Why do New Year’s resolutions often fail miserably, leaving us feeling even worse?
Giving up what we see as bad habits or trying to lose weight is obviously important if our health is threatened. But it's hard to stick to regimes not connected to a fundamental transformation of ourselves.
Some of us are transformed when we have an illuminating mystical revelation or what Tim Leary called a ‘vitalizing transaction’. For others of us, discovering our true purpose, why we were put on this planet, and changing in line with this is much harder.
The great purpose soul rush
I have to be honest and say I’m wary of what someone coined ‘the great soul rush’ and the whole purpose industry. But I do respect my friend Brandon Peele, who describes himself as a Purpose Guide. Brandon has launched a purpose movement and his book The Purpose Revolution is out this spring. I asked Brandon how he would help someone like you or me find a sense of purpose.
We talked on Skype. Brandon was at, where else, a conference on purpose.
So, what is purpose, Brandon?
Essence is the quality of who you are that is immutable: the Davidness of David, if you like.
Blessings are the activities that most bring you alive – making love, painting, playing music, writing – which can evolve over time. Starting as a writer and becoming an author, for example.
Context is our individual map of reality, made up of internal filters like defence mechanisms and our understanding of the external world: its politics and ecology, for instance. Context relates to the world we’re living in right now. If there’s a war, context changes and I could be holding a gun when I would never have dreamed of doing this before, to give a pretty extreme example.
Mission is essentially the marriage of essence, blessing and context. Missions have a defined start and finish, they come to an end and you look for the next one. There might be times when you don’t have a mission.
And your purpose?
I understand myself as a man of integrity and wonder is my essence. I try to take questions, intuitions, and make them whole by turning them into actions. I write, coach, teach and inspire, that’s my blessing. My current context is that we as a species have every technology and best practice for creating a just, sustainable and peaceful world, but haven’t yet done so because we are missing a core software upgrade, purpose at the level of individual and species. My mission is to create a world of 7.3 billion people living their life’s purpose in every context, unlocking humanity’s creative potential and creating a world we love.
So how do you help people arrive at their own sense of purpose?
I give people exercises and they transform themselves. I tell them what purpose created in my life, explain that it’s a scientifically validated, real thing. They go to Science of Purpose, explore the benefits and say ‘OK, I’ll try that.’
My process has four key parts. I start with surface level awareness exercises, where folks ask themselves what brings them most alive. This helps us know where to look for something that might be called purpose. Next we complete a thorough ego excavation using methods that could include writing dialogues between our observer and the different parts of our ego - our Critic, Sceptic, Wounded Child, Risk Manager and Image Consultant - to methodically break apart the ego and clear the path for a true soul encounter.
Our ego structure is created out of the series of wounds inflicted by family, schoolmates, whatever, that we suffered as children. This structure stops us getting hurt again but also prevents us from fully expressing our soul.
The third step is what I call ‘soul initiation’, using things like meditation, visualisation, even ayahuasca, to break through the ego and reveal the a deeper soul truth, purpose.
Lastly, there is an integration phase, reintegrating the parts of the ego under the soul’s purpose, and crafting core life contexts (health, love, family, career, community, finances, spirituality) that support soul’s full expression.
What happens then?
Once the agreement is in place with the parts of your ego, you can talk directly to your soul and develop a lifelong connection. Essentially, we push you off the wall like Humpty Dumpty so your ego breaks open and we see your soul for what it truly is, and listen to its message, your purpose. We then put you back together again in a way that serves your soul’s purpose.
What’s the point of all of this?
You discover your true purpose and integrate it into your life. By creating relationships that are supportive of purpose, for instance.
How does this fit with the real world of money and work?
Unless we’re very lucky, or unlucky, we all have to make money to live. We also can’t find our purpose if we isolate and pull away from society. Our purpose is fundamentally related to our relationships with other people. We have to find a way to survive that also frees up psychic bandwidth for purpose exploration. But when we’ve found our purpose, something connected to our deepest sense of truth, we become divine in our work.
On that note, our conversation ended. And how do I feel about what Brandon said?
Purpose is healthy
There’s no question that we feel better if we have, or believe we have, a sense of purpose in life. It also feels right that arriving at our purpose should involve hard work and real soul mining.
Brandon calls his method 'The Science of Purpose', deliberately positioning it as far away from mystic snake oil as possible. If you're keen to understand yourself but not of a waftily spiritual bent, Brandon's approach will obviously be a lot more appealing.
Finding a purpose in life seems to invariably involve wanting to help other people, so in itself it’s a good thing. Especially if the people you’re helping don’t have the luxury of the time or the money to mine their own souls. Yet.
A last question from Brandon
I asked Brandon if he could give me four questions this month to get my mind (and yours) working on finding out what our purpose might be. This is the first:
What was happening during the time of your life when you felt most fulfilled?
Want to go further with Brandon?
Next week, purpose at work. Tune in.