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What do you believe about the nature of your soul?
What do you believe about finding your soul’s purpose (or “dharma” or “calling”)?
For me, these two beliefs correlate.
If you believe that the soul is little more than an evolved version of the ego, then, like the ego, the soul would set life goals. Accomplishments would be needed to validate the soul’s journey and mollify its insecurity. The soul would be ever stymied trying to answer the question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” just like a regular ol’ flannel-wearing ego.
If you view the soul this way, as simply a more refined, less grumpy version of the ego, then it’s easy to extrapolate that the soul, like the ego, would desire to belong, be accepted, recognized, and loved through what it does. Thus, the soul would come to Earth ready to roll up its immortal sleeves and get to work. It would feel called to build or do something that could be seen and experienced by others as our “calling.” Something explainable and helpful—and, hopefully, something that has a nice ring to it for a website!
On the other hand, if you believe that the soul is nothing at all like the ego and therefore couldn’t care less about belonging, accomplishment, or validation, then why would this soul need a defined purpose? Why would an eternal being, not subject to such human concepts as time and space, suddenly feel pressured by deadlines and burdened with guilt and duty if they don’t figure out their purpose?
It’s ludicrous when you really think about it.
What we’ve done is taken a construct from the world of ego and applied it to the life of the soul. This reminds me of when we humans create God in our image by bestowing this Divine Creator with human emotions such as jealousy or anger, or imagine God as a being who gets personally involved in human affairs, such as who wins the battle or the election, all while keeping track of who prayed enough to deserve the life-saving treatment and who didn’t.
It’s the ego that craves acknowledgment, seeks certifications, and cries out for other people’s recognition. It’s the ego that is constantly seeking something — a label, a construct, a name, a title, a role — that fits them like a second skin.
But the soul? I, for one, don’t see the soul as a card-carrying member of the purpose-finding society (or any society, frankly).
“Finding our purpose” is little more than our ego projecting its desires onto the soul, rather than an expression of the true nature of the soul.
I hear pushback already, but can we take just a moment and ask ourselves what might happen if we let ourselves—and our souls—off the hook for finding that “one thing?”
Perhaps such a free soul would simply play, experience, grow, learn, and evolve. Perhaps this soul, unencumbered by the languaging and expectations of a world steeped in competition and capitalism, would find joy in simply being present. Perhaps this soul would be more curious and open rather than focused and determined.
A relaxed soul such as this could enjoy human life in a whole different way.
I have spent too much time and energy already trying to hunt down this singular purpose. I’ve allowed fear to inhabit my otherwise curious body and mind, worrying over whether I might have missed my calling, or that it might never be found, or that I might die and my last regret will be never having found my purpose. All this, despite traveling, teaching, writing, cooking, eating, dancing, singing, conversing, playing, laughing, crying, and caring for and over the people, animals, and plants of this beautiful Earth.
While I’m off hunting for my purpose, I miss out on synchronicities, relationships, and moments that request a witness or participant.
While I’m trying to figure out how this or that fits into the whole puzzle of my existence, I lose the sense of wonder and awe that comes from recognizing it might not mean anything at all.
While I’m trying to organize the life of my soul into a tidy line, I’m missing the fun of the rollercoaster.
This is why I so love this quote from the Disney movie, “Soul,” which I wrote about more, here:
“Oh, you mentors and your passions. Your ‘purposes.’ Your ‘meanings of life.’ So basic.”
What else might we be able to do if we stopped pursuing our purpose the way our ego pursues a degree, a raise, or a relationship? Here are five ideas:
One of the greatest mistakes I’ve ever made was in assuming that, after I followed a nudge from my soul to build a yoga center, it would be my soul purpose for the rest of my life. Imagine my confusion when only a couple of years later, the signs all pointed me to the exit.
When I took this frustration up with my soul directly, I learned that the mistake was in my assumption. Yes, she’d wanted to build the center. But when it came to running it? Year after year? Into my old age? Borrriinnggg.
Our egos don’t understand the concept of doing something only for the fun or learning experience. It takes time to talk an ego into letting its hair down, and usually only after they’ve first put in the “justifiable” amount of work.
But our souls know that not everything we start must be completed—that’s an ego’s mindset. We don’t have to succeed at every attempt; only the ego believes that to be true. It is okay to learn something simply because we want to and for no other reason. It’s fine to plan on doing nothing at all with our knowledge and be satisfied knowing that it has pleased our soul.
2. Observe, grow, and learn
Our souls, as consummate “outsiders,” excel at observation. In fact, observation is one of the best ways souls learn about and remember themselves. Everyone and everything is a mirror back to our souls.
When we observe from a detached point of view, we find space between ourselves and the world. This space allows us to make wiser choices and invest in stronger relationships. I enjoy observation as a soulful activity because it allows me yet another way to “play” in the world—especially in some of the roles and lifestyles I don’t have the time or means to explore.
A soul is a seeker, and that seeking nature is not tied to finding a purpose; it’s tied to finding itself—through the eyes and lives and the experiences of our fellow human beings.
3. Follow our Intuition
We say we’re trying to find our soul’s purpose, but what we’re really doing is trying to exert control over it, which can be a huge source of stress in our lives—not an avenue to freedom.
If we release the goals, or at least let our goals be so gentle, soft, open, and nonconforming that it’s like molding clay rather than following a map, we may not know where our path might lead. Our intuition is the voice of our soul, too often muffled by the demands of the ego.
Our souls don’t need business plans. No soul benefits from being folded into boxes. Let the “genie” out of the lamp. Take off the shackles, release the shoulds, and walk your path freely knowing that there is nothing for you to attain other than deeper communication with your truest self.
4. Regain our curiosity
The opposite of fear is not courage, it’s curiosity. When we were children, we explored our worlds with wide-eyed curiosity. The world was our playground. Our parents—if they had the means—allowed us to try all kinds of sports. At home, we made up games and played roles.
It’s sad that these days, children are so quickly forced to choose just one activity and then are expected to excel at it. We only get to role play if we’re an actor. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to lead with our curiosity and our hunger to learn.
Telling adults they must choose “one thing” is like telling a child they can only play on the slide or the swings. Once we stop fearing and fretting over finding our purpose, we can have the run of the whole playground again.
5. Seek wholeness/Do shadow work
Rather than solely asking ourselves what we want to be, dare to ask the more dangerous question: What don’t we want to be?
What scares us, repulses us, disgusts us? If we dig deep into shadow work, we can discover and heal traumas. For every shadow claimed is more light revealed—every shadow being merely the other side of the coin of our light. And each shadow/light coin retrieved is the wealth that represents our personal power and soul freedom.
This is the work of coming into wholeness.
Wholeness is the most soulful of human pursuits. It is the most aligned with the nature of the soul as I understand and experience it.
Whereas purpose-finding is a process of subtraction, wholeness-seeking is a process of addition.
A pursuit of wholeness, in place of a pursuit of purpose, is one in which we do all of the above: lead with curiosity, follow our intuition, observe, and play.
My ego is often insecure, competitive, desirous, fearful, jealous, and suspicious.
But my soul — she’s a playful, free, patient spirit. She’s the part of me that finds joy and delight in nothing more than simple connection and communication. The part of me that bristles at to-do lists and agendas and needing always to figure out how to “put something to good use.”
My ego is the part of me worried about what you, the reader, might think of these ideas. But my soul says, “Thank you for sharing my perspective.”
I am no longer interested in trying to nail down my purpose, no matter how lofty or well-meaning this sounds. My soul is not my ego and does not benefit from the mindset, ploys, or products made by the ego.
Who knows? Maybe all of this fun will lead to some aha moment of knowing my grandest of all grand purposes. Maybe it won’t. But, it will have been a great adventure all the same—even my ego grudgingly admits it’s kind of fun.