The three types of purpose
If you are not living your soul purpose, what agenda is directing your life? When your life doesn’t flow from your Soul’s deepest values, what values are you living by?
When we are not living our soul’s purpose, our life still has a purpose – aims, goals or values that drives us forward. We may have consciously created that purpose. But equally, our purpose may be completely or partly unconscious.
The purpose that moves your life forward when you are not living from either soul’s purpose, or a more consciously created purpose, is your default purpose.
What is default purpose?
Simply put, default purpose is a combination of values inherited from your upbringing/society/culture, and the defenses you acquired during childhood. So a simple definition of default purpose is: external conditioning + interior defenses, or simply the beliefs and defences you have inherited or developed over your lifetime.
Another way to think of it is 1) culturally conditioned behaviour (e.g. ‘I must get a good job and earn a lot of money’) 2) behaviour based on inherited beliefs (e.g. ‘you’re the sporty one and your sister is the intelligent one’ and 3) Wound-driven behaviour (e.g. the defences you developed to cope with trauma or wounding as you grew up i.e. ‘I have to do everything alone as no-one is coming to save me’).
By seeing what those have been, it helps you to see some of the forces that have been operating in your life, and shaping its direction.
Although living from default purpose can be a functional way of living and many people thrive in this manner and lead happy lives, it is a reactive (rather than creative) response to life.
Other names for default purpose include ‘life scripts’ or ‘core beliefs’. We are not normally conscious of all the different threads of our default purpose. For example, we may be aware of a core belief, such as, “I must avoid rejection or abandonment at all costs”, but we might not realise that this belief is actually operating as a default life purpose, and creating a huge blind spot in how we perceive and operate in our daily reality.
The three types of purpose
|Default purpose||The purpose we inherit from our upbringing – parents, culture and society.|
|Created purpose||The purpose we generate independently for ourselves, outside of our socialised conditioning.|
|True purpose – the purpose of our soul||Expresses who we really are at the deepest level, and brings into our ordinary human lives the story we were uniquely born to live.|
All three are legitimate purposes. It’s not about discarding everything but soul purpose, it’s just about getting clear on what’s driving your life right now. Each type of purpose has a role to play.
Exercise a) Getting clear on your purposes
To get a feel for these three layers of purpose, make a list of all the things you can think of that could be defined as a purpose. You don’t have to finish the list. Write as much as you can in about 15 minutes.
An example list might be: be loving, give to others, become wise, accept/love myself, seek truth, feel safe and secure, experience community and belonging, achieve high self-esteem, be admired, be a good neighbour, make a lot of money, serve the evolution of our species, have children, volunteer in causes I care about, read/study in areas I care about, keep learning.
Sort your list. Take the items in your list and place them into one of the three categories. For example:
|Default purpose (the inherited values and beliefs from our family and society)||Created purpose (the purpose we generate or decide ourselves)||True (soul’s) purpose (that springs from our deepest, truest nature)|
|Feel safe and secure, belonging, esteem, admiration, become wealthy, be admired, have children.||Become wise, accept/love myself, be a good neighbour, volunteer, study/never stop learning.||Guide people to awaken to who they really are by helping them heal their souls through shamanic healing and purpose guiding, to serve the evolution of themselves and the planet (my example)|
For some things, it might not be clear which category they belong in. You don’t have to get it perfect. Just intuitively feel where each thing belongs in the case of your own life. You might have the same thing in more than one column.
Also, I appreciate you might not know what to put in the soul purpose column – after all, that’s why you are doing this! Stretch yourself, ask your soul to help, then take your best intuitive shot and see what comes – a word, a sentence, an image, a feeling. Then, sit with it. Does it feel like a soul-level purpose, or does it have more of a ‘created’ feel? No right or wrong here.
Most people live from all three of these purposes, with different ratios reflecting how much of their lives are occupied with each type of purpose.
Living from your default purpose
Your default purpose is not (necessarily) an accident of how you were raised – it is part of your life lessons and offering.
There are a few things you may notice:
- Default purpose and soul’s purpose can sometimes be similar or identical. It’s unusual, but we can see this operate in the example of Martin Luther King Jr’s life, where both his upbringing and his Soul emphasised love and justice.
- Moving beyond default purpose. Even in cases where a child is raised in near ideal circumstances, that child may grow up into an adult who feels called to create his or her own unique purpose, or (less commonly) feels called by Soul to discover their deepest purpose, their soul-level identity and evolutionary calling.
- Living unconsciously from default purpose. Many of us are largely unaware that we are living from a default purpose. We may not realise it was never our own conscious choice to follow the particular way of life we are currently invested in. We may not even realise there are life-fulfilling options outside of this pathway. Lacking a clear purpose, we may find ourselves in an endless loop chasing relationships, money, material possessions and power, never fulfilled, but not knowing what else to do.
- Uncovering default purpose presents challenges. Discovering your default purpose can bring up feelings of disorientation, anxiety or vulnerability. Sometimes there is an experience of emptiness when we have transitioned away from default purpose but have not yet discovered our soul’s purpose. This can feel painful, and even depressing at times.
- Discovering your default purpose is also a path of freeing yourself towards a life of your own choosing and/or Soul’s choosing. This transformation can become an exhilarating ride into self-discovery, with the potential of freeing yourself of purposes you have outgrown. Deepening your understanding of default purpose can result in an epiphany: ‘Finally! Now I know what was holding me back all this time!’
- Strong days and weaker days. Gaining increased clarity about our default purpose makes us stronger and gives us more agency in our lives. Yet there will probably be moments when the pull of your default purpose is stronger than your desire for living a soul-infused life. Don’t give yourself a hard time about this if it happens; it’s natural, and to be expected.
- Disadvantages of living from default purpose. While living from default purpose in some cases can still lead to a happy life, it has some serious disadvantages, especially: less opportunity for self-authorship and the deeper soul-informed callings in your life for which you are uniquely suited, but are not yet living into.
There will always be fears and resistances when we stand at the threshold of a new layer of purpose. One element of our resistance is this: we’ve become used to living from our default purpose, and we’re often supported by friends and family (who are living from their default purpose) to not change too much.
By default, many people tend towards the purpose of feeling safe, secure and financially successful. As Maslow noted in his hierarchy of needs, if you don’t have the basics covered (food and shelter), you will not have much energy, motivation or stability for the pursuit of deeper purposes further up the chain. Also, even when your basics are covered, there can be a tendency to move sideways (e.g., chasing more riches) with diminishing returns, rather than extending deeper into the higher layers of purpose where the real breakthroughs are waiting.
While wanting safety and financial security is natural, as well as providing the foundation for exploring deeper layers of self, it can carry an immense potential to stifle our desire to discover our soul-level purpose.
Don’t demonise your default purpose! It has played a vital role bringing you this far, but now it can’t take you any further. To continue the journey, you need a bigger narrative.
Living your soul’s purpose
You’ve heard the call to delve deep into your soul purpose, and now you’ve started the journey.
Transitioning from default (or created) purpose to soul’s purpose is a gradual and challenging process. Pursuing a default purpose past its expiration date can lead you away from your deepest calling, whereas your soul’s purpose draws you forward into living your destiny. Have faith that you have been called. Your goal at this point is to decrease the influence of your default purpose, in order to create space for your soul’s purpose to emerge with ever-greater clarity.
The first step of the process is to learn to distinguish between your default purpose, your created purpose and your soul’s purpose.
‘A great disaster happens when we miss our star and follow the lights of others, or simply become lost in the darkness.’ Michael Meade
Distinguishing the three types of purpose
|Default purpose||Created purpose||True (soul’s) purpose|
|Given by other influential humans (family, society, organisations)||Created by a healthy egoic sense of self||Eternal – revealed through transpersonal means|
|Sometimes evolutionary||Often evolutionary||Always evolutionary|
|Socially authored||Self authored||Soul authored|
|Danger of inauthenticity, living someone else’s vision||Often authentic and autonomous||Completely authentic|
|Can be reactionary (wounded or neurotic)||Occasionally reactionary, often creative||Non-reactionary, inspired creativity.|
|Preserving the safety and predictability of the status quo as much as possible||Challenging and re-creating current reality, but still controlling the outcome||Surrendering to deep guidance and flowing with the higher callings and forces in life|
|Inherited life script||Created life script||Scriptless, deep listening|
|Sometimes unconscious||Conscious (tip of the iceberg)||Full spectrum consciousness (touching bottom of the iceberg)|
|Usually non-native to Soul, may even be in opposition to Soul||Connected to aspects of Soul but created through a largely mental or egoic framework||Fully indigenous to Soul, in its own language – i.e. the mind may not be able to ‘figure it out’|
|Sometimes scarcity based||More abundance||Love and trust based|
Exercise c) What is your default purpose?
Step 1: Next to each sentence, write the number (1-5) that most accurately reflects the pervasiveness of this script in your life.
not me a tiny bit like me about 50% me mostly me exactly me
I must avoid rejection at all costs.
I must avoid abandonment at all costs.
I must avoid suffering at all costs.
I have to accomplish everything on my own.
I must not make waves or take up too much space.
If I’m not perfect, I don’t deserve happiness.
I will never be enough.
I don’t deserve what I want: (circle one) success, love, purpose, money, or…
I must not surpass, be more successful, or smarter than: (circle one) mother, father, brothers, sisters, friends, others, etc.
I must play the role of a martyr.
I must avoid feeling vulnerable at all costs.
If I let my guard down and trust people or life more, I will be taken advantage of.
I must not be wrong.
Everyone must approve of me.
Following my own path is selfish and irresponsible.
If I rock the boat too much, I will be unsafe and will drown.
I cannot be too strong or bold.
If I want something in life, I have to fight hard for it and control it to keep it.
I’m not important enough, smart enough, or valuable enough to listen to.
Living my purpose is egotistical. Thinking that I have a purpose is pretentious.
I cannot gain momentum in my life because I’m paralyzed by my past.
Being successful and being spiritual are incompatible.
I’m a failure.
I’m a loser, I’m useless, I’m stupid, or I’m ugly… (circle one or more).
I’ll never amount to anything.
I’ll never get ahead.
I don’t deserve happiness because I: (circle one) cheated, lied, stole, or…
No one pays attention to me.
I’ve worked hard to get here, and if I change my script now I will slide back down and suffer.
Now write some of your own scripts, starting with these sentence stems, and number them 1-5, as before:
I must not ever be…
I will never…
Drawing from the scripts you’ve ranked with high numbers (i.e., 4s and 5s), copy the five highest-ranked sentences below. Before you copy each script, be sure to take a moment to think about the wording, asking, ‘Is there a way to write this that fits my situation more accurately?’ If the answer is yes, rewrite them so they more precisely reflect your inner life.
Using the list above, whittle your lists of scripts down to a single sentence (two at most) that best describes the default purpose you (at least sometimes) automatically live by. Give yourself permission to ‘tune in’ to the exact wording of your default purpose. Give it time, and be gentle. It’s not easy. You may need to take breaks, rest and reset, and go back to this repeatedly.
If you have trouble getting what feel like the right words, perhaps an image can describe it better. I struggled to get the words feeling exactly right, until one day an image came to me of me as the Captain of the Titanic, trying in desperation to keep the sinking ship afloat, but no matter what I did, it was doomed to go down. This image helped me more easily see what the underlying dynamics were in my life, and helped me come into contact with the feelings connected with them.
c) What would Soul do?
1. Over the next three days, pay particular attention to interactions, self-talk and behaviours that seem to be rooted in your default purpose.
2. Then, for the following four days, when you see yourself living in alignment with your default purpose, gently ask, ‘What would I say or do differently if I were living my soul’s purpose?’ In other words, ‘What would Soul do?’ or ‘What would True Purpose choose?’
Give yourself credit (and a warm hug) for the work that you have done. You are in the process of clearing out your outgrown default purpose to create a space for something completely new to emerge: your Soul’s true purpose. Limiting beliefs do not always want to be seen, and putting the light of your attention on them can make them feel uncomfortable. Just continue to greet them with love and kindness, and slowly you will outgrow that which no longer serves you. This can be a powerful and challenging piece of work. You’re going to be facing growing pains. It’s ok, your Soul knows you can do this, and I’m here for you.
3. Soul’s Purpose Meditation
At least three times this week (every day if you can or want to) listen to this meditation. Make a note of what you received.
Send me at least a paragraph about your experience of each of these exercises, by the day before our next meeting.