Reasons for not living your purpose and the life you want to live, and how you can overcome them.
If you asked people about their lives, very few would say that they didn’t want to fully live their purpose.
But even fewer would say that they are actually doing it.
Why is that?
Why do people want to live a life of purpose, but end up doing something else?
I have written before about resistance to change, which we all suffer from to varying degrees (and probably fortunately so, since otherwise, we would have little stability in the world). But there is even more at play when it comes to living or not living your purpose.
Everyone has their own reality tunnel, so it’s tough to know why someone else is acting the way they do, but I know I can look into myself, my own struggles and extrapolate at least some general ideas as to why others might experience similar challenges with a life of purpose (and please let me know — always excited about comments and suggestions).
Here are some of the things I find myself working on in order to live my purpose:
Living a life of purpose and staying focused on being effective requires constant effort.
- It requires effort to have a healthy body (both in terms of selecting and preparing nutrition as well as exercise).
- It requires effort to work through emotions instead of reacting or depressing them.
- It requires effort to think. There is a whole pseudo-spiritual movement dedicated to not thinking and only feeling/sensing instead — which I would consider a regression in development. It’s not about not thinking, it’s about learning to be the master of your thoughts instead of their slave.
- It requires effort to relate to people, to switch perspectives, to empathize, to have compassion, to care.
- It requires effort to create something unique, to develop and nurture your own voice.
- It requires effort to take on the big problems, to even be willing to see them and see the world for what it is —and it is so much easier to silently hope that someone else will deal with them.
- It requires effort to be truly a creator of this reality, it’s much easier to let someone else control it for you.
Living a life of purpose requires constant evolution. And it is not easy to constantly evolve. It seems easier to let yourself be pulled by the currents of fate, chill out, let it be.
It takes conscious effort to be the best version of yourself, continue to challenge yourself, continue to step up.
As with anything that you do repeatedly and integrate into “how you do things”, your personal operating system, it does get easier, but it still seems like more effort than to do nothing — at least until the pain of not evolving to your next level sets in, at which point you begin to depress, which takes growing effort and can lead to a complete energy drain or blowout.
So… might as well put the effort in proactively…
We tend to order our experience in a manner that is regular, orderly, symmetrical, and simple. It is required for us to function. If we had to rethink e.g. how we walk or talk all the time, we would probably not function very well. We are creatures of habit.
We are born into a world with certain probability patterns (like gravity, certain archetypes, gender, etc.). We are even born with certain personal physical, emotional, mental and other propensities.
We cannot suddenly suspend our probability patterns and begin to do things completely differently, perceive from a completely different point of perception inside the matrix of consciousness (there are tools from meditation and breathing techniques to entheogens that can facilitate a temporary jump and reprogramming, but that is for another story).
Overall, our experience is bound by the probability patterns of our reality tunnel. Every time we engage in certain activities, we enforce the likelihood of engaging in them again.
We cannot escape our tunnel, but we can — through conscious effort — shift it into slightly different directions, begin to shift the probabilities in our favor or desired direction — toward our purpose.
All we can do is to keep pushing through and take little steps at every chance — realizing that in every moment our probabilities are collapsing into actuality, that in each moment we have the opportunity for free will, for truly creative action, and that whatever we end up doing will inform all of our probabilities going forward.
Every action is at first a creative one. Then there is some reward, which is why we do it again. And again. Until it becomes a habit, and eventually, once our personal will is eroded and has migrated to the thing, an addiction.
Our journey away from being creative started with reward. That is what got us hooked in the first place. Whether that was a sensory reward, emotional reward, egoic, or social reward. Something let us know that it would be good to do it again. And so we did it again, until we got to believe that we could not afford not to do it; until the fear of losing the reward became too great for us to risk losing it by trying something new.
This is how people stay in jobs they hate, partnerships that have long lost their love, friendship circles that are no longer inspiring, relationships that do not serve us any longer in our development, but actively hold us back. It is when the prostitute archetype kicks in that Carolyn Myss aptly described as one of the archteypes of survival.
The way you take away something from a child is to give it something else that you make out to be more exciting.
In order to overcome habituated or addictive patterns, we can examine their rewards more closely, decouple them from the activities that led to them, and investigate alternate means to receive at least equal if not greater rewards through alternate means.
One of the rewards we hold on to dearly is social recognition. When we stay within the boundaries of the current social operating system, we get rewarded with tokens (in this case money), and the approval of our tribe.
Doing something different risks expulsion from the tribe.
As Erich Fromm pointed out in the Art of Loving, one of our worst fears as humans is that we are all alone (which, funny enough, is the case, as soon as we identify with “i”, but that’s also leading into another rabbit hole). He describes conformity as a typical human attempt to experience self-expansion, an attempt to feel connected to something bigger than our “i”dentity, anattempt to experience love. Fromm also points out that — since conformity is externally based — it is not something that can be sustained. Further, it can be taken away from us at any time if someone deems us not fitting the tribal ideas anymore. He suggests active loving, reaching out to make connection as a means to create the experience of love independent of the feedback we might receive.
In order to live your purpose you have to be willing to stand alone and actively love, rather than conform and hope for love from others.
Being willing to actively love and extending self into “other” might require giving up a current idea of who “i” is in the first place. It will require a death experience of our current ego identity.
We learn to grasp the world in nouns. Objects. First key ones like our reference people, then ourselves, our identity, then more and more other things.
Trained to think in nouns we consider ourselves static entities, too: “This is who I am.”
To be open to transformation and approach our purpose, we need to be willing to let go of any notion of who we are.
We get to become verbs, ever-evolving processes. We get to understand ourselves as being in “perpetual beta”.
Shifting that understanding lets go of the old skin of our ego, and we open up to becoming an every growing expression of life, excited to expand into and continuously discovering our purpose.
Stories instead of narratives
Once we let go of the need to defend our ego, we can also shift from stories to narratives.
Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. They are finite. They are finalized and do not leave room to take part in. We tend to use stories as excuses, to relate why we acted a certain way, and ultimately to justify who we are (or were).
Narratives on the other hand are open ended and inclusive. They allow for us to be aspirational. They include the possibility of our transformation toward something greater than we currently are. They are dynamic and open.
Either have their place. In the context of purpose and continuing to evolve toward it, we get to pay special attention to them: To ensure that stories of our past are indeed finished, that they are wrapped in forgiveness and that we do not hold on to them, and that we have narratives that cast new possibilities for our future, and which inspire us to become ever more of who we came here to be.
Living the dream
When asked “How are you today?”, a former manager of mine would always answer with “Living the dream. Living the dream.” — unfortunately with a slightly sarcastic and defeated undertone. For him, his work didn’t seem to feel like a dream he would want to dream. Sadly, he is not alone in that: e.g. employee engagement in the US was at 30% last year. The majority (50.8%) of employees were “not engaged,” while another 17.2% were “actively disengaged.” That’s 70% of people living in something akin to a perpetual nightmare.
We are living in a dream.
Apart from a distinct lack of defined states of consciousness (it seems to be more of a spectrum), and apart from the dilemma that we still don’t really have a clue what consciousness even is apart from some sort of self-reflexive awareness, our experience and perception of reality is filtered through everything we have learned: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We cannot perceive reality for what it really “is”. So we might as well be living in a dream.
We can always only perceive reality through the filters of our awareness. And we can strive to further that awareness. But that is as much as we can do…
To be awake is to know that I am the dreamer.
When we are awake, lucid, we can do what we can to make our dream the best one ever.
Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it sucks.
Sometimes it’s pleasure. Sometimes pain.
We might not have direct control over all the events of our dream, but we can choose how to respond to them, how to use every experience to grow our awareness, seize the opportunity of will toward purpose as often as possible.
Within this dream, we can constantly orient ourselves on the idea of our purpose; knowing that — as with all absolute ideas (love, freedom, etc.) — anytime we move further toward it, it will move further away.
One day we will be done with this particular form, and then move onto whatever happens after this mortal coil ceases its current.
Until then let’s be on an adventure.
Live the dream we came here to live.