The false belief that kept me from finding purpose
I Was Wrong for so many Years
Well, I’ll be damned. I was duped. Or better yet, I tricked myself. Or as Homer would say, “Stupid Brain.” All the planning, all the businesses I built and sold, all the passion and high energy I put into my work never became my ‘life’s purpose” or my “life’s work.” I foolishly thought that finding purpose meant finding meaningful work, yet as I got out of my head and into my heart, my True Self, the reality of such, was clear.
Not to worry, I am grateful for the journey and path that has led me here…
Upon reflection, it was simple. I bought into the notion that my purpose was my work. I believed the common notion of being able to “find your life’s work” or “ find purpose at (or through your) work.” For many years, it was that mindset that kept me from finding what we all crave, deeper meaning and purpose in life.
The striving for purpose, the craving for connection to something more meaningful kept slipping through my grasp. My idea was to create a new company that, by way of my example, would teach and motivate others. And I did. I successfully built it, creating millions of dollars of revenue and sold it for more. Did I find purpose? Of course not. So, I continued my search as I created two more companies thereafter with yet again similar results.
Next, I took an opportunity to change gears and worked in a more servant-leadership role to consult and help build new enterprises in an industry I was passionate about. I was able to use my past skills of entrepreneurship, marketing and business development to mentor others. For years, I used my experience along with my commitment to work with companies whose mission focused on accelerating human consciousness (my personal passion) with reasonable and measurable success. Alas, did I find purpose? Nope.
So what was missing? Why do I and so many of my peers miss the boat? We find success yet, there is still a void, a lack of fulfillment and joy that comes with finding deep meaning in life. How can we find it?
“Know thyself’ was the answer.
Work & Purpose are Not One
Doing the “work before the work” as Parker Palmer would say, to find that deep, lasting meaning, the equanimity and peace we all seek is an inside job. And of course we all know that, yet how little, if any, time we spend working on, looking at, and being supported to find such often leaves us empty-handed. And so, I (like you) turned to the externalities of life to fill the gap, mostly work in my case. I turned to my work and when that didn’t satisfy, I turned to a new company. Still not fulfilled, I put everything towards my mission to create a better world, however, none of it was fulfilling. So, I stopped looking for fulfillment as an outside job and started focusing within. That is when I began the journey of discovering True Self. Finding purpose through work, means no purpose at all. Just work that feels purposeful. Your work emanating from True Self becomes purpose with the lasting meaning I sought.
The word True Self can sound a little daunting, if not a bit spiritually fluffy. But it’s just a word. It could mean one’s soul, inner light, etc… More importantly, what does it mean to you? Well, like most mysteries of life, one cannot truly define it in the limitations of written words, but only look for signposts that point the way.Here are a few to consider:
A process not a revelation
Finding True Self is a process that unfolds over time, well for me at least. One that challenges and eventually rejects many common beliefs around success in modern society. A process that looks squarely in the face of our childhood and limiting beliefs or trauma that caused us to defensively protect our hearts and not explore the depths needed. A process that gives real agency and power back to the inner energy that so desperately wants to be seen, shown and witnessed. One that takes courage and evokes pain, but creates a path to getting beyond roller coaster of life. And can, once and for all, be the guide, our own guide, to a place that feels whole and good, with lasting meaning. One that is rooted in deep connections with others and fosters beautiful relationships. One that desires little, seeks less from others and creates a capacity to be more fully alive and joyful in the world.
To find True Self we must start by unraveling the false identities we all label ourselves as, for example Entrepreneur, Leader, Changemaker, Mother, Father, etc. to get to the root of Self. Until we get there, we will continue to ride the crest and lulls of the waves of life with some nice highs and uncertain lows. We must ditch the comfort of that surfboard (or life jacket), exhale and let ourselves sink into the depths of our own self. And yes, it has been a scary place for me. Yet, once there and comfortable, how clear it is what needs to happen next and how easeful those actions are.
And in a follow up post, I’d like to explore a few of these True Self sign posts a bit deeper. Would you like to join me in such? If so, comments welcomed.
What obstacles may keep us from finding True Self? Modern society has created barriers that prevent us from spending time with Self and trusted others, and may hinder our quest to create a life of meaning and purpose. Ideas on how we should act or interact with others, which are hard to go against. The ones I struggle with the most, and have had to create routing and rigor around, include some that feel most common in everyday life and contradict much of the more regular assumed values of society. I have found that it is more important to:
Some may say, “What?! Why would you not seek advice from friends?” Answer: because the answers to your very unique-life and True Self questions come from you and you alone. Your friends will only reinforce simple answers you seek and set you adrift in a direction that is not you, not yours. Of course, finding outlets to be heard or even spiritual mentorship can be good. But still, it is your journey.
And that brings me to how we fill our time. Many of us use work as an escape route to doing the deeper work of unlocking our True Self. The same applies to our “group of friends” this is so persuasive that for me not only do I see it every day in my own life, but I hear it from so many. It makes sense, we don’t have the true and mutually supportive community that our tribal heart yearns for. So we create our group of friends, we call them community and we fill a void that our logical mind feels good about. And the companionship creates some good heartfelt moments (and of course we need this) but let us not conclude that our time spent with friends will get us any closer to our True Self. We need Self Time. True support from deep everyday interactions with family or those we hold most dear. Even some good reflection from a supportive group or mentorship.
As it is only the inner teacher that has the answers. Not the outside world. And not in filling our time. But getting more back for ourselves. We must work diligently to find her, our inner teacher. Listen to her. And connect regularly with her voice. Then we might have a chance of finding meaning and true purpose to which also may become aligned with our vocation.
True-self. Purpose. Meaning and Joy.