The Anti-Life Purpose (or your purpose is not what you think)

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” —Joseph Campbell

A lot of people talk about life purpose. They say it’s something you’ve got to find, something you have to figure out. It’s this elusive, intimidating thing, that if you don’t discover, will cause your life to be forever devoid of meaning.

Pretty terrifying, right?

No wonder so many people think they just don’t have a purpose, or that maybe they do, but it’s just too frightening of an idea to approach.

I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. You do have a purpose, but it’s not what you think.

It’s not something “out there” that you need to find. It’s not hard to figure out, like a mesmerizing labyrinth or ambiguity.

That’s because your purpose is to become who you are.

That’s it.

Nothing else. No big, fat, phony mission statement. No saving whales or ending world hunger. That’s not your purpose. Those are activities, and albeit they may be worthy ones, but they’re still simply goals. Your purpose is not a goal, an action, or a cause. Your purpose is much bigger than that.

Your purpose is to express your fullest potential, to unfold, and spiral out the amazingness that is YOU.

You can have goals, causes, missions, and even start social movements if that’s what you want. But those things are still not your purpose. Those are extensions of it, which is you.

So your purpose is to discover your path. The path that only you can own. Your purpose is to live deliberately. To create and share your gifts with the world.

When you realize that you are the author of your life, you start to realize that you don’t have to live by the rules as long as you make the choice to step outside them. You’ll find something interesting; that all those lines you’re not supposed to cross… they’re imaginary. No alarm sounds. No spikes rise up from the floor, or yellowish gas is released from some unknown source.

Empty threats.

So your job is to test your assumptions. See what happens when you do what you want. See what happens when you follow your own path. Even when you’re not sure what that path is, just take the step that you feel called to. You have to learn to trust yourself since all of this time you’ve been following someone else’s plan. When you set out to create your own plan, your own map, it will be blank at first. That’s pretty terrifying. So just start doodling. Create lines, then draw outside them. Crumple it up and burn it if you don’t like where it’s heading. Start over. Start daydreaming again. Pick your favorite colors and get to work.

Because your purpose is not what you think. Your purpose is to become who you are.

photo courtesy of djwhelan

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Liz May 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm

“Because your purpose is not what you think. Your purpose is to become who you are.”
That reminds me of another quote, “Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself”
We have to decide what/who we want to be. I can’t believe that it was already decided for us.

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Nonyameko Afiya May 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Your article is tooo sweeet! I am doing just what you wrote about in the above article. At my age of 39 years old, most people find that pretty scary to go out on your own. I’m loving it!!(borrowed from McDonald’s commercial)

My boss hates that I am leaving the job and that I speak my mind, but I am honest about what I say. My motto that I have learned through my life experiences:
“If you are working that hard; then you need to be working for yourself; not a boss! ~Nonyameko Afiya

Love your articles! Keep up the good work and will see you in the Zero Hour work week, soon! Working for me!

Thanks,
Nonyameko Afiya

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Richard May 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm

“So your purpose is to discover your path. The path that only you can own. Your purpose is to live deliberately. To create and share your gifts with the world.”

Couldn’t agree more! Thanks!

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Fabian | The Friendly Anarchist May 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Funky design additions and true words as always. Thanks for that, Jonathan!

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Brett May 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I think where a lot of people become unstuck is that they fundamentally don’t like themselves, making it harder to “become”. Self love becomes a dirty word.

Can’t get anywhere without knowing who you are accepting your faults as well as the favourable bits.

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Andy Fossett May 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Here here. Personal mission statements blow donkey cock.

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Ben Weston May 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Thank you for this Jonathan. I love the way you phrased it as “just start doodling”. I feel like most of my decisions and directions are mere doodles with the occasional picture that’s worthy of putting up on my fridge.

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Greg Blencoe May 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm

“Your purpose is to become who you are.”

I think that a very big part of becoming who you are is following what you are passionate about at any given time. It may be one thing in 2000, another in 2010, and perhaps another in 2020.

But I think if we are always following our passion (or passions), then I think we are on our way to becoming the best version of ourselves.

Thanks for the post!

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Rachel May 22, 2010 at 4:20 am

This is fantastic! I love it. “Be yourself…everybody else is already taken.” ;) xx

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Jerry Kolber May 22, 2010 at 7:49 am

Jonathan you are getting even more laser like clarity in your writing. This is so right on. We live in a soup of goals, expectations, and external motivations. Your advice to just let the path unfold is fantastic. It does take some “work” to clear away the crud of all the stuff that’s NOT you, but having to approach that work is an undertaking, rather than the terrifying prospect of looking outside and never finding what you’re meant to do. Thanks for the reminder.

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Maren Kate May 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I just did a video called the whatever, wherever, whenever principle and it aligns with this post soo much! People too often think that money is the end but building a business or doing anything is just the means… great blog by the way!

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Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot May 22, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Pretty terrifying, right? Yes! Talk about pressure, no wonder people get depondent. I think life’s main purpose is to have fun. It’s making me laugh when I read that but it’s true. Life should be fun, we should be happy being whoever we are and have fun becoming who we are!

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Girl Starup May 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

oh yeah totally like this post.

Love this line
“So your job is to test your assumptions. See what happens when you do what you want. See what happens when you follow your own path.”

I’ve done this and it’s worked a treat. Hard thing to do though. Takes guts :)

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MaRie May 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm

‘Your purpose is to become who you are’ Someone said almost the same a couple of years ago. It was Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam in the year 1500.

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Steve May 25, 2010 at 12:11 am

Jonathan,
This is an excellent post. The distinction between life purpose and goals is so important. It has been a massive weight off my shoulders and I approach life with Joy whatever my goals. It’s a stress-free life approach…

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jack @ nirvanahub.com June 2, 2010 at 9:33 am

I think that the purpose of life is to live it. and live it fully.

i have a very very simple technique to discover the purpose of life.

Think you are on your deathbed. What is your remorse, what more you want from life. Do that now.

Live Life.

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Joe Adams June 3, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Thank you. Have you ever noticed how many personal development people give tons of advice about how to follow your purpose or passion, but doesn’t ever say what the hell that’s supposed to be?

Or they give you random goals that are supposed to mean something to you, but you couldn’t (really) care less about them.

This right here kicks ass. Your purpose is to be you, and be the best damn you you can figure out how to be. It’s not to not have goals, it’s to just become the jedi/kick-ass version of you.

I definitely agree with everything you said here. Thanks for this stuff buddy.

-Joe

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Dr Paul Dyer June 3, 2010 at 7:15 pm

No doubt that finding our life’s purpose entails living an authentic life. But, IMHO, it’s an authentic life engaged in using our gifts and talents to make the world a better place, not simply being ourselves. I’m not talking about saving whales, but I am talking about doing something that matters, which can actually be almost anything done for the right reasons. And unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as you suggest for people to discover who they are as well as how to use their life energies in a meaningful way. It’s infinitely doable and it will bring a great deal of passion and joy into a life. But while some find this purpose-driven journey naturally, others experience significant challenges to uncovering this kind of life.

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Mike Roberts June 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I believe that it can work both ways.

1. Focus on finding ourselves first and while on this path, we become better capable of “making the world a better place”.

This is my chosen path in life and It is a completely inward journey. I never once think about (consciously, anyway) creating a better world or contributing to the greater good. I just keep working on myself and let the chips fall where they may (so to speak). I feel I am contributing in my own unique way, but it is not something I focus on.

2. Or it can be a life of service, of giving, of pointing our focus outward.

I think of Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK. Although, I’m thinking that they did a good amount of “inner work” on themselves to be in a place to contribute what they did.

What about a combination of the 2 Doctor?

Anyway, great article, and great comment.

~Mike

Amy Lee June 7, 2010 at 8:48 pm

You are dead on, we spend so much time focusing on the outside world that we lose sight of who we really are. Many spiritual masters say that the physical world is only 10% of our reality anyways. Our life is so much more amazing than we can even fathom.

One of my favorite sayings – Life is not about what you do while you are here, life is about WHO you are while you are living.

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Susan June 23, 2010 at 11:54 am

You write like I aim to live.

My way is to live with the best of modern in every year I that I live.

I’ve stacked up mind files of what works for me and what is just plain fun, and I keep adding what brings joy from the latest knowledge.

My biggest regret is not having the internet in my early adult life. My biggest joy is learning.

Thank you for bringing it together in your blog.

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Randi Pierce July 14, 2010 at 9:29 am

~ So your purpose is to discover your path. The path that only you can own. Your purpose is to live deliberately. To create and share your gifts with the world. ~ SO TRUE! Great, no BS, kick-ass post.

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