Align With Your Purpose as an Entrepreneur

Not feeling inspired by your work or your business? Wondering what happened to all that passion you used to feel for living the entrepreneurial life?

Let’s explore how to realign with that sense of purpose and calling that you used to feel.

[Full Transcript]

Not feeling inspired by your work or your business? Wondering what happened to all that passion you used to feel for living the entrepreneurial life?

Let’s explore how to realign with that sense of purpose and calling that you used to feel.

Defining “Purpose”

What do terms like purpose and calling even mean, anyway? We’re all unique, each of us with our own quirky set of motivations, talents, and interests. Whether we call it our calling, our purpose, our personal mission—that’s not what really matters. What does matter is what these words mean to us personally and at a deeper level. And how that meaning impacts our day-to-day happiness and sense of fulfillment.

So, what is one’s purpose built from? What is it actually composed of?

Purpose (as I define it) is the culmination of how you’re meant to contribute to the world and authentically express yourself as a unique individual. Think of it as the sum result of all the attributes and elements that make up your nature—your talents, skills, interests, quirks, and strengths. All of these integrate to make up the theme of “you.” The more you’re able to live in integrity with that theme of “who you are,” the more authentic your life becomes, and the more alive, joyful, and fulfilled you feel.

There are two concepts in particular—Dharma and Daemon—that express the qualities of our nature.

Dharma (from yoga philosophy) in this context means “inner truth,” and refers to our duty to live in alignment with our true self—with who we really are. If you’ve read the Bhagavad Gita, you know that this definition of “true self” gets much deeper than what we do for a living or our traditional sense of identity. But for now, we can just think of Dharma as being true to our conscience, that little voice that nudges us toward authenticity and growth.

Daemon (pronounced “day-mon”), is Greek in origin, and is defined as “an inner or attendant spirit or inspiring force.” As Steven Pressfield puts it: “If you’re a writer, you’re compelled to write. Just like a dancer has ‘gotta dance’ or a singer has to sing.”

And I’ll add: If your inspiring force is to be an entrepreneur, you’re compelled to build, to create, and to solve problems related to building a business.

But our calling is about far more than just ourselves. It’s not about selfishly doing whatever we feel like. A true purpose creates value and serves others in some way, even if those external benefits aren’t what motivate or inspire us to act.

Your love for the work itself is more than enough. Whether you’re a freelancer who writes marketing copy, or a serial entrepreneur who builds VC-funded startups from the ground up, the inspiration doesn’t have to look altruistic. But, obviously enough, if your vision for your work doesn’t have inherent benefits to others (your customers, your employees, your investors), then the business you build isn’t going to be around for long.

Even “pure art” created for one’s own satisfaction has the potential to impact others, just for the fact that it makes the world a bit more interesting for the rest of us.

Why Purpose is Critical For Entrepreneurs

There’s so much talk about finding your purpose, your passion, your “why.” We’re all told that we need to follow our bliss.

But it’s not quite so easy to follow that advice, is it? One of the most common arguments I’ve heard against “following your passion” is that the numbers simply don’t add up. Some jobs just suck, but somebody needs to do them—bliss or no bliss. Work is supposed to be hard, right? What’s passion got to do with it?

Well, not so fast.

Let’s pull back a bit and look at this from the big picture perspective. Imagine a life lived with no sense of purpose, calling, or passion (maybe you don’t have to imagine it). A life based merely on surviving. Of getting to the end unscathed, or at least with as few scars as possible.

What kind of life would this be? Would you describe this life as one that’s well lived?

There’s an essential part of us that pushes back against this passive approach to life. Who we are—and our potential of who we can become—builds up with pressure if not allowed to release, just like a bicycle tire builds up with pressure the more air that you pump into it. This pressure, this internal division between who we are and how we’re living, creates suffering. An inner emptiness that no amount of money or possessions or security can ever overcome. We end up confused over right action, living in a constant malaise of doubt and indecision. We have no idea which end is up, so we settle for the easiest path of least resistance.

“Among his various possible beings each man always finds one which is his genuine and authentic being. The voice which calls him to that authentic being is what we call “vocation.” But the majority of men devote themselves to silencing that voice of the vocation and refusing to hear it. They manage to make a noise within themselves … to distract their own attention in order not to hear it; and they defraud themselves by substituting for their genuine selves a false course of life.”

José Ortega y Gasset

To “defraud ourselves and substitute for our genuine self a false course of life” sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?

So what’s the alternative? What does a life well lived actually look like?

First off, let’s be clear: Aligning with your true nature, honoring your purpose, and living up to your full potential as a human being is not an easy road. It’s not always fun. In fact, the bigger our calling, the more discomfort we’ll probably feel as we follow it.

But there’s a flip side to that discomfort. An aliveness that we can’t really experience any other way. Living in alignment with purpose gives you direct experience of:


True fulfillment goes way beyond the fleeting and pedestrian pleasures of endless social media scrolling, climbing the career ladder, or even achieving our most ambitious financial goals. It injects into life enduring meaning that no career, possession, or even relationship can compare to. It taps you into a deep desire to live an inspired and purpose-based life.


You know the feeling, right? When you’re so completely engaged in a meaningful task that everything else (even your sense of “self”) seems to melt away. These are the moments in life we call joy. This is the juice that makes all the challenges and setbacks worthwhile. The moments we crave and can never seem to replicate through our tools of distraction or mindless entertainment (I’m looking at you, iPhone).


As I mentioned earlier, living in alignment with our calling creates value and serves others, whether or not we’re thinking of that while doing our best work. Our calling and our point of highest contribution overlap, connecting us with our most engaged, most effective, most generous version of ourselves. We’re able to give more of our gifts and talents. We solve problems and drive change, impacting others around us in ways we can’t even completely comprehend. And with that contribution comes a sense of meaning that takes us beyond ourselves and our own limited perspectives, opinions, and desires.


Nothing energizes and drives us quite like the inspiration of a true calling. The sort of intrinsic motivation that makes you come alive, with or without the external rewards. Call it passion, inspiration, or bliss—ultimately it all leads to the same sweet spot of energy, effort, resilience, creativity, growth, and impact.


With a true calling, you know what to do and when to do it, even if it’s scary.

You may not really want to do what you know you have to do. But you’re no longer quite as confused or stuck. You have a vision, one that might change over time, but ultimately provides an inner compass that’s calibrated to your core themes of purpose and highest contribution. You have an easier time staying focused on what matters, and you keep moving in the right direction.

What’s Blocking Us From Our Purpose

So, if living in alignment with our purpose is so fulfilling, how come we’re all not jumping out of bed every morning, ready to live true to our calling and do our best work? A lot of people know what they want to do, but they just can’t get themselves to take consistent action.

Misreading the Patterns of “Purpose”

It’s easy to get confused about our calling when we don’t even know how to clearly identify it. Advice like “find your passion” and “do what you love” can lead us down blind alleys. After all, even the most purpose-driven among us don’t always feel passionate or in love with their work. Some days, they just have to grind through it—fatigue, distractions, life events be damned.

And so it goes for us. It’s easy to second-guess our own calling when using passion and love as our only waypoints. The second we don’t feel like doing the work, we assume that means it’s not the right work for us. Then we repeat the pattern, stuck in a cycle of inspiration, effort, doubt, and quitting. Eventually, apathy takes over. “Living fully” goes from being a must-have to a nice-to-have. And then it goes away altogether.

The Cost of Our Calling

There’s a natural tension between the joy we feel when pursuing our true calling, and the perceived cost of pursuing it with 100% commitment. The specter of risk is always right behind us. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing everything and having to live in a van down by the river.

Change is scary. So we cling to that feeling of certainty, stay in our comfort zone, and hedge our bets either by refusing to go all in, or by compromising on our vision in order to avoid risks and play it safe.

Rejecting Trade Offs

We reject the tradeoffs that come with life as an entrepreneur, and it keeps us stuck. We want it all—feeling adventurous and feeling secure, meaning and acceptance, unlimited upside and limited downside, all reward and no risk, being active creators and passive consumers, focusing on something important and never missing out on anything else (FOMO), being mindfully productive and being mindlessly entertained.

Clinging to Acceptance From Others

The more we’re driven by other people’s opinions of us, the harder it is to follow our calling.

Being an entrepreneur can be a bit lonely. Most people really don’t understand what makes us tick. We hear a lot of advice like “Why don’t you just get a good job with good benefits? Why blow your life up over some crazy idea, some crazy dream?” Sometimes we might wonder if they’re right. If we’re just being self-indulgent.

Limited Self-Concept

“Who am I to start a business?”

“Who am I to lead a team of 50 people?”

“Who am I to build a great company?”

Call it imposter syndrome, limiting beliefs, or even low self-esteem—we all struggle with our past conditioning that tells us we’re not good enough, or that we’re being stupid, selfish, and self-indulgent by following our calling.


We want it all, and we want it now. But our vision doesn’t come together overnight, and our desire for immediate gratification drives us toward the quick and easy hits of pleasure that seem to be good enough for most everyone else.

How to Turn Things Around

Ultimately, fully aligning with your purpose as an entrepreneur comes down to understanding the difference between feelings and purpose, resolving the tension between your vision and the perceived costs of pursuing it, reconciling the inherent tradeoffs of a life well lived, letting go of the need for approval from others, expanding your sense of possibility, and developing the patience to stick it out for the long run.

We’re going to be diving into more detail for each of these in future posts. But for now, let’s start with getting some perspective, and gaining clarity over your particular obstacles.

I want to invite you to spend a little time thinking about which of these are affecting you the most. Did any one or two jump out at you in particular? Could you relate to all of them? Are there any that I missed?

In the next post, we’re going to move on to the topic of resilience. We’ll explore what it means to have grit, ways to tap into it, what gets in the way of commitment, and how to persevere through obstacles, rejection, and failure so that you’re always growing and evolving.

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