Purpose vs. Personality

Image: Tim Marshall

In our culture, personality is king. From headlines to covers of magazines while we’re in line at the grocery store to advertisements and social media — the strong/powerful personality/personal brand seems to be the brass ring of success.

Even in school, there are personalities we look up to, those we look down on, and those we see when we look in the mirror (which shift, moment to moment).

However, we reach a point where we see that personality is extremely limited and frail. It’s easily wounded and constantly ‘dissed’ as it strives to gain approval from others/ourselves.

Living from purpose is where our true power comes in.

A personality is a straw man we set up that other people can burn down. When we live from purpose, we eliminate the straw man altogether and move through the world with power and poise.

When we’re focused on who we think we are and how we come off to people, we become withdrawn from the world and Life finds other more worthy channels of expression. But when we’re on a mission, Life flows into us.

When we’re focused on our persona, we become petty and self-centered. We see everything through the small lens of whatever character we’re molding ourselves into in the moment. We obsess on keeping that little persona alive through an inflated ego and we place ourselves at odds with everything/everyone else in varying degrees (depending on how much we deem they threaten it at the time).

At this level, we’re really just trying to survive. And we call our survival mechanism a ‘personality’. Soon, that personality — a collection of worries, hopes, and resentments — starts driving our lives.

However, when we stop giving a shit about ‘who we are’ or how we come off to people, but instead are immersed in joyful, hyper-focused action creating and serving, we can’t help but be in-the-moment.

Purpose produces energy.

I had a mentor who said the best way to get someone out of depression is to throw them in a pool and hold their head under water. Pretty soon, they’re not depressed at all. They’re not focused on how they look, what their dad called them when they were 11, or how shitty this election season is. Why?

Because they’ve switched from being personality-driven to purpose-driven. They’ve been placed in a situation where they have no option but to be extremely focused on a single mission: to get their heads above water so they can breathe again.

Their heart rate goes up. Their adrenaline kicks in. They f*cking feel alive, maybe for the first time ever.

Look at kids... They don’t learn to walk because they’re worried about looking stupid. They learn to walk because they want to go dump out the fishbowl and they’re tired of falling down and slamming their soft heads into the ground.

Our western world is really damn safe today. We really have no reason to complain about much of anything. Why we’re not all out there making the world a more awesome place is beyond me. We have all the means necessary to do so at our fingertips.

As nice as this is, it also leads to a lot of people living like the walking dead. Our brains are built to serve a purpose. But when our world is set up to just… hang out and be comfortable — we get bored. And as anyone who has kids knows, the environment of boredom can only lead to bad things.

It’s incredibly inconvenient, but our minds are designed to be focused on problems. Like, important ones. Like the ones our ancestors had to deal with for many, many moons. Problems like being able to fend off saber tooth tigers, cure themselves of dysentery, fend off cholera, and kill home invaders in the days before this nifty little thing we call 9–1–1 and burglar alarms.

What this means is, if we have no real problems, we will create them. The issue comes in when we mindlessly dream up ‘problems’ that aren’t really problems. They’re more like insecurities or unjustified fears.

mindful focus on purpose — mindless focus on personality = a creative life

Create awesome, impactful, fun, creative ‘problems’ and let your mind run free solving them.

Sure beats looking in the mirror. Again.


I’m Jonas Ellison — a motivational messenger and transformative guide who writes daily here on Medium. To get my short vignettes in your inbox every day, click here.

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