Purpose = Freedom

January 31st, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

It’s fair to say that if you don’t know your purpose in life, you won’t be spending much time working on it. So what will you end up doing with your working time instead?

Three things: 1) Working on your needs, 2) Working on other people needs, 3) Working on other people’s purposes.

If you don’t know your purpose, the limit of the work you do for yourself will be stuck at the level of need, which at best has the potential to grow into greed. Not particularly fulfilling spending your whole working life this way… Try it yourself for a few decades if you don’t believe me, and then look at the passionless shell that stares back at you from your mirror.

As you work with/for other people, most likely you’ll be putting lots of effort into satisfying other people’s needs and greeds: your boss, your customers, your company’s investors, etc. Even in your free time, you’ll be working to fulfill the desires of advertisers who want you to watch TV and buy stuff. Again, not particularly satisfying, although you may be thrown a few bones by your benefactors, such as the “gift” of working on some interesting projects. This kind of life will ultimately make you want to stand up and shout, “What exactly is the point of all of this?” But if you actually do that, you’ll only get blank stares in return. There is no point.

Now if you’re very lucky, you may get the chance to work for someone or some organization which is itself focused on achieving a conscious purpose. However, there’s no telling what that purpose might be. If you don’t know your own purpose, you can’t consciously choose to work for someone whose purpose aligns with yours except by accident or chance, and the odds of alignment are low. So there’s a good chance you’ll be working hard to achieve a purpose you don’t agree with. For example, if you join the military, you may be put to use to achieve some big purpose, but what exactly will it be? Most likely, in such situations you’ll be given a purpose to achieve that isn’t what you’d choose consciously for yourself. Fulfilling to spend your whole life this way? Not likely, but it’s at least a decent path for people who don’t like to think much — others will take care of all the thinking for you (and benefit greatly from all your thoughtless doing).

So if you don’t know your purpose in life, what kind of life will you end up living? I’ll sum it up with one word: owned (or if you’re a tremendous nerd, pwned). Your life is owned by others — their needs, their goals, their purposes. Why? Because if you don’t know your purpose, others will put you to good use achieving theirs. Advertisers spend billions every year to get you to take some small action. The company you work for or the customers you serve — they want to own you too. And how can you say no? You don’t have a better option, do you? Might as well get a job and buy stuff, make some customers happy along the way, and die quietly. That’s what others have planned for you. That seems to be what everyone else is doing. Might as well jump on the same bandwagon… seems safe enough.

Is that the plan you wish to follow?

Yes? Great… here’s a Scooby Snack. End of blog entry.

Hmmm… still reading, eh? Ok, welcome to the super secret society for purposeful living. Shhhh….

If you happen to be someone who’s consciously aware of your purpose in life, then you already know what’s missing from the above — freedom. When you don’t choose your own purpose, a purpose will be given to you by others. You give up your freedom. Sure you still maintain the illusion of freedom. You can decide the low level actions you take each day. But you’ve lost the greatest freedom — the ability to choose your own answer to the question, “What is the meaning of my life?” If you let someone else answer this question for you, then you’re owned. And it may not even be a single person giving you that answer. Most likely it’s a collection of many sources: advertisers, employers, coworkers, friends, family, social pressures, etc. Each contributes a small piece to your answer. But because there are so many contributors, the answer that comes out is fuzzy and complicated. So you end up living a fuzzy, complicated life crafted by third-party biographers, many of which you’ve never met.

On the other hand, when you know your purpose and live it consciously each day, you’re free. No one else owns you. Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, you always see yourself as self-employed. You lead your own life, and although others may hold formal authority over you in some situations, you focus on what you can control and don’t whine about what you can’t, and in so doing, your influence expands to the point that you become a leader no matter what your formal position. Your leadership comes from knowing your purpose. While your circumstances will change, your inner compass is constant. You could be caught in a sea of external chaos, yet you’re always steering a clear straight-ahead course, which allows you to feel certain when no one else can. It doesn’t matter what position you hold. When you live your purpose, you become a leader. When you don’t live your purpose, you become property.

When you choose the kind of work you do, you consciously choose what aligns with your purpose. Every day your actions are your answer to the question, “What is the meaning of my life?” You’ll still be bombarded by messages from others who want to own you in some way, but those influences will become harmless background noise, unable to sway you. Whatever happens out there, it’s like the waves tossing around on a stormy sea while you’re 1000 ft below the surface, where the water is calm. By knowing your purpose, you begin living on a deeper level where surface happenings like corporate politics can’t knock you around. Your purpose provides unshakable stability and security.

If you don’t live on purpose, then you don’t even know how to set goals. Even when you think you’re being proactive, where are your goals really coming from? Ultimately, they’ll come from your past conditioning, which means they’re coming from others. You set a goal to buy a new house or a new car, but if those goals aren’t driven by your own conscious purpose, then they’re really the bank’s and the car dealer’s goals for you, both of which are spending lots of money to get you to adopt them. Even if you want to advance in your career and make more money, there are many who want you to achieve that goal too, especially since it will allow you to spend more money and do more productive work. So whose goals are you working so hard to achieve? Sure you think you want all those things. You’ve been taught to want them by your owners.

To break free of working on your owners’ goals, you have to know your own purpose. And this means you have to empty your head of all your owners’ thoughts and conditioning and get deep down to 1000 ft below sea level, where your thoughts are clear and calm, where you once again remember who you really are. At that level all the external fluff fades, and you can hear yourself clearly. You have to squeeze your brain like a sponge to get all those owners’ voices out. The owners’ voices are the ones that make you feel weaker and more afraid. Once you go deep enough though, your own voice will begin to reassert itself. You’ll remember what you’re here to do, and you’ll recall the state of passion that drives you to do it.

After that, the hard part is listening to this inner voice and trusting it. It’s so easy to trust your owners because they seem so certain, and there are so many of them. Your inner voice is much quieter, but if you let it drive you instead of the external world, you’ll come to know your purpose, and your life will become immensely fulfilling. You’ll finally be free.



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