The Harvard Business Review defines purpose as follows:
“At its core, your leadership purpose springs from your identity, the essence of who you are. Purpose is not a list of the education, experience, and skills you’ve gathered in your life.”
Your job is to be nobody but yourself
When you’re searching for your purpose, remember that you have to be yourself. This means that you have a responsibility to dig deep and find out about all the areas that make you happy, inspire you and give you energy. When you find such a place, you’ll be able to give the best parts of your skills and attention to your work and to others around you.
Finding your inner drivers of meaning
Find the root driver of what give you meaning. we can start this process by asking ‘why’ 3 to 5 times.
Ask why, why, why
Let’s say that I want to make $1,000,000 by the time I reach 50 years old.
Why: because I want to leave my stressful job and retire early
Why: So I can travel the world with my husband
Why: Because I want to build up more happy memories and experiences together
We see that the driver is not to just make $1,000,000 — the money is the prescription to the sub-conscious driver to build more happy memories with my husband.
So, what do we do about it? The truth is, after you find the root driver, you are open to more options. You can still strive to reach $1,000,000 at the age of 50, but it’s not your only option anymore. You can take a job in another country for a year, decide to travel backpacking in the short term, or, instead of retiring early, you can book regular small holidays to the countries that interest you.
What’s important however, is that you are aware of what your inner drivers are — so that you can feel purposeful. Without having this sense of awareness you’ll find yourself chasing the wrong things, like money, and end up feeling unfulfilled even if you do reach your original ‘goal’.
Questions and exercises to uncover more internal drivers
Here are some further questions to help you find the inner drivers of what makes you happy and what will lead you to your purpose statement, and a purposeful life:
Think back to the things you loved doing as a child and how it made you feel
Reflect on your most challenging life experiences and the impact it’s had on you
Think about your biggest highlights of your life, and how it’s shaped you
Ask yourself, who is doing the kind of work that inspires you, and what about it really lights your fire?
And finally, what’s your soul food? What is it about that activity that makes your soul glow and why?
Write a purpose statement
Once you’ve uncovered your internal drivers, it’s time to clarify your purpose by writing a purpose statement and reciting it as often as possible.
Here is my very own personal purpose statement:
“To be fearless in the pursuit of a greater tomorrow. With courage in veins and compassion in my heart.”
I took it one step further and wrote it on my bathroom mirror with my favourite lipstick. It’s got prime space so I find myself ducking and weaving around it to get my morning make up done. But it’s so worth it. Because every time I see it, I’m reminded of my purpose, and no matter how hard the day, the workload or task ahead of me, I tell myself to be fearless and push on.
Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook, confirm this in their research:
“Executives tell us it is the key to accelerating their growth and deepening their impact, in both their professional and personal lives. Indeed, we believe that the process of articulating your purpose and finding the courage to live it — what we call purpose to impact — is the single most important developmental task you can undertake as a leader.”
What success looks like when you’re working within your purpose
Chris Guillebeau found that all successful people who are working within their purpose have 3 main attributes:
Joy: You love what you do
Money: You get paid for your work (otherwise it’s just a hobby)
Flow: Doing work that you are good at and that you’re immersed in
Most of us though, are interested in so many different things and are hard-pressed to pick one thing to be our purpose. The only way to find the right combination is to try a bunch of things that you’re interested in, and then see what is getting the most results in joy, money and flow.
Don’t feel inferior because you don’t know what your purpose is
Just because you don’t know what your purpose is, doesn’t mean that you won’t find it. We can look at others hitting goals in their careers and think that they were lucky because they knew exactly what they were meant to do. Some people are just fortunate, and others have to dig deeper and try out a bunch of things before they really know what makes them happy — don’t be discouraged!
When you should persevere and when you should just give up
According to Chris Guillebeau, this decision should be based on 2 questions. When your trailing something, after 6 to 12 months you should ask yourself the following questions:
Is it working?
Am I happy?
If the answer is no to both of these 2 questions, then it’s clear that something needs to change.
Make different choices and know thyself
People who are living their purpose say that you don’t just stumble onto your calling, you have to fight for it. Your purpose is deep and it’s something that means something to you. Your purpose is your philosophy. It’s no accident that successful entrepreneurs and leaders who have risen up the ranks to achieve greatness have a strong foothold in spirituality. They know that their reason for doing what they do runs deep through their being and that they have to stay true to their calling, no matter what.
What are the important and unimportant things in your life?
Best selling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*#@, Mark Manson puts it like this:
“Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time, we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.”
So, what’s important to you? What makes you happy? What gives you meaning? Once you have the answer to that, it’s time to cut away all the other things that are draining you and taking you away from your purpose.
One of my favourite questions about what to cut out is:
What is true about yourself today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?