Purpose The Gist of Purpose Parts of Purpose Purpose Fundamentals Purpose in Context Purpose as your Work Should You Quit Your Job Purpose Myths Hindrances to Purpose Benefits of Purpose Passion The Purpose Journey Clarify your Purpose Align with your Purpose Support your Purpose Purpose Practice and Exercises Purpose Resources

What is holding you back from experiencing purpose?

What has your culture taught you about the world that actually inhibits you?

How is fear holding you back?

Is your desire to be comfortable and happy a barrier to your potential?

Do you feel you’ve got it down and you’re wondering if there might be more?

A Hindered Purpose Story

When Hilary was a little girl the adults always asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She knew of a few jobs and knew she liked to help people, so she would tell everyone she wanted to become a doctor. The adults would chuckle and sound pleased with this answer. As she grew older she learned that aside from helping people, doctors made good money and were deeply respected by society. She knew that becoming a doctor would make her successful; she would help people, be wealthy, have earned respect, and possibly the love of those she healed. Hilary believed this would make her happy.

Over the course of this pursuit she struggled to find a branch of medical work that suited her. Some were not interesting to her and others she found prohibitively challenging. But she persisted- choosing  a specialty in the middle that she didn’t mind and wasn’t too hard for her. Over time it became more and more apparent that she didn’t particularly enjoy the work and struggled with how many medical institutions inhibited care practices she believed in. She wasn’t sure if being a doctor was exactly how she wanted to be of service to people any more, but she felt she couldn’t turn back now. She’d invested too much time and money; and afterall, the success and money was going to make her happy. Being a doctor was an honorable way to live.

Afterall, Hilary did find that she was comfortable in her life and could afford many things she enjoyed. But something was missing… and she wasn’t sure what.

The things that impede the cultivation of purpose in our lives are multifarious and subtly complex. As children our worldviews are influenced by the behaviors and choices of those around us, the messages of the media, and the institutions in which we are embedded. Before we’re taught how to think critically of our experiences we develop an understanding of the world, ourselves, what we want, and what we value.

Unfortunately, we can get sent some mixed signals that could end up hindering our alignment with purpose.

These pages are about those mixed signals. You will learn about ideas, beliefs, ways of being, and cultural practices that inhibit purpose cultivation and how each one does so. In addition you’ll be offered exercises and reflection prompts along the way to help you see how these blocks impact you personally.

This area is divided into two types of hindrances: Cultural and Personal.

It may be a little silly to try to tease apart culture from our our personal beliefs and ways of being in the world, and dividing the topics in such a way allows us to explore larger systems of influence (such as money or the narratives we’re taught about how to be happy) separately from more individually refined experiences (like your specific set of fears or personal relationship to passion).

By learning about the hindrances on the following pages, you’ll be better equipped to navigate them when you encounter them on your purpose journey. Understanding the challenges and understanding ourselves within the challenges will empower us to overcome them and learn even more from them.

You can use this page as your jumping-off point for exploring all the various hindrances or go through them chronologically. Each subpage (which may vary in length considerably) explains how each hindrance functions and why it is a concern, as well as offering what to do about it. You will be supplied with exercises and reflections to apply the ideas to your own life and create real understanding and change for yourself!

Cultural Hindrances to Purpose

The point of this section: “Cultural Hindrances to Purpose” details common cultural blocks to the cultivation of purpose. Each subsection explains how it is a hindrance to purpose, offers suggestions for overcoming the hindrance, and includes an exercise to get you started. Each of the below are cultural hindrances to purpose.

  • Questions Adults Ask
    Questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” can teach us that our self-worth, identity and purpose is based primarily in our jobs.
  • “Shoulds”
    Society teaches us there are preferable ways to be if we want to survive and thrive, but following these recipes for life without question can lead us down a road of inauthenticity.
  • The Pursuit (of Purpose or Happiness)
    Pursuing either purpose or happiness puts them eternally beyond our reach, and pursuing conventional happiness may result in prioritizing comfort over meaning.
  • Success and Money
    Our cultures hand us stories about the role of money in our lives and what it means to be successful. Not defining these for ourselves can hinder purpose cultivation.
  • School Structure
    Conventional schools are set up in a way that does not prioritize purpose.

Personal Hindrances to Purpose

The point of this section: “Personal Hindrances to Purpose” details personal blocks to the cultivation of purpose- each topic relates directly to your personal beliefs, behaviors, and feelings. Different from the external influences of the cultural hindrances page, these topics are internal and relate to how you can choose to navigate the world. Each subsection explains how it is a hindrance to purpose, offers suggestions for overcoming the hindrance, and includes an exercise (or many) to get you started.

  • Fit and Fixed Mindsets
    Your Mindset is your orientation towards possibility. Fixed versus Growth Mindsets affect your likelihood of learning new skills. Fit versus Develop Mindsets affect your likelihood of developing new interests.
  • Fear
    Fear is a hindrance to purpose because it can mask, distract, and direct you away from what is truly important to you. You’ll learn about the nature of motivation, the values our fears point us towards, the opportunities that stem from seeing fear as an ally, and exercises for clarifying the fears that direct us. All of these components merge to help you understand fear’s relationship with purpose in your life.
  • Happiness and Complacency
    Prioritizing what feels good now can make aligning with purpose unappealing when going after a long-term purposeful goal might create discomfort in the present moment. Happiness or complacency can satisfy us enough to block us from deeply considering what else is possible.
  • Passion
    While passion can certainly be a boon to purpose, the way we engage with it can end up hindering us. “Obsessive” passion (distinguished as feeling compelled/pressured to do something and struggling to disengage) hinders purpose by creating a toxic dynamic of burnout, guilt and shame. Additionally, the cultural narrative of “Follow your passion” can encourage us to be too self-focused to connect with purpose fully.
  • Honorable Mentions
    Three additional hindrances are Ignorance, Being a Cog-in-the-Machine, and Connection. A lack of self-awareness inhibits us from purpose when we haven’t stopped to deeply consider what we care about, believe, desire, or who we are. We can get redirected from purpose by being part of a group or organization that we don’t personally find meaningful. And sometimes our relationships can hold us back from pursuing what we truly find fulfilling.

Hindrances to Purpose Questions Adults Ask Shoulds The Pursuit Success and Money School Structure Fit and Fixed Mindset Fear Happiness and Complacency Passion Honorable Mentions

Purpose The Gist of Purpose Parts of Purpose Purpose Fundamentals Purpose in Context Purpose as your Work Should You Quit Your Job Purpose Myths Hindrances to Purpose Benefits of Purpose Passion The Purpose Journey Clarify your Purpose Align with your Purpose Support your Purpose Purpose Practice and Exercises Purpose Resources

Section Bibliography

This list of references covers all citations within the hindrances subpages listed above.

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