Why Earning Money Is Not Your Real Purpose (And How To Know What Is)

This is part 3 of a series on how to discover your real purpose in lifeIf you haven’t done so, read part 1: How to Know If You are Living Your Life Purpose NOW and part 2: Why Have a Life Purpose? 5 Reasons You Should Have a Purpose first.

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot

When you were a kid, had you ever been told by your parents, teachers, peers or other people what you should do in life? It might be to earn a lot of money, to be successful, to be respectable, to be a filial child, to contribute to the society, to serve a higher entity, etc.

Woman in virtual reality

Whatever it was, what role did you play in identifying it? The likelihood was somehow, somewhere, people who were not you took the onus of deciding how you should lead your life on your behalf, without including you in the jury. Presumably, your role was to live out the purpose, not to question it.

These are imposed purposes – purposes which have been imposed upon you by other people as what they think you should do. Imposed purposes are not your real purposes because they reflect what others want from you. They have been glossed over and packaged as unquestionable, single universal truths. Because of the subtlety in which they were introduced into your lives, because of all the structures and pillars that are already in place in your world which seemingly hold up these beliefs, few people actually give much thought, if any at all, to them.

After all, if everyone around you is adhering to these purposes, there is simply no reason to question its basis.

I grew up pursuing imposed purposes, such as to earn money, to be successful, to respect my religion (Buddhism) and to be a good citizen of the society. After over a decade of unconscious adherence, I finally discovered my real purpose and began to actually live in a conscious manner (check out the next part in the series for the full story).

I need to clarify that I am not trying to undermine the merit of imposed purposes – in fact, even though I am now non-religious, I am more conscious and appreciative of Buddha’s teachings now than when I was a Buddhist.

All I am trying to say is unless what you are pursuing is the result of conscious evaluation and choice on your part, your life has not begun. And having lived on both sides of the dichotomy before, I can genuinely attest that there is indeed a very concrete, palpable difference between both.

A real purpose liberates. It comes alive from within your soul, igniting, burning, blazing, firing up everyday of your life and your existence. It is a purpose you have consciously created and come to embrace as your own.

It is not something you were told, read from a book, or were inculcated with by other people, by institutions, by society.

An imposed purpose, on the other hand, is assigned to you or conditioned in you by others. It based in fear, driven by ego and obligation to live up to others’ expectations. It is something that binds you and makes you feel disempowered at times. While pursuing it gives you short-term satisfaction, continuing to do so in the long run gives you a sense of unfulfillment – almost as if there is something missing in your life.

What is your current purpose in life? What is the life purpose which you been told or expected of from those around you? Regardless of what it is, I urge you to question them. Question the basis behind those assumptions and beliefs. How did they come to be? Why are they what they are? This will be the first step to being an active, conscious creator of your life. (In part six of the series, we will move into an actual exercise which will let you discover your real purpose in life.)

Imposed Purposes versus Liberating Purposes:

Below, you will find a comparative overview of imposed purposes versus liberating purposes. This concept of imposed and liberating purposes is actually similar in theme to Brad Swift’s inherited and created purposes (from his book Life on Purpose). Personally, I use the terms ‘Imposed’ and ‘Liberating’ as I feel they better convey the essence of what they stand for.

Imposed Purposes:

These have been externally imposed in our current life as responsibilities, obligations or what people think we should do. Characteristics include:

  • Assigned to you by others. It is inculcated in you throughout your life. Comes about as a result of being part of a larger group, such as family, society, religion and nation. It flows from outside of the world to you
  • Reflection of others’ needs rather than yourself. Imposed purposes reflect agendas by other people which they transfer onto you to fulfill or live up to
  • Fear-based. Driven by fear, ego and obligation to live up to others’ expectations. Uninspiring and disempowering at times; Thought of it fill you with dread occasionally
  • Pursuit gives temporal satisfaction; however in the long-run a sense of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment starts taking seat, as if there is something missing in your life
  • Default mechanism we subscribe to when we are not living consciously
  • Examples include earning money, continuing a family business, becoming successful, achieving certain social statuses, any purpose you were assigned by others

Liberating Purposes

Purpose that is an active creation by yourself and your consciousness; It is internally driven and powered. Characteristics include:

  • Consciously created by yourself in this life; Your personal choice. It flows from inside of you toward the world. Depending on how some people view this, it can also be your inherent pre-encoded purpose, inner calling or destiny. The important factor to recognize is that it is a deliberate creation and choice by you as an individual
  • Resonates with who you are. Because it is a definition that flowed from you, it is essentially an extension of your core being
  • Love-based. Driven by overwhelming inner desire, passion and love
  • Free from others’ expectations of what they think you should do
  • Inspires and energizes you just from the mere thought of it. It is empowering in nature
  • Pursuit gives lasting meaning and fulfillment
  • Examples include creative self-expression, growing and educating others, inspiring love and meaning, helping other people

Can you now better see the difference between the two? As you read this list, some of the descriptions probably resonate with what you have experienced and observed in your life.

Which type of purpose would you much rather have in your life?

In the next part, I will share my personal story on how I came to discover my real life purpose and the two important things which led to that discovery.

This is part 3 of a 7-part series on how to discover your real purpose in life.

Image: Leonard Low