happens is for our ultimate benefit.
But as we get hurt in life, we become scared and mistrusting. We think the world is out to get us. We develop defense mechanisms to protect ourselves.
The defense mechanisms harden into the ego. The more our ego develops, the more alienated we become from our authentic nature and our Authentic Purpose.
Coming home to ourselves
As we release our attachments to security and other external rewards, surrender to Authentic Purpose, and create value for others, we feel peaceful, happy, valued, and important inside ourselves, regardless of any external validation.
Authentic Purpose is not about developing or achieving; it is a remembering who we are and always have been. It is not an arriving at some destination out there; it is a coming home to ourselves.
Want to learn how to conquer these seven enemies of purpose? Read this article.