Clarity of Purpose: Don’t Live Life without It

While it’s possible to start on the Spiral of Fulfillment at any point – the purposeful service point, the simplicity point, or the spiritual serenity point – we need to pick one point to start this book, so I’m choosing the purposeful, passionate and playful service point, and here’s why:

"Seven in ten individuals without a clearly defined purpose felt unsettled about their lives, while almost seven in ten with a purpose felt satisfied."

This was the finding as reported in the book, I Just Want My Kids to Be Happy, by Dr. Aaron Cooper and Eric Keitel, M.Ed. That's a pretty dramatic difference, wouldn't you say?

This section isn’t intended to give you the ‘how to’ of clarifying your life purpose.  For that I recommend you read my other book, Life On Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life, that outlines in details a proven, systematic, spiritually-based process that has over the years assisted thousands of people to clarify their life purpose and then design their life to be an authentic reflection of that purpose. (See the appendix in the back of this book for more purposeful resources.)

No, this chapter is to address the ‘why to’ do the work to bring ‘clarity of purpose’ to your life.  So, let’s start by further distinguishing what I mean by the term, clarity of purpose.  There are 3 different components:

1.    Knowing your true, Divinely Inspired Life Purpose with crystal clarity. In other words, knowing your life purpose so well that if someone woke you at 3 o’clock in the morning and asked you what your life purpose is, you’d be able to tell them clearly and succinctly.

2.    Also knowing with equal clarity the other life shaping force that so often keeps people from either knowing their life purpose or from living true to it. In the Life On Purpose Process I refer to this as the Inherited Purpose.  It’s important to know this because one of the primary things that gives the Inherited Purpose so much of it’s ‘life shaping’ power is that it operates most effectively in the background of our awareness.  So, bringing it to the light of day is a key step in being able to choose whether to allow the fear and lack-based nature of the Inherited Purpose to shape your life or not.

3.    Having the tools and the commitment to use these tools to design a life that is a true and authentic reflection of your life purpose.  Said another way, if the people who know you were to hear you share your life purpose with that person who intruded in on your sleep, they’d say, “Yes, that’s his/her life purpose. I know because their life is a reflection of that purpose.”

Let’s look at the #1 in more depth.  To know your true life purpose starts with a shift in perspective in how we view what a life purpose is.

The Evolution of Life Purpose

While the question of what is one’s life purpose is an age-old inquiry, I believe we’re now at a point where our perspective of life purpose is evolving.  This is a time of transition from the old, cultural perspective to a new perspective – the Life On Purpose perspective.

The old cultural perspective says your life purpose is what you’re supposed to do with your life. When you operate from this perspective and go to answer the question, “What then is my own personal life purpose?” many people identify their work as their life purpose.  Others may identify some primary role in life as their life purpose.  For women, this is often to be a good mother or a loyal spouse.  For men, it may be to be a good provider or a good dad.

But let’s consider this term, life purpose, for a moment.  Doesn’t it make sense that your life purpose should be able to encompass all of your life, not just certain segments of it?

Another common outcome of operating from this cultural perspective is that we end up with a life filled to overflowing with doing, doing, doing, and for many people they may find themselves ‘doing more and more while enjoying it less and less.’

So, let’s consider another perspective – the Life On Purpose Perspective that goes like this:

Your life purpose is the context vessel or container into which your pour your life.

Said another way, consider that your life purpose is more about who you are as a spiritual being and what you came here to this life to be and to experience.

Since this is a new perspective for many people let’s explore it in more depth by going through the following exercise together.


I have found that labeling the various circles of the diagram above helps to integrate this perspective into your thinking so please play along with me.

Circle 1 represents the doing or action part of life, so write in these words:
•    Do
•    Doing
•    Action

And there’s a relationship between that circle and circle 2 which represents the having aspect of life, so write in circle 2 these words:
•    Have
•    Having
•    Results

We often do things so that we can have things.  For example, I went to seven years of college to earn a degree in veterinary medicine.  This relationship is represented by the top semi-circle arrow.  Of course, as I’ve already alluded to, if we’re not mindful we can easily slip into a vicious circle of doing…having…doing…having, etc.  This can lead to a sense of doing more and more while enjoying life less and less.

This vicious circle is often the product of the cultural perspective regarding your life purpose, and it’s really easy to get trapped in the vicious circle, in part because it’s so much a part of our culture – the way we do things especially in our Western society.  Also, these two aspects of life occur in the physical part of our world and it’s pretty easy for us to stay aware of the physical aspect of life with our five senses.

However, there’s simply a lot more to life than this, so let’s see how we can access a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in our lives.

Circle 3 represents the being aspect of life, so let’s start by labeling it with these words:
•    Be
•    Being
•    Experience
•    Meaning

Now, here’s a important point to consider:

Who we are, or more accurately, who we consider ourselves to be has a
direct influence on what we see possible to do.

This relationship of being and doing is represented by the other semi-circle arrow.  To illustrate this important point, let’s look at a simple example.

Let’s say you’re in the midst of starting a new job, but you’re really only taking the job because you have bills to pay and a family to feed.  You’re not sure it the job for you. In fact, you’re pretty sure it isn’t.  You don’t like the person you’re going to be working for, the work environment seems rigid and depressing, and the work seems to be tedious and unrewarding.  But you’re afraid if you don’t take the job you’ll get even further into financial difficulties.

Can you see that ‘who you’re being’, i.e. your attitude, beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the job will influence your action and performance on the job which will then affect the results as well.  It’s a cascading effect.

Now, let’s say there’s another person who’s about to start the same kind of job.  But who this person is being regarding the job is excited about the work.  She’s looking forward to getting to know her co-workers, and while she realizes her boss might be a bit of a challenge, she’s looking forward to finding ways to work with him and to be of service.  Sure the work may be a little tedious at first, but she’s confident that the better she does at the job the sooner she’ll be able to move up to more satisfying duties.  So, she comes to work excited and with the intention to do her best in service to others.

Can you see that the actions she sees to take will be different as will be her performance and not surprising so will her results.

Wow, who we are has a lot to do with the quality of our life, doesn’t it?

And what does this all have to do with life purpose, you may be asking.  Well, let’s go back to our diagram once more, and ask this question:

What informs us as to who we are or who we consider ourselves to be?  Said another way, if this realm of being is so important how can we access it in a way that will serve us to living a more purposeful and meaningful life?

Remember, I indicated that the aspects of doing and having occur in the physical part of our world, but as you can see from the diagram the being aspect occurs in the non-physical part of the cosmos.  So hang in with me for a little longer and I think this will all make sense.  It may even result in a large ‘ahha’ moment.

What is the simplest component of the physical part of the cosmos – the basic building block that we learned about in 9th grade science class?

It’s atoms, right?  And atoms come together to form molecules of matter, so fill in those blanks on the diagram.

Now, let’s look at the nonphysical side.  On this side there are not one but two components that come together to form a different kind of “molecule.”  So, what gives us our sense of ourselves, of who we are?

What are those two basic building blocks of our being?  Try this on:

•    Our thoughts, and
•    Our feelings or emotions

These two come together to forms molecules of meaning.  Consider this perspective for just a moment.  When you do you may notice that, just like in our example above with the two people starting work, there are thoughts and feelings that empower us and enhance our lives and those that can disempower us and detract from life.

And that leads us back to life purpose and a major point of this exercise.  I’d like you to consider that we have not one but two purposes, in that we have two powerful life shaping forces in our life, as represented in our diagram by the two smaller circles.

Circle 4 represents your true life purpose. What I often refer to as your Divinely Inspired Life Purpose because it helps remind me that the very foundation from which our true purpose arises is the attractive force of Universal Love, which can also equate to one’s relationship to God or a Higher Power or one’s spiritual nature or spirituality.

So, in Circle 4 write in:
•    Love
•    D. I. L. P.

And this is who we truly are.  We are “Divinely Inspired” spiritual beings brought to earth to have a physical experience.

But we’re not quite done yet?  What about Circle 5?  Well, as we all know we often have thoughts and feelings that aren’t based in Universal Love, that don’t give us a sense of abundance, and that don’t give us the freedom to flow with life.

And that’s our second purpose. What I refer to as the Inherited Purpose. This second powerful life shaping force isn’t based in Universal Love, but is instead based in fear, a sense of lack and a need to struggle to survive. 

And here’s the last main point for now:

The Inherited Purpose is the lie you’ve been telling yourself about yourself and
about life for so long that you’ve come to believe it to be true…and it’s not.  It’s a LIE.

The reason we call it the ‘Inherited Purpose’ is because it’s formed so early in our life, during our formative years as a child that it often feels like something we were born into, or inherited. 

And it’s also formed from “molecules of meaning,” but these molecules are of a different nature from those of our true purpose.  These molecules are based in fear, and a sense of lack, and they often lead to us struggling to make it in life.  You see, for all of us as we go through these early formative years, stuff happens and people say things that have us feel threatened or insecure.  These can be major traumatic happenings like the loss of a parent, or a divorce, or
a series of smaller incidences.

When they happen we feel threatened, unsafe or insecure, and since we’re naturally meaning-making beings, we make up some meaning…oh, not on a conscious level but quietly in the background of our awareness. Before we know it we’ve fabricated a story that explains or justifies all those things that have happened, not even realizing that the story is based in fear and lack.  We also think that the story is true, but it’s not. It’s a lie – it’s a fantasy.

But just like our true life purpose can shape our actions and results, our Inherited Purpose can shape what actions we see to take, and those actions will be consistent and in a dance with the lie, and will result in results that are consistent with the story, which of course, only goes on to fortify and make the story that much more real.

Now for some good news.  Uncovering the Inherited Purpose and bringing it from the background of our consciousness to the foreground is one of the most important steps in clarifying your true purpose and then living true to it because when you’ve distinguished your Inherited Purpose you can then begin to have an Inherited Purpose rather than being had by it.

But there’s one last piece of the ‘clarity of purpose’ puzzle – being able to live true to your purpose.

Living Your Purpose – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

When you’ve done the inner work to uncover your Inherited Purpose so you can begin to be responsible for it, and you’ve clarified your true, Divinely Inspired Life Purpose, you’ve set the stage for a profound and lasting transformation in your life.

However, the work isn’t done yet. In fact, the last piece can be the most challenging and ultimately most transformational of all – it’s living true to your purpose.

There’s an old coaching formula I learned from my first coach, Judy, over 20 years ago.  It goes like this:

I + A = G & D

I = Insights
G & D = Growth and Development

Of course, you may have already guessed that the “A” stands for Action.  You see, uncovering your Inherited Purpose and clarifying your Divinely Inspired Life Purpose are major insights – mega-insights in that they have the potential to transform your entire life.

But they are still just insights.  And like Judy once told me, “Insights are like a pinch in the buttocks; momentarily interesting but hardly life transforming.”  But combine these insights with action and you have true growth and development in your life.

Living a life on purpose is a process, a journey.  Getting to the place where the people who know would say, “Yes, your life is a reflection of your true purpose,” doesn’t happen over night, but it can happen, and it doesn’t need to take decades to be, be known and to start expressing your life purpose.  It does take being in action and not getting distracted or derailed by your Inherited Purpose.

So, as we close out this chapter, take a moment to write down the insights you’ve gleaned.  Then, pick at least one of those insights and write out an action or two that you WILL take to begin to integrate the insight into your life.

NOTE:  One bold, audacious action you may be ready to take is to clarify your life purpose using the Life On Purpose Process as your road map. There are several ways to experience the power of the Life On Purpose Process.  For more information go to Life On Purpose Institute.


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