What’s Your Purpose?

Hello, there! Ready or not, here’re a few questions to consider. And answer. Especially since life is what it is and doesn’t wait for us to feel ready.

Consider just what is your deep Purpose in Life? What drives you to do what you do, how you do it, who you do it for, and what you do it for? Without Purpose, how successful is your business? Your primary relationships? And with Purpose, thrive!

Are you clear what your Purpose is?

What is your Purpose? Your deep, life Purpose?

Are you on Purpose?

If you feel off, what do you do to get back on track?

Or did your “Purpose Train” derail and crash and the wreckage overwhelms you?

Are you already on Purpose and you navigate through challenges not necessarily with grace but with clarity? What works for you?

What the heck is a “Purpose” anyway, and why is that “P” so big?

What a great place to start! A purpose in general refers to plans, motives, intentions, aims, reasons, basis, causes and justifications, and guiding visions and goals. When used to refer to one’s “deep, life purpose” the term “purpose” takes on deeper and/or higher meanings.

Purpose becomes a clear, focused, drive to live a certain way with determination, resolve, and commitment. It is bigger than achieving a goal or a task, although such actions could be considered “mini-purposes.” It’s more than Mission and Vision Statements as your Purpose drives those declarations. Often one’s purpose is anchored by one’s deep values and beliefs, intangibles expressed in one’s credo, morals, and ethics.

A purpose is the foundation for one’s existence. Your Purpose is the foundation for your existence. It’s what you do to live your life.

It is consciously and intentional living life full out as much as we can as often as possible. Being on purpose demands of ourselves we do what we feel compelled to do, whether it is to serve God, life, nature, humanity, the stars, political causes, family, businesses, social justice causes, etc., while we leverage our natural gifts and talents in combination with our education, experiences, and learned skills.

Purpose is not limited to gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, politics, the military, NGO’s, or business enterprises. Purpose is what you do, why you do it, and how you do it expressed through the actions of your life. Your businesses, your families, your organizations, your passions are not necessarily your purpose but expressions of your Purpose in action.

Purpose as a deep, life Purpose is spelled with a capital “P” to emphasize its singularity of focus and domination of your life’s existence. When awareness, intention, and commitment integrate Purpose crystallizes.

Getting clear to what is your deep Purpose in life is a prerequisite for being not just successful but deeply satisfied in any endeavor, including businesses, sexualoving partnerships and families, NGOs, sports, even hobbies. You may feel successful in your business or volunteer activities, for example, but feel deeply dissatisfied because you’re doing them for all the “wrong” reasons, such as from a sense of obligation, duty, cultural conditioning, those woulda-shoulda-couldas, etc. rather than living from your deep life Purpose.

A common metaphor often applied to being on Purpose is comparing it to being a train on the tracks. You may have heard phrases such as “Are you on track? Is your train on the tracks? Did you go off the rails?” or “I need to get back on track.” Even “I have tracks but no train.”

Psychotherapists and counselors even have a term for people who feel thrown off by traumatic events in life: derailment. I know, for example, I was derailed way back in my early 20s when my first wife left me for another man. That trauma ricocheted through my life for decades, often in ways I wasn’t even present to for years.

There is also a misconception among some folks that being on Purpose is for men, or business owners, or is a masculine trait, or is a capitalist drive. Such ways of thinking are cultural baggage that inhibit and limit full self-expression. Artists, women, non-profits, and those from more cooperative social and economic groups also have their deep, life Purposes to discern, develop, and express. Whether something cultural is defined as “masculine” or “feminine” are often subjective interpretations that box people in with an already-always listening that denies, even refuses to consider what else is possible.

It took me 52 years to discover my Purpose. The concept of a deep, life purpose wasn’t new to me. I’d been familiar with it for some time. Where I’ve been thrown off for so long was my inability to untangle the mixed messages I got from my family of origin and society at large. I failed repeatedly at getting crystal clear. Just when I thought I was clear, things got murky.

Repeatedly I was told two conflicting things: 1) “Wow, you’re an amazing writer – so when’re you gonna get published, get a job as a professor, or turn your books into movies and make a million?” 2) “Yeah, cool, so you write. I like to draw pictures of bug-eyed space aliens myself. When’re you gonna get real and get a real job? Or start a company or run a business if you don’t want the j-o-b?” It took me awhile to get off the drama triangle of victim-rescuer-persecutor.

I kept collapsing short-term urgencies and various responsibilities into my purpose as my Purpose. My natural gifts and talents were collapsed into my Purpose, and I had to dig them back out. I confused goals, dreams, ambitions, tasks, many of them short-termed, as my Purpose.

Putting food on the table may or may not be your responsibility, but it isn’t your life purpose unless preparing meals is what compels you to live life all out as a contribution to humanity. Purpose is beyond survival. Yes, you must survive in order to live your purpose forward on this planet. And Purpose is beyond trying to survive.  Being on Purpose is to thrive in life.

What I didn’t get was yes, today I need to do this, for now I chose to do that for a month, and even though they are not actually my Purpose they align with my Purpose as they help me build toward it. So I may do q, r, s, & t, which I dislike, because they allow me to move toward u, v, & w as full expressions of my Purpose, which I love. Does that make sense?

There was a lot of untangling to do. Years were spent peeling back layer after layer after layer as one peels an onion. It helped, too, to dive in deep whether it was whitewater kayaking and alpine mountaineering, or transformative spiritual and mystical experiences, or all the professional and personal growth, training, and development workshops.

Many years were spent distinguishing my self from my identities and the masks I wore in public and in private. Getting clearer as to who I was, what I am, where I am, where I going, where I intend to go, what I need to do to do so and who I need to work with, and how, and why. So many questions, all simple questions, all asking about different aspects of the same core entity…me, and what was bigger than just “me.”

In the wake of hosting a Native American house blessing and all that opened up afterwards, my wife Kristina sat down with me with a stack of blank paper and her bag of colored pens. She’s an amazing and gifted woman. In two hours she guided me through an exercise where I discovered and declared my deep Purpose in life. I got clearer as to what it is I do and why I do what I do. It was an amazing and powerful experience.

Kristina is a genius at such things. She’s a business consultant, coach, and trainer. Organizational development and the dynamics of human relationships is her thing. She breaks down the hyper-compartmentalization of many corporate structures to reveal all organizations are for, about, and composed of human beings. Her passion is Polarity Management, OD jargon for dispersing the illusion of  “bottom lines” to integrate products, services, money, assets, and creating value with what is often forgotten but more important, human beings and their relationships.

As an organizational change agent engaged in the transformation of these relationships, Kristina lives, eats, and breathes her Purpose. Kristina declares “I co-create awakening experiences of enduring empowerment such that people love and express their True Self.” Although she has played with the wording off and on over the years and has juggled other people’s opinions about those words, she ultimately returned to the core of the deep, life Purpose she realized for herself back in August of 1997. It rang true for Kristina as her own true self-expression for her raison d’etre.

What is my Purpose?

After much meditation, deliberation, and processing, I distilled my deep Life Purpose into the following statement:

“I create art with language to connect people with their own humanity.”

Further refinement of my purpose proved necessary. Kristina put me in touch with Lane, an intuitive healer who used kinesthetic muscle testing as developed by Dr. David R. Hawkins and others. With Lane’s discernment, I learned to drop the term “is,” as in “My Purpose is…” Why? “Is” traps purpose in the past and the now-moment passing. “As” flows forward from the now-moment rich with possibility and direction.

Lane helped me clarify the words composing the preamble to my purpose: “I experience my life purpose as…” He was clear I must experience it, this is my interpretation of my experience of reality, and from there I have the power to generate new possibilities from nothing. As I experience my Purpose, I experience living my Purpose as being on Purpose. I myself am not a purpose. I have a Purpose, but I am not my Purpose.

To create what I must, to stay the course toward what compels me forward regardless of circumstances. Having recently re-experienced the Landmark Forum was also a huge boon to the conscious use of language to create awareness and intention. Trainings in Insight Meditation allowed me to cultivate “mindfulness,” a higher sense of self-awareness and presence.

Lane worked with me further to generate the following amplification of my deep Purpose:

“I experience my Purpose in Life as creative, and inspiring manuscripts for leading social change movements; expression of complex ideas with easy to assimilate verbal structures; documentation of community as an investigative journalist; collages fro artistic interpretation to really impact people intensely; profit with prosperity flows from my work; catalyst.”

The above expresses my purpose via kinesthetic muscle testing in response to my inquiries. For me, using Kristina’s trainings as well as the awareness and presence developed in Landmark Education and in Vipassana Meditation practices, I arrived at a deeper realization. In a sense I had to submit and surrender, accept what is as what actually is before moving on to change and transform it. I had to stop fighting reality. Kristina’s work got me self-aware enough I realized I’ve fought reality since a child.

Being taunted as “deaf, dumb, and stupid,” I fought back. Denied what I thought was a certain level of liberty by my family and their established mainstream society of the 1960s and 1970s, I organized the children of my neighborhood to rise up against our parents to try and create a world of more peace, freedom, equality, and justice. But all I did was make a mess. Why? Because I was at war with reality. To be alive in my Purpose I had to accept reality as what it is and move forward to experience it as what and who I am before I affect change.

To be present to one’s deep life purpose one has to be present to life as it is, to life as it really is. We must first consciously distinguish events as just what happened from the stories we make up about those events as we interpret them and give meanings to them. I often like to quote one of my college history professors who enjoyed provoking us students with the reminder “What people believed to have happened is more important than what actually happened.” Entire nations change course based upon dominant cultural beliefs, and beliefs are all made up in the mind. Too many wars have been based upon beliefs about race, economics, politics, religions, ethnicity, and geography with many of these beliefs not based in the reality of truth.

Beliefs are clusters of thoughts generated by the brain and imbued with emotional charge by one’s feelings. One’s purpose can get lost and buried and muddied in such belief systems, so it’s paramount to rise above beliefs with their emotionally charged feelings and thoughts. One’s purpose expresses clarity.

For me I refined it further again:

“I experience my deep Purpose in Life as I create art with language and images as a catalyst for change and transformation.”

That’s my deep, life Purpose. It’s what I do: “create art” with how I do it: “with language and images.” My original why, “to connect people with their own humanity,” is replaced with my declaration owning I’m “a catalyst for change and transformation.”  Expressing my Purpose shows up in different ways: as an author, blogger, poet, historian, current affairs analyst, speaker, teacher, trainer, in sales, on video, in conversation, even in silence.

My first language was silence. As a birth trauma baby, I almost died several times during birth and my first two weeks out of the womb. The doctors informed my parents I was “mentally retarded.” One of my grandmothers who kept me for a week realized I wasn’t responding well and told my parents to have my ears checked and hearing tested. They did and discovered I wasn’t “retarded” at all, but partially deaf with a moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. It took me almost six years of speech therapy to speak English.

One of the head doctors on staff kept telling me I was a bridge between worlds and would grow up with a unique gift to build bridges between people and groups of people. As a young boy, I didn’t know what he meant back then and had no desire to be a bridge for people and motor vehicles to move back and forth across upon. I didn’t get it until many years later when I began to understand metaphors. “Building bridges” also meant connecting people and organizations to one another, not only a feat of engineering and construction.

I’m an artist, and my art is words, whether spoken or written. I don’t have to be a genius in the art to express myself. And I am compelled to write. I am driven to work with and to play with language. I also love visual art such as photography and crafting things with my hands such as mixing together found objects into odd collages and arrangements. My drive also strives to make the world a better place for connecting people to their humanity and waking people up as a change agent for transformation.

Yes, I also write for pleasure, for entertainment, and to make money, and I feel called to go much further than those things with my God-given talents. Look across our world. We are one species sharing one planet. Despite all our many differences, and there are many, we have far more in common with one another than not. When people awaken and connect, the primitive, limbic “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction subsides and conflict can be addressed without violence, perhaps even resolved.

As a storyteller, whether with words or pictures, I am reminded Ken Wilber, one of the preeminent philosophers and brilliant visionaries of our day, laughs at the label “philosopher.” He much prefers to call himself a “storyteller.” Mythologists such as Joseph Campbell and Michael Meade have all pointed to the power of stories to not only sustain culture and transmit ideas but also to heal, re-create, and transform our civilizations and us.

Graham Greene, a novelist and storyteller who was also one of the most astute critics of early cinema, recognized the power of film with moving visual images to tell such stories by quoting from Anton Chekhov. A master of the short story, Chekhov once wrote regarding novelists “the best of them are realistic and paint life as it is, but because every line is permeated, as with a juice, by awareness of a purpose, you feel, beside life as it is, also life as it ought to be, and this captivates you.” Greene loved Chekhov’s description, and in 1937 wrote, “This description of an artist’s theme has never…been bettered…”

To get to the “ought to,” however, one must accept what is as what is. They way things are is the way they are in the moment, and one must understand that before seeking changes. Purpose must be grounded in acceptance of what is, not stuck in memories of the past, or lost in future thoughts and hopes. From acceptance arises the presence to choose a different and more powerful direction in alignment with one’s deep core values.

To monetize one’s Purpose is a different challenge, one distinct from discovering one’s deep Purpose. Not every Purpose is appropriate to monetize as a business, of course. It has to feel right. There has to be alignment between one’s Purpose, ethics, and livelihood. One’s work as well as play can be an expression of one’s Purpose, too. Being an entrepreneur and leveraging your natural gifts to create value for yourself, your family, and others is certainly a powerful way to live your life on Purpose. You fulfill customers’ objectives and make the world a better place at the same time.

If you think your Purpose is simply to make money, or put food on the table, or buy a dream house, or get your favorite candidate elected, or simply have fun randomly doing whatever you like, well, you are not on Purpose. Those items can be objectives of a life lived on Purpose, but there’s no clarity or deeper drive to better one’s self, humanity, and the world. Doing whatever is just randomly doing whatever the moment brings. Purpose transcends the moment. It’s the bridge between past and future so creating the future becomes the now.

Sometimes we put too much energy into trying to understand everything rather than just going with it. Spending time figuring things out may have value, and it is distinct from actually creating and shipping what you create. Are you hiding behind planning and planning some more until everything is perfect?

That’s one of my flaws, too. So stop it. I tell myself to stop when I catch myself hiding out and playing small. I’m not on Purpose when I’m playing small and hiding. My mistakes are too tiny. When I live my life fully on Purpose my mistakes are big and my messes messy. And that’s OK. That’s good!

My Purpose remains clear:

“I experience my deep Purpose in Life as I create art with language and images as a catalyst for change and transformation.”

What’s your Purpose?


“Graham Greene on the Art of Storytelling,” High Concepts: The arts, entertainment, culture.” 31 August 31 2011. <http://danielmcinerny.blogspot.com/2011/08/graham-greene-on-art-of-storytelling_31.html>.

William Dudley Bass
22 September 2011
Revised and Re-Published 27 November 2011
Seattle, Washington

NOTE: Originally published in Cultivate and Harvest, one of my earlier blogs, in September 2011, then revised and republished here. Thank you.


Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.


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