Purpose = Permanent Message + Temporary Medium

October 25th, 2006 by Steve Pavlina

Once you discover and embrace your life purpose, are you set for the rest of your life?  Do you keep fulfilling that same purpose until you die?  Or can your purpose change over time?

Truthfully I think the answer is a little of both.  There is a permanent, unchanging aspect of my purpose, and that aspect is growth.  I have an undeniably strong sense that I’m here to grow, and that sense has never wavered.  I imagine that conscious growth will always be part of my purpose.

On the other hand, there are aspects of my purpose I consider temporary.  Those aspects are things like writing articles and giving speeches.  Those will undoubtedly change and evolve over time.  Thinking of myself as primarily a blogger, writer, or speaker would mean confusing the medium with the message.  The message of growth may be permanent, but the current medium of expression is temporary.

In a way you have two purposes then:  your message and your medium.  Your message is the primary contribution you’re here to make.  Your message is who you are.  If you can connect with your higher self, you know your message.  Your message doesn’t really change, but your depth of understanding will change over time.  In a general way I can say that my message is growth.  Or I can get more specific and say it’s to help people live more consciously and courageously.  This message doesn’t really change; only my understanding of it does.

Your medium is the specific expression of your message.  This is how you express your contribution to the world.  You can have a really wonderful and empowering message, but if you choose a lousy form of expression, you won’t have much impact.  Running a computer games business was a weak fit for my message, while blogging is a much better medium for it.

You have many choices for a medium that fits your message.  Suppose you recognize that your message is to heal people.  You could be a doctor, a massage therapist, a holistic healer, a teacher, a musician, a nutritionist, a chef, a speaker, a counselor, etc.  All of these are good outlets for healing.

Picking the right medium to express your message can be a real challenge, so let me give you some advice on how to do it intelligently.  As I wrote in the article Living Congruently, a purpose-centered life requires finding the overlap between the answers to four questions:

  1. What do I need to do?
  2. What do I want to do?
  3. What can I do?
  4. What should I do?

So in order to choose an intelligent way to express your purpose (i.e. your career), you must consider your needs, desires, abilities, and your potential for contribution.  For example, if your message is healing, but you get queasy at the sight of blood, then you probably wouldn’t want to be a heart surgeon.  On the other hand, you might make a great massage therapist.  It can take a while to find a career that satisfies these four criteria and expresses your true message, but it’s well worth the effort.

Since any of the above four factors can change, your medium must be flexible as well.  A rigid medium will fall out of sync with reality too quickly.  Even though your message may not change, you could easily go through many different careers as you express it.  In fact, that’s to be expected.

Unfortunately many career-oriented people are totally clueless about their message.  They have an outlet for expression, but they aren’t aware of what they want to express.  Consequently, they run around in circles, not feeling terribly ambitious or passionate about their work, often having the suspicion they should be doing something else but never being quite sure what that something is.

These hollowed-out people are easy to find.  When you watch one of them work, it’s like looking at a soulless automaton.  They go through the motions, but there’s no passion or drive behind their eyes.  The lights are on, but no one’s home.  To such people work is just something you do to pay the bills, not an outlet for creative expression.  And because these people treat their work this way, it’s no wonder their employers treat them the same, like replaceable cogs that serve only the bottom line.

By creatively expressing your message to the world, you can make a significant contribution.  In terms of total impact, some outlets are more effective than others.  For example, if I were to be a classroom teacher, I could still make a meaningful contribution with my message, but I’d have far less impact than I can as a blogger.  Blogging allows me to reach more people in a day than I’d reach in my entire career as a classroom teacher.

Your choice of medium will also affect the resources that flow to you.  It’s natural for more resources to flow to those who would use them to enhance their contribution.  A teacher who teaches a class of 20 students doesn’t normally get paid much.  But a professional speaker who speaks to an audience of 2000 people can be very well paid.  Top speakers get paid more for a single speech than teachers get paid in a whole year.  Now the teacher may have a powerful message and great skill at delivering it, but the resources aren’t flowing abundantly because the medium of expression doesn’t support it.  Give the teacher 10x more resources, and s/he probably won’t teach 10x more people.  But give more resources to the speaker, and it could mean doing more seminars and having a bigger impact.

I see this as being part of the Law of Attraction at work.  When you choose a medium that allows you to increase your contribution over time, meaning that you’re delivering your message to more people, you’ll naturally attract the resources to help you do that.

The value you deliver to the world is a combination of your message and your medium.  Both are critical to your success.  If you have one but not the other, very little value gets delivered.  For example, I know a lot of new bloggers who are excited about trying to duplicate my financial results as a blogger, but only a small fraction of those who are trying seem likely to succeed.  Most give up within the first few weeks.  And the reason for failure is that either (1) they don’t know their message, so they’re blogging just to blog; or (2) the medium of blogging isn’t a good fit for them because it doesn’t suit their needs, desires, abilities, and/or potential for contribution.  Either way the value doesn’t get delivered, so neither does the income.

It’s also important that you adapt your medium of expression to the situation at hand.  I presently see blogging as a terrific outlet for me to contribute.  But if the day comes when I sense I’m better off contributing some other way, I’ll switch to a different medium.  The ultimate long-term goal remains the same:  create value by delivering my message to as many people as possible.

Knowing your message helps you stay grounded.  In this fast-changing world, it’s important to stay connected to something permanent.  Whenever Erin and I experience a sometimes too rapid rate of change in our lives, we reconnect to what we’re here to do.  This makes it easier to re-engage with the fluctuating expression of that message without feeling overwhelmed.  Even in times of stress, I’m able to stay focused just by reconnecting with the simple idea that I’m here to express and share conscious growth.

Expressing your purpose can be a lot of fun too.  I enjoy all the different options I have to creatively express the message of living consciously.  I can write an article.  I can record a podcast.  I can deliver a speech or workshop.  I can have a conversation.  I can participate in a discussion group.  I can answer an email.  All I’m really doing though is expressing who I am.  The fun part is finding creative new ways to do that each day.  I wake up each morning thinking, “How am I going to express growth today?”

The most rewarding part of this is knowing that you’ve taken that powerful, positive message within you and given it away.  You don’t need a complicated message to help people.  Conscious growth is not a complicated message.  Nor is compassion.  Your message is undoubtedly simple, probably something you can reduce to a single word:  joy, connection, love, forgiveness, acceptance, peace, reason, honor, sensuality, passion, relaxation, nonviolence, curiosity, synergy, justice… whatever.  Find that one concept you most identify with, and spend your days creatively expressing it.  Make that your career.  Then dump everything else that doesn’t resonate with your message.  In my opinion this is the most rewarding way to live as a human being.


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