Book review: The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World (Dan Millman)

Via on May 7, 2011

This newest offering from prolific self-help writer Dan Millman, perhaps best known for The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, is an accumulation and a distillation of the philosophies and principles found in his other works. In this book, he focuses life down to four guiding principles or purposes, all of which he says are necessary to live a complete life.

The four purposes are to learn life’s lessons; find our personal careers and callings; discover one’s life path; and to simply be present in one’s life. The best part of this book has to do with careers and callings. Millman views a career as one that provides a service, regardless of what kind of job it is, which is an interesting and even inspiring way of looking at work, whereas a calling is a far more personal thing, and is more of a compulsion than a choice, though both career and calling can overlap (but don’t have to).

The one disappointment of this book relates to the third purpose: discovering one’s life path. In this, Millman has the reader use his or her birthdate to come up with a three or four digit number, expressed as a fraction. From this fraction, one can determine what one is supposed to focus on and do in this lifetime. This seems to be an overly simplistic form of numerology which, according to one source I consulted who is a student of numerology, would barely scratch the surface and would be so generic as to not necessarily mean as much as it could/should. As a result, this book seems to lean more towards pop self-help than what could and should be a more meaningful and penetrating work from Millman.

Those familiar with Millman’s previous work will likely appreciate and gain more from it, but this should not be considered a good introduction to the philosophies and work of Dan Millman. From New World Library and available at your local, independent bookstore. (Make a difference: shop local, shop independent, and tell ‘em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

About Todd Mayville

Todd is a single dad of four diverse and lively kids, and is an English teacher and climbing team coach at a local public high school. A rock climber, cyclist and avid reader, Todd also practices yoga and meditation as often as he possibly can, which helps him stay at least a little centered and sane.

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3 Responses to “Book review: The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World (Dan Millman)”

  1. Sonyata says:

    That's funny. In a good guide to such an important question such as a person's "life calling", you would expect that an author would come up with something better than what you stated. Tossing your I Ching would probably give you better insight than this:)

    It sounds like he has fallen into the same hole that our society is fallen into – how can I make some quick money? The answer is, of course, find something that people who have money are willing to pay you for. Get a job! Become useful, and contribute to some need of our society.

    I would recommend a simple prayer:

    "Dear God. Please provide me with a way to serve You, Your society, and my fellow man. And please give me a reason for living better than the four purposes mentioned in this post. Amen."

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  3. @bradwaldron says:

    Dan's work in the 3rd Purpose – Discovering One's Life Path – may or may not seem simplistic to a Numerologist. Like all models on detecting Life's purpose there are many 'depths' you can explore within the same system – as an example: from switching on a light switch and seeing the light

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