One of the first things that every human should realise is that this creation as a whole and humans in particular have not been created in vain and without a noble purpose. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says in the Qur'aan,
"And We created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between them without purpose! That is the consideration of those who disbelieve! Then woe to those who disbelieve from the Fire! Or should we treat those who believe and do righteous deeds like corrupters in the land (Mufsideen)? Or should We treat those who fear Allah (Muttaqeen ) like the wicked (Fujjaar)?" (Soorah Saad, 38:27-28)
There is a purpose to this creation and, hence, those who do righteous deeds are not the same as those who spread evil. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has also said,
"Does man think that he will be left neglected?" (Sooratul-Qiyaamah, 75:36)
In reality, the original, physical creation of the first human was not greatly different from the creation of the other creatures of this world. The physical make-up was from clay and water. This fact is noted in numerous places in the Qur'aan. For example, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says,
"And it is He Who has created man from water, and has appointed for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage. And your Lord is Ever All-Powerful to do what He will. " (Sooratul-Furqaan, 25:54)
Allaah سبحانه و تعالى also says,
"And indeed, We created man from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud." (Sooratul-Hijr, 15:26)
It is in the next stage of the creation of the first human, Aadam عليه السلام, in which the real distinction occurred. At this point, humans are made a very separate and unique creature, combining a physical aspect and a special spiritual aspect that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى bestowed on them. In fact, this is what makes them very different from the other living creatures on this same planet. This stage is described in the verse,
"Then He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him the soul (created by Allah for that person), and He gave you hearing (ears), sight (eyes) and hearts. Little is the thanks you give!" (Sooratus-Sajdah, 32:9)
Even before Allaah سبحانه و تعالى created this creation, He informed the Angels that this creation was to have a special purpose on this earth, succeeding the creation before him. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says,
"And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: "Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth." (Sooratul-Baqarah, 2:30)
After Allaah سبحانه و تعالى breathed into this creation with a spirit from His and after He had bestowed knowledge upon him, the Angels, Allaah's noble creation, were ordered to prostrate to this new creation. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says, for example,
"So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him (Adam عليه السلام) the soul which I created for him, then fall (you) down prostrating yourselves unto him." (Sooratul-Hijr, 15:29)
Furthermore, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى states that humans on their own opted to accept the responsibility of the trust. Other creations were offered this heavy responsibility but they all refused. It was only humans who took this job on. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى describes this occurrence in the following verse,
"Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it. But man bore it. Verily, he was unjust (to himself) and ignorant (of its results)." (Sooratul-Ahzaab, 33:72)
Although mankind took on a heavy responsibility, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى then helped mankind in many ways to fulfill this trust. (Furthermore, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى will also reward mankind in a special fashion when they fulfill this trust.)
That is, along with this came some distinguishing characteristics that set this creation apart from the animals on this earth. Among the most prominent distinguishing features of a human being are the following:
(1) A sound, natural disposition that is ready and capable to be directed to the belief in Allaah سبحانه و تعالى alone as the (only) object (worthy) of worship;
(2) An ability to comprehend and understand matters via the intelligence and mind that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has bestowed on humans;
(3) A free will to decide between the path of goodness or the path of evil, as well as a limited free will to enact that choice that he has made;
(4) A responsibility for the choices he has made, which is a necessary result of being given free will and ability.
Another important characteristic related to humans is that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has put at their disposal all that is created in the heavens and earth. In reality, humans have been created solely to serve Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and, to help them do so, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has made all things of the physical cosmos under their potential control. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says,
"Allah it is He Who has subjected to you the sea, that ships may sail through it by His Command, and that you may seek of His Bounty, and that you may be thankful. And has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all as a favour and kindness from Him. Verily, in it are signs for a people who think deeply." (Sooratul-Jaathiyah, 45:12-13)
This opens up for humans a great potential to achieve a tremendous amount of good. 
Given all of these special characteristics, the human should realise that he has a special and noble purpose and goal in this life. He should realise that his Creator is too wise and lofty to create him simply for sport.
"Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?" (Sooratul-Mu'minoon, 23:115)
Hence, he should realise that his actions in this life have a real ramification to them. In this sense, nothing that he does is meaningless or without consequences. All of his deeds and his choices are like a trial wherein he demonstrates whether he is desirous of what is good and proper or not. Indeed, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has made this point very clear,
"Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the dominion, and He is Able to do all things. Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving." (Sooratul-Mulk, 67:1-2)
It is extremely important for the human to realise this point that he has a purpose in this life. He must realise that he is not simply an animal that has evolved through benign material processes nor is he a sexually-inhibited driven creature, like Darwin, Freud and others have led so many people to believe. Indeed, this realisation may be the first step along the path of purification of the soul. Without realising this fact, there may be no need, meaning or purpose to purifying one's soul - if one is just an animal, then it is expect for him to behave like an animal; if nothing is morally right or wrong since there is no God or real purpose to existence, it is expected for people to behave in any fashion they wish. When a person's eyes are open to the reality of this creation, his purpose and role in it, theoretically speaking, there should be a great and profound effect on his life.
Islahi notes that the "first condition [in the process of purification] is the sincere firm resolve to change and reform." However, that first step may never come about if the person does not realise that he a very important and noble purpose in this life. Hence, this realisation must come first. Once this realisation occurs, then there should be an immediate leap to that resolve to change and reform.
Karzoon noted, "When a person becomes heedless of his goal for which he was creared and the role that he has been given, he becomes busy with other goals... This changes them [that is, such people] from their essential human nature and position by which Allaah سبحانه و تعالى honoured them. Due to this, contradiction and confusion occurs in the make-up of the human. The human is then dragged into two different directions: the direction of the spirit (rooh) and the direction of the body."
Karzoon then notes that the only way to make those two aspect compatible is via the teachings of Islaam. It is these teachings alone that can properly and in a balanced manner fulfill the needs of both the rooh and the body. Indeed, this demonstrates the relationship between the purification of the soul and the responsibility to "maintain and rule" this world. The latter is done by righteous deeds upon the path of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and it is not done through individual purification while leaving aside the society and the surrounding people. On the other hand, ignoring that path is what leads to the kind of society that exists today, wherein a primary goal is the meeting of the bodily desires while greater and more important ethical and moral issues and needs are being ignored! 
 See: Fear Allaah Wherever You Are (Taqwa) - www.muftisays.com/forums/12-virtues/7703-fear-allah-where...
 At the same time, though, when used improperly it can be used to bring about a great deal of evil. Allaah says,
"Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (to repentance and righteousness)." (Sooratur-Room, 30:41)
 Purification of the Soul: Concept, Process and Means