Purpose Vs. Obligation

Have you ever done something for the sheer joy of it?

Have you ever made something for no reason other than the making of it?

Have you ever gone somewhere just because it was there?

If so, you have experienced the feeling and the vibration of Purpose.

I’ve been exploring this feeling and vibration lately, exploring it and attempting to untangle it, in my own space, from the contradictory feeling and vibration of obligation.

You see, I grew up in a family where obligation was the motivating factor that drove the actions of my parents. My father spent his life working as a lawyer, a career he came to dislike more and more, in order to provide for his family. He worked from obligation. And that obligation led to resentment and anger. As I grew, I vowed, mostly unconsciously, that I would NEVER work because of a sense of obligation. I would “find my purpose” and do the work “I’m meant to do.” That’s what I vowed.

But what good does it do to find your purpose and the work you’re meant to do if you end up doing them from a vibration of obligation?

Do you know a doctor who does great work in the world, helping people, healing people, but does it because he feels obligated?

How about an activist who feels obligated to go to every rally and demonstration?

Or what about an energy healer who feels that she is personally responsible for healing every one of her clients?

And have you ever given money to a homeless person because you felt obligated – responsible, guilty, etc. – to do so?

I “found” my purpose long ago. The struggle for me was not finding my purpose. Rather, the struggle was, and remains, untangling the strands of obligation from that purpose so that I can pursue it with a vibration of pure joy.

Whatever our purpose might be as individuals the underlying purpose is to raise our personal vibration and, in the process, raise the vibration of this planet.

Acting from joy and love raises your vibration and the vibration of those around you. Acting from obligation dampens or lowers your vibration… no matter how noble or valuable the action might be!

Let me say that another way:

Doing noble things – healing people, working for a cause, giving money to someone in need – because you feel obligated to do so does NOT lead to a long-term, sustainable increase in your vibration and the vibration of those around you!

Now before you all jump down my throat and disagree, let me make this observation: You vibration may rise while you are engaged in the action but that heightened vibration is not sustainable if the action is based on obligation.

When I was doing energetic healing sessions my vibration would be sky-high during the session. But after the session, the strand of obligation that ran through my motivation would pull me down very quickly and often to a lower vibration than before the session.

So does the short-lived high vibration I held during the session, and the somewhat higher vibration of my client counteract the lower vibration I had after the session?

Obligation is a bottomless pit that can never be filled. No matter how much you do you can never meet and satiate that sense of obligation. Obligation digs the hole deeper as quickly as you fill it in.

Purpose is a solid foundation upon which you can build. When you act from purpose you create, you build.

For obligation there is never enough. You can never do enough, achieve enough, provide enough, be enough.

With purpose there is always enough. Every action is enough. Your very being is enough.

Every action you take from obligation attempts to bring you back to neutral. Every action you take from purpose adds to what you have already created.

So begin to pay attention to your motivation, not just your actions. What drives you to do what you do? Is it joy, love, and passion? Or is it responsibility, guilt, and fear? Are you acting from passion or obligation? Are you attempting to fill in that bottomless pit or build something of lasting value?

What action will you take from purpose today?

What will you do for the sheer joy of it?

What will you build? What will you create? What will you bring into this world today?

Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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    10 Responses to “Purpose Vs. Obligation”

    1. Ray George on September 30th, 2009 3:10 pm

      Hey Ed,
      Today is a day off for me, and I am doing something I really love to do, and haven’t been doing much of lately because of other “obligations”! I am working on a construction project – laying down a hardwood floor in my bedroom. I got a great deal on the wood a while ago and it’s been standing in a pile in the corner of my room. The other day I decided that this was as good a time as any, and I began the process of pulling it all out, dusting it off, checking the grain pattern, and planning the floor. I’ve made quite a bit of progress in a couple of short days, and I love the actual “doing” of the project. Of course, I will also like having a real black walnut hardwood floor to walk on and look at, but the act of doing the work is so fulfilling. It also connects me with my father, because he taught me how to build things and use tools when I was still a little kid.

    2. David on September 30th, 2009 7:27 pm

      Great post. I am also really raging against this whole pressure from society I am feeling to do this or that, out of obligation. I just finished grad school, and am struggling with the idea of working for the sake of obligation. I am trying my hand at blogging, and doing something I care about.

      “Duty is the midday sun that scorches the vitality of man.”

      “Your duty is that which which leads you Godward. That which leads you away from God is not your duty.”

    3. Steve on October 1st, 2009 6:40 am

      Hi Edward- I found your post very helpful and inspiring as a way to sort out the different motivations and feelings that come over me when taking on a volunteer activity. My life has been full of helping others…. many times out of obligation and responsibility, some times out of guilt, and sometimes out of joy. I’ve been confused about feeling better when helping out with an activity but not afterwards. Your insight about a sense of obligation later pulling you down certainly rings true for me, also.

      I became a Catholic about 25 years ago and over the last 2-3 years have been doing a lot of sorting out of motivations and interests. So many times I’ve helped out of a sense of responsibility– e.g. that I’m able to respond and therefore I’m called to do that. The issue I’ve had is that there are so very many causes and it is easy for me to see how I can help in many areas. Operating out of my source more often now, it is getting easier to find the activities that are done out of joy and connectedness. Burn out is becoming rarer and rarer for me.

      Thanks again for your insight and for putting out regular interesting thoughts!



    4. Chris V on October 1st, 2009 7:37 am

      Ed: I see you’re hitting your stride again. Great blog entry. Thank you!

      As I tuned in Spirit told me: “Be what you must, but you must first give up what you think you are in order to become your greater yet to be.”

      Love and Light,


    5. Edward Mills on October 2nd, 2009 8:18 am

      Love that, Chris. There is always a letting go as we move closer to what we truly are. Thanks Chris!

    6. Edward Mills on October 15th, 2009 11:24 am

      Thanks Chris. Love that insight.

    7. Jill on October 4th, 2009 6:30 pm

      This is a very inspiring post. However, I think we do have to guard against to much introspection. Sometimes it is right to do something out of obligation, the purpose may sometimes follow the obligation. Helping someone may inspire us to a greater purpose.

    8. Cathy Johnson Campbell on October 5th, 2009 3:42 am

      Your distinction of vibration as it relates to purpose and obligation is great to make us all think about our impact in life, thank you.

      When it’s recognized that ones main passion in life is coupled with your highest identified purpose, then it’s obvious and there’s an inner drive to follow that passion and purpose. Then perhaps the only obligation you know is as William Shakespeare said “This above all; to thine own self be true.”

    9. Carolyn Beale on October 5th, 2009 1:01 pm

      Great post!

      I especially loved this:
      “Obligation is a bottomless pit that can never be filled. No matter how much you do you can never meet and satiate that sense of obligation. Obligation digs the hole deeper as quickly as you fill it in.

      Purpose is a solid foundation upon which you can build. When you act from purpose you create, you build.”



    10. Cathy Johnson Campbell on October 9th, 2009 3:41 am

      Yes, purpose and passion are finely linked. When we act from that ‘place’ then I think we are being truly responsible to ourselves, and therefore to others as well. But the ‘obligation/responsiblity’ isn’t burdensome in that case.

      In the words of William Shakespeare “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

      I think this is a sure way to build something of value.

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