Life On Purpose: Overcoming Internal Friction

by Brian on June 24, 2011 in Personal Development

Previously I wrote about how we often mis-identify our life purposes, and how to create a life purpose statement that emphasizes what you want to experience as a context to shape what you do.

It would be great if once you’d clarified your life purpose and crystallized it into a statement if it emboldened you to pursue your purpose doggedly, overcoming all obstacles without a hint of doubt. However, that’s usually not the way it plays out.

Often right when you need confidence the most is when you have the least faith in your purpose–and when you are most tempted to take a different path that seems “safer.”

You end up sabotaging yourself without even realizing it.

Your Inherited Purpose

Even if you don’t have a clear idea of your life purpose, if you look closely at the times you were on a path towards something that made you happy yet deviated from that path for some reason, you will often notice a pattern.

Maybe you were trying to start a business, yet inexplicably could not focus on it and found yourself putting all your time into sending out resumes thinking you could just get another job and start that business later.

Maybe you were really into art, but your parents wanted you to be a lawyer/doctor/engineer so you abandoned art to become what your parents wanted you to be.

Maybe you keep thinking, “next time I’ll find a significant other who has their life together,” yet you keep winding up in the same dysfunctional relationships.

This is because there is an “anti-life purpose” that also operates in your life. It’s a default decision making program running in the background of your mind that takes over when you lose focus or don’t know what to do. Dr. Brad Swift calls it your “inherited purpose.”

Your inherited purpose is rooted in fear of loss. It may be loss of love, status, or material wealth. You might even feel that you don’t deserve to have the life that you really crave.

When you first decide to start a business, it’s probably something you’re really passionate about. But you might have an inherited purpose that says, “you can’t pursue your passions because you wont make any money doing that, you have to get a regular job like everyone else.”

You may want a partner who has their life together and is really into healthy living, but you have an inherited purpose that says, “you are not good enough to have a high quality significant other, so you have to take whatever you can get.”

If you look back at the times you decided to go for what felt “safe” instead of what you actually wanted, what are the recurring patterns?

If it were a movie what would the theme be? Boy meets girl, loses girl, gets girl again? Young entrepreneur starts business, fails before it starts, gets job, feels disconnected from life, tries to start another business?

Write it out into a clean statement. This is your inherited purpose.

How Your Inherited Purpose Sabotages You

Even if you start off confident and with the best intentions that this time you’ll get it right, your inherited purpose is always lurking just beneath the surface and ready to hijack your decision making at the first sign of doubt or fear.

After some soul searching, this was my final answer for an inherited purpose:

I cannot hold on to the women and friends I care about or pursue my passions and be able to support myself directly from them, and even if I do get them they will be ripped away from me, therefore I must give up and settle for a steady job and paying the bills while I am waiting for a glimmer of hope that I can attain and sustain the way of life I want for myself.

Just reading my inherited purpose statement feels like a punch in the gut. It feels embarrassing to even admit it to myself that I feel this way sometimes (let alone write it on a blog).

Contrast that with my life purpose statement developed according to the methodology in my previous post:

A Life on Purpose is a life of abundant freedom, fun and light-hearted exploration, healthy living, and intimate understanding of self, human, earth, and universal connectedness. It’s a life of experiencing new ways of being facilitated by health and freedom.

When I look back at my life, I can see how conflict between these powerful forces lay behind many of my decisions and the trajectory of my life.

Running an internet based business is the most straightforward path to developing a location independent life with the maximum amount of freedom. I have made several false starts on creating internet businesses related to my passions that ended before they even really got started.

Months would roll by with barely any progress. I’d like to say I made valiant efforts and failed, but that’s not what happened. Enormous internal friction prevented me from even fully committing to the idea of starting a business.

Every time I felt doubt, my web browser would magically redirect itself to job boards in order to take the “safe” path and just get another normal, respectable job. I probably spent more time on half-ass job searching during these entrepreneurial runs than working on the businesses.

What are the major conflict zones between your inherited purpose and the life you want to create for yourself? What is the common theme in all of these situations?

Your Inherited Purpose Doesn’t Always Win

If you’re already taking the high road more often than not, good job. But even if you look back the war torn history of your life and see nothing but the carnage of conflict between your inherited purpose and the life that you really want, fear not.

There are probably times when you blasted right past your inherited purpose.

After I graduated from college the only thing I wanted to do was go to Korea and study Korean. I was super passionate about Asian languages (having majored in them too), despite that there was no rhyme or reason how this translated into an economically viable future for me.

My inherited purpose flared high telling me that I was doing the wrong thing, and that I should take the “safe” path and just be a management consultant or an investment banker like seemingly 80% of the rest of my class at Stanford.

Of course I had no interest whatsoever in being either of those things, but they were the “normal jobs like everyone else had” that would be practical and pay bills.

Yet still I made the leap of faith, got funding, and spent 2 of the happiest years of my life living and studying in South Korea.

What are some times in your life where you have felt anxiety over your inherited purpose, but still did what you wanted anyway?

Taking Life Back from Your Inherited Purpose

It’s important to realize that your inherited purpose exists for a reason–it’s not necessarily the enemy.

Your inherited purpose is a bit like the overprotective parent inside you. It’s goal is not to ruin your life, it actually wants to keep you safe from disappointment, hurt, and loss. Though in doing so it can also go too far and block you from the joys of life.

In order to move beyond your inherited purpose, you need to first make peace with it.

I acknowledge that my inherited purpose of taking the “safe” route with a normal, practical job is a defense mechanism. It’s an internal part of me that just wants to keep me safe and protected.

Now that I am aware not only that this part of me exists but also what it is trying to accomplish, I am better prepared to handle it when it comes up for me.

When I’m making a business decision I can analyze it in terms of whether or not it’s in line with my aspirations or my inherited purpose. If I discover that my inherited purpose is driving the decision, I can acknowledge the part of me trying to keep me safe, thank it for trying to do so, and tell it gently as if speaking to a child that the path I really want to pursue will make us both happier in the long run.

If this seems too metaphysical and weird, just try it and see how you feel. Making peace with yourself feels a whole lot better than beating yourself up over continually just missing out on happiness.

How is your inherited purpose actually just trying to keep you safe and protected? How can you explain to this part of you that you need to pursue the “scary” path in order to have the life you want long term? How can you re-assure this part of you that everything will be okay and the world won’t blow up if you pursue the experiences that you truly want in life?


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

FutureExpat June 26, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Wow! How do you know me so well??


Patti Foy | Lightspirited Being July 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Hi Brian,
I think I got here from the A-List forum… This is a great post. In-depth enough to be really helpful. It’s a really great way to look at things. Next time I’m in conflict, I’ll be thanking you! 😉

Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to reading more here.


Brian July 11, 2011 at 12:13 am

Hi Patti,

I’ve seen your posts around the forum. Thanks for the kind words.


Jared Boone September 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm

When you went to south korea did you study abroad?


Brian September 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm


Yes, I took Korean language classes while I was there. Korea is a great country full of warm hearted people. I really loved it.


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