How To Start Living With Radical Inner Purpose

Image by Gerome Viavant
“It seems the dying are the only ones who really know how to live.” 
–You+Me, From the song “From A Closet In Norway

If you’ve been following my music via GregoryDouglass.com or my video tutorials via TheCreativeAdvisor.com, you’ll notice a new spin on things. I’ve been dying to expand my work as a creator and thought leader to reach more creative people at a deeper level, and inspire them to live more fulfilling lives in the process. Creating music is such meaningful work for me, and it’s brought a radical sense of purpose into my life in so many ways. These are perhaps the most important insights I’ve gained so far.

Throughout my 15+ years of being an independent touring musician, I’ve met so many incredible people — many of whom have looked up to me with a glimmer of admiration in their eyes for simply owning my creative purpose and living out my wildest dreams. Even successful, high-profile businessmen and women have said things like, “Wow, you’re actually living the dream!” It’s as if they’re also thinking, “Wow, I can’t imagine actually living my own dreams,” or “Wow, what if I were living my own dreams?”

It’s always a humbling reminder of what matters most in this short life we have here on earth. All the years of touring around, performing in people’s homes, and meeting so many inspiring new people have really opened my eyes to how many people are not living their dreams. They are nowhere close to living their dreams. Many are busy working themselves into an early grave of unknown purpose and unrealized aspirations. It’s more staggering to me how many people are successfully standing in their own way — day after day — in a state of complacency and discontent.

I’m no stranger to these feelings myself, even after 15+ years of “living my dreams.” I’m in my mid-30’s and I already have so much to be proud of. I’m a fairly successful, hard-working touring singer/songwriter with nine (9) original independent studio albums. It’s been a magical journey already with all the experiences I’ve had on the road and all the incredible people I’ve met. And yet, I can only remember a shamefully small portion of the journey. Why is that?

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware, but if you haven’t yet, then I suggest you check it out sometime before you die. Bronnie actually based the book off of a short blog article she wrote called “Regrets of the Dying” after realizing the impact the article had on her readers — myself included. When I first read this article a short five years ago, I just wept. I mean, my life literally flashed before my eyes like the final montage in the series finale of Six Feet Under. I actually saw myself on my own deathbed feeling the exact same five regrets that Bronnie highlighted in her article — in that order — and it was all simply too much to handle.

These five undeniable truths made me feel like I was already halfway to my own early grave if I didn’t do something to change the state of things. I couldn’t believe how quickly time had passed me by, and how little stayed fresh in my memory. I was so preoccupied by all that wasn’t working in my life and in my career that I failed to notice much of what I was experiencing in the moment — the present. It’s hard to make memories when you’re busy hanging out in the past or the future all the time.

It became crystal clear to me that I had to make some big changes. I didn’t know why, but my instinct was pulling me towards the Southwest, so my husband and I traded in the green mountains of our native Vermont stomping ground for the sun-scorched, fast-paced metropolis of Los Angeles. So many of our friends thought we were crazy for so many reasons — and this decision wasn’t made without great resistance — but one “regret of the dying” resonated with us enough to make the greatest leap of faith of our adult lives. The number one (1) most common regret of them all:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

By all accounts, I’ve always considered myself living a life true to myself through music, but I was starting to lose my way after so many years of sustaining the career path that my younger self expected of me. It felt impossible to let my 30-year-old desires, truths, and ambitions emerge all while trying to stay the course of my 20-year-old desires, truths, and ambitions. Know what I’m sayin’?

It’s not easy during a complete identity crisis when you are your own personal brand. I mean, I’m Gregory fucking Douglass, the one and only! Music is an enormous part of who I am, but there’s still so much left to uncover. I’m not sure many of my fans can even imagine what that looks like beyond what they’re use to, but I can. My husband and I have been here in LA for two years now, and I already feel an expansion of my creative self. I feel like a better version of myself out here than I ever could have imagined, and I’m gonna keep imagining, creating, and exploring until death do us part.

So how about you, my friends and fellow creators? What internal dialogue is happening right now for you, regardless of how different or crazy it might sound? What is your heart saying differently than what is currently being expected of you? What’s gonna bring a radical sense of purpose into your life?

I implore you to learn how to start living with radical inner purpose so that you can positively “live a life worth dying for.” Here’s how you can start:

Accept your mortality. The wellness community is so saturated in positivity, gratitude, abundance and motivation that sometimes it feels impossible to succeed. It’s no wonder we continue to not feel good enough when the bounty of life, love, light and happiness is all we’re paying attention to. It’s only one side of our mortal coin. The other side of the coin is where darkness, fear, anger and uncertainty live. I believe that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. More specifically, a mortal experience. Death is just non-negotiable. I’m pretty sure that no one has yet to make it out of this world alive, so understand that accepting certain death is also accepting certain life.

Take a good hard look at the big picture, and let your mortality be a reminder of the life we have the (limited) opportunity of living today. When you accept your mortality, your entire perspective will change, and even the thought of that deathbed will start to appear much more like cushy memory foam.

Decide. I’m fascinated with the driving force behind what makes people decide to do crazy things like risk their lives to scale Mount Everest, max out their finances to go on the road and play music (wait, that’s me!), and even forfeit their own self-interests to volunteer their time at a food shelter. It seems to me that this driving force is nothing more than the ceaseless desire to explore our own self-purpose and hidden potential. It is the insatiable hunger to feel alive and connected. I think it’s also our creative muse, and it can show up in surprising ways that might even require a radical shift in perspective.

So you’ve got to decide how you’re going to proceed with your hunger. What really lights you up, turns you on, and gets you out of bed in the morning? What are you secretly (or not so secretly) dying to live for? Just decide, and roll with that for now. You can always change your mind later, but make a refreshing decision here and now. (Gulp… Ahhh!)

Participate. A purposeful life is not the life we are constantly looking for, it’s the life we are actively living. When we decide to participate in the many ways we intuitively desire, it brings us that much closer to living a life with deeper purpose. This is what I mean by “radical inner purpose” and “living a life worth dying for.” It’s a radical notion for most people to acknowledge their desires and then actually participate in them.

It doesn’t matter how you decide to move forward. Just say YES to anything that really sparks your fire right now, take some action (big or small!), and watch those dying regrets melt away before your living eyes…

Here’s my mission

I want to change the dialogue on inner purpose. We all want a “life worth living for” before we die, so I think we need to start “living a life worth dying for” while we’re still alive. Too many people look back on their lives with heavy hearts full of regret when they could be living with radical inner purpose. So what are you dying to live for? Go ahead, get creative… Or click here for a little help from this handy creative action plan.

RIP (Radical Inner Purpose),

-Gregory Douglass

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