Awaken to your true purpose; it’s not something we’re meant to do.

by | Print Articles, Spiritual Living, Spring 2023, Thought Leaders

“My confession is that I’ve been wrong about everything,” I shared with the crowd gathered to hear me speak at the wonderful Odyssey KZN Spirit Festival recently.

“Everything I’ve believed to be true was wrong,” I continued. “I’ve been wrong about life, death, money, family, relationships… And I was very wrong about my life’s purpose. I spent many years chasing a calling to avoid a career. I longed for something special and meaningful. And I’m here to tell you I was wrong.”

How often have you felt torn between your purpose and your pay cheque?

Let’s awaken to our true purpose

“Col, one day you’ll need to get a job, any job,” Mom would say.

Growing up watching my parents dreading Mondays and clinging to a once-every-three years’ timeshare holiday, I was terrified that I’d need to surrender to a job I hated one day.

Don’t get me wrong. I was grateful for my parents’ sacrifices; they worked hard to put food on the table and buy my siblings and me second-hand school uniforms. But I couldn’t shake the yearning to spend my years doing something I cared about.

After all, wasn’t life’s purpose something special that I was supposed to do?

Feel the weight of these torture chamber thoughts:
What if I’m not doing the right thing? What if I’m not doing enough? And what if others don’t give me a hundred ‘likes’ for what I do?’

When we believe that life’s purpose is something we’re supposed to do, the purpose becomes handcuffs binding us to the approval of others – their smiles or frowns grant or rob us of meaning. They have all the power.

We can never rest because our purpose is all actions, tasks and to-do lists. If we’re sick, trapped by a negative bank balance, old, or lacking skills, we fail in our life purpose.

Even our self-worth is tied to the concrete block of ‘doing’, If doing drowns, so does our sense of self.

Yes, I’m a master coach today in my fifties; I speak, teach and guide others for a living. And if I had continued to hold my childhood belief that life’s purpose was something I was supposed to do, I would never have found a way to do work I care deeply about.

Being good at something doesn’t make it our purpose

Because I was a gifted artist from a young age, earning distinctions and selling portraits at 15 to my schoolteachers, I thought it was my purpose to draw and paint, even if this path would keep me poor and unfulfilled. 

After high school, I enrolled in the cheapest art degree my parents could afford. Three months in, hiding in the back of the crowd of squirming students having their work critiqued by the fine art lecturer, my heart was broken.

“This work is wonderful,” she said, gesturing toward the drawing, “I can see that the scribbled chaos reflects your busy life.”

Blushing, the student replied, “Oh, thank you, uh… I’ve never drawn before and was worried I couldn’t get the kitchen shelves straight…”

“No, this is honestly brilliant work,” the lecturer protested, “well done.”

“Now, this work?” she moved to my collection of drawings.

“Mine,” I raised my hand.

“You’ve spent many years learning to draw, getting technically good.”

“Yes,” I smiled.

“I wish you hadn’t.”

My smile froze.

She snapped, “To be blunt. I wish you’d never picked up a pencil before; perhaps then we could have done something with you.”

I can’t remember anything else she said that day; it was shell shock.

Now what’s my purpose? I was lost.

Just get a job

“If you find what you’re passionate about doing, you’ll find your purpose,” said the books.

I enjoyed painting and drawing, but not as much as tuning in to the whispers of quiet insights from within – whispers that were trying to help me solve the puzzle of this mystery of being alive.

But finding wisdom is not something I can do anything with. It’s not a purpose. I argued with myself.

So, after quitting my degree, tail between my legs, I searched the newspaper for work and did what mom told me: I just got a ‘job’.

A couple of years later, everything looked like a picture of happiness. I was married with my second child on the way, doing graphic design to pay the bills, with intuitive consulting and teaching business on the side.

Then two years of hell pulled the rug out and nuked the ground beneath us.

As we tend to do when we’re on our knees suffering, I again begged for purpose, direction, and meaning. I sat with pen and journal to try to find answers.

It was a desperate question, written with trembling hands – “What must I do?”

I couldn’t face the shame of another friend bringing us groceries or my parents digging into their precious little savings to help. I was expecting my inner wisdom to answer my question by giving me an action plan and a to-do list.

But something entirely unexpected happened instead.

What must I do?

I gazed at the heavy four words: What must I do? A simple question that I’m sure you’ve asked many times.

What must I do, meant: What must I do to be strong for my two baby daughters? What must I do to save my home from bank repossession? What must I do to find purpose in this insane struggle to get through the spin cycle days without breaking a million times?

Questions are like buckets that we can drop into our inner well. The wrong question is like a leaking bucket that brings no help from within.

“What must I do?” was a bucket carved by terror.

Megan, my second baby, had been born with life-threatening health challenges – her first surgery was at 14 hours old.

Our small graphic design business had collapsed; we were in half a million debt and collectors called daily with threats of violence, so we’d pay what we could – one even stole the cash. Working past midnight wasn’t helping. Lightning struck our house twice, our only old car was stolen and two grandparents died.

Every two to three weeks, we’d need to rush my sick daughter into the hospital for an emergency procedure. She’d had nearly a dozen and was only 16 months old.

So, I did the only thing I knew, which had helped me since my childhood; I combined what some have called meditation, intuition and coaching to go to my inner well to draw on the life-saving water of wisdom.

Wisdom reveals the truth about Life’s Purpose

Looking again at the question on my paper: “What must I do?” I closed my eyes, tuning in intuitively, focusing deeper than my surface-panicked mind for thoughts that whisper with a solid feeling of peace.

I’ve spent my life learning how to tell wisdom apart from the sports commentator torture-chamber noise we call thinking.

Then I translated that open feeling of wisdom into these words.

Wisdom replied: “You’re asking the wrong question!”

The wrong question? “What’s the right question?” I asked, even more confused.

“Rather ask, Who am I?” wisdom responded.

Who am I? I repeated, puzzled. How is this supposed to help me pay the bills? Or look after my babies?

Wisdom offered: “If you were an Apple Tree and you didn’t know you were an Apple Tree – how would you know what to do?”

This landed. I felt the power of these words opening me. So even though I couldn’t fully grasp its meaning, I stayed connected to this new seeing.

I admitted: “If I were an Apple Tree and didn’t know, I wouldn’t know what to do; I’d probably try making oranges. So, who am I?”

Tears began to stream with brutal self-honesty. I knew the answer was not in my ID document or the mirror.

“I don’t know who I am—I don’t know my Apple Tree.”

And so, I surrendered. I needed to let go of what my family and life had taught me to be, so that I could discover my true nature.

“Drawing and painting are things I do; they are only one expression of my Apple Tree true self. My purpose is not something I am supposed to do.” I realised with a shock. “I am already an Apple Tree – my purpose is my being. I need to free my being.”

When we meet people for the first time, after name swapping, what do they ask? “What do you do?”

And what do we answer? We answer, “I am a…” Not “I do teaching” or “I do coaching,” but “I am a teacher.”

We make what we DO who we ARE. This belief suffocates our true purpose. To liberate our being, we must put things in their true place. Being is the origin of Doing – Doing is NOT the source of our Being.

Put your Being first and then Doing becomes a natural expression of your Being.

Every honest ‘job’ is noble. Honest hard work can be like scrubbing the temple floors, an act of devotional doing. Every action becomes purposeful if we bring our full apple tree presence to what we do.

You are not what you do

To wake up to your true being is to find everything you’ve been seeking.

That day, I spent the next few hours following inner guidance to create exercises that helped me find and free my Apple Tree. These exercises I still teach 20 years later as part of my InnerLifeSkills Purpose Coaching certification courses.

I started bringing my Apple Tree true being to everything I did.

Did this stall my doing? No. My capacity to do exploded with energy and flow.

We can’t fail or succeed at our life purpose; it’s life’s purpose

  • We can only be at war with our ‘being purpose’ or be asleep to it.
  • We suffer when we haven’t freed our being.

It’s not what we do that matters as much as who we bring to what we do.

Today, if I paint or draw, it expresses my apple tree. When I coach, guide, teach and lead my businesses, I let my Apple Tree do what is natural. This connects us to natural joy and fulfilment. Everything in nature is in service by being what it is.

We make the purposeful difference we were born to make by freeing our true being.

The question, “Who am I?” is still alive in me, and the understanding of what my Apple Tree true self still teaches me.

Free your Being – and doing will follow

There isn’t one doing for you to do. There is only a free being to bring to everything you do. This brings the power of your full presence to your life.

By freeing my Apple Tree, I became a stronger mother, healed my shyness, created ways to earn the rain of income streams for my Apple Tree, eventually wrote books and created conscious businesses.

Now I love showing others how to find and free their Apple Trees with joy.

Next time you ask: “What must I do?” perhaps change your question to: “Who am I?” Then let your true Apple Tree self bless everything you do.

Colleen-Joy is a Master Coach Maker, conscious entrepreneur, published author and speaker. If you’re a natural coach, guide, healer or leader who wants to work with wisdom, to make a living making a difference, reach out to connect with Colleen and her inspiring community.



Author, spiritual teacher known for the ‘Wisdom Well Way’

Colleen has taught over 35 000 people in 60 countries, delivering over 4 000 classes and talks. Two documentary television features have been made about her life story and she’s been a regular expert television and press guest for over 20 years.

Colleen-Joy is an author and spiritual teacher best known for her Wisdom Well Way meditation method, which you can enrol for at

Colleen is also the managing director of internationally accredited InnerLifeSkills Master Coach Certification programmes at Join her regular Zoom classes.