I recently read a book called Life on Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life by Dr. Brad Swift. This is a truly excellent book on how to discover your life purpose. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to gain clarity with respect to their core reason for being here.
On Amazon.com this book currently has a 5-star average rating after 13 reviews, and deservedly so. I receive many books in the mail from publishers and PR people, and most have such generic, unoriginal content I can’t possibly recommend them. Life on Purpose, however, is a shining beacon of compelling content and unique ideas, concisely organized and well-structured. I have a hard time finding anything I don’t like about it, so I’d rate it 5 stars as well.
What I liked most about this book is that it presents the concept of a life purpose as an unfolding path rather than some fixed idea like a mission statement. Reading the book is a process in itself, with many exercises to gain greater clarity.
What I found unique about this book is that it distinguishes between your “inherited purpose” and your true “divinely inspired purpose.” Brad emphasizes the importance of understanding your inherited purpose (which I would categorize under the label of social conditioning) because otherwise it ends up guiding your actions subconsciously. This is similar to what some people would refer to as our shadow selves, but I think the Inherited Purpose is more specific and useful to understanding how fear guides our actions by default when we don’t stay conscious.
Life on Purpose has a very spiritual–I could even say religious–slant to it, and at the same time it comes across as immensely practical. For example, among the 28 rules of purpose are:
1. Become Incredibly Selfish.
Spend your days with “in the beam” activities–those activities that are full expressions of your life purpose–and delegate “out of the beam” activities to other people who will find those activities to be “in their beam.”
7. Market Your Talents Shamelessly.
Your talents are the gifts given to you by God so that you can fully express your life purpose. Marketing God’s gifts is attractive and allows you to play full out in expressing your life’s purpose.
13. Get Your Needs Met, Once and for All.
This is related to building a super reserve. Unmet needs attract others with the same unmet needs. Many needs are based in the survival mode of your Inherited Purpose. Identifying those needs is the first step to handling them once and for all. The more of them you handle, the more room you have in which to express your life purpose.
19. Perfect Your Environment.
Your environment is an important facet of what calls you to be. It is either calling you to be your Inherited Purpose or your true purpose. An integral part of your environment is the people in your life. Surround yourself with people who know you as your purpose and who endorse and support your expressing it fully.
This is no airy-fairy, find-your-purpose-and-life-will-automatically-be-perfect book. It recognizes the roles of money, health, companionship, and other physical world concerns. Whereas other books I’ve read on purpose are either too hard or too soft, Life on Purpose does a great job of balancing the spiritual with the practical in a way that fully honors both.
“A Life Purpose is Based in Love, Not Fear.” – Dr. Brad Swift
The line above is one of the key differences between an Inherited Purpose and a divinely inspired purpose. And Inherited Purpose is rooted in fear. It may involve something like getting rich, achieving a certain level of status, or acquiring lots of stuff. But a divinely inspired purpose is a form of creative self-expression, exhibiting both self-love and love of others.
My Inherited Purpose is the part of me that says I need to build a successful business, achieve some positional form of status, make lots of money, etc. In the business world, this is what people commonly assume I care about most. This is also what my social conditioning says I should value, but of course it’s all rooted in fear. Interestingly, this is also the purpose that says the world is majorly screwed up and that I must do what I can to fix some of it. It would say the purpose of StevePavlina.com is to help repair people who are somehow screwed up, including me. When I’m not staying conscious, this is the purpose that automatically takes over and guides my actions. This is why living consciously is so incredibly important!
My divinely inspired purpose, on the other hand, is the softer inner voice that says I’m here to serve as an outlet for inspired creative expression. It sees the world as already perfect, and it has no ego-based need to judge or fix people. This is the part of me that just loves to grow, to live fully, and to share that expression of my true self with others while being totally unattached to outcomes. When I write from that level of being, I can feel I’m doing my very best work. The words just flow effortlessly, and I can express myself honestly while recognizing the divine perfection behind our apparent human imperfections. When I’m in this state, I’ve no concern for money or status. Even helping people isn’t of major concern. I’m just being my natural self, expressing my own joy and passion for life. And interestingly that’s probably what people find most valuable in my writing. It’s not the specific advice that seems to have the biggest impact on people; it’s the level of being that comes through when I’m honoring my true purpose. And of course this isn’t unique to me. We’re all capable of it.
I find that staying in tune with my true purpose while acknowledging my Inherited Purpose makes it fairly easy to make a living and take care of my practical needs. However, those things still need to be handled intelligently. A divinely inspired purpose doesn’t eliminate those needs, but it does make them much less problematic. And the simple reason is that when you’re in tune with your true purpose, you’ll be tapped into your deepest source of creativity, which is what gives you the energy and inspiration to provide real value to others.
My creative expression is what provides the value that generates all my income and helps take care of my practical concerns. To me it feels like an inexhaustible well upon which I’ll always be able to draw. Whenever I have a practical problem, the heart of the solution is usually to return to that well and create more.
I encourage you to check out Life on Purpose, whether you think you know your purpose or not. I think you’ll find it a valuable blend of inspiration and practical ideas. It goes down really well with a cup of chamomile tea.
Update June 2011: Dr. Brad Swift now has a new video coaching program called the Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach, which expands on the ideas in his book. You can read my review in the post on Living Your Life Purpose.