What is your purpose? This is probably the single most important question you can ask and your answer will shape your future. However, it’s not straightforward. We are led to believe that our purpose is connected with how much we achieve, the accumulation of possessions, or attaining status in society. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Bill Gates stated in a Sunday Times article on April 15, 2018 entitled Robots will take most jobs, “Work won’t be the central, almost religious activity it is today. That’s an inevitability. Then you’ll have all sorts of philosophical questions about purpose.”
Your personal purpose is your internal compass. It is your big why. It is the meeting point between your passion and your talent. When you are on purpose you are in flow. When you are on purpose you unlock the necessary skillset to thrive in today’s complex and unpredictable world. Ultimately your personal purpose is an aspirational reason for being. A deep conviction about what is most important. It shapes your mindset, behavior and actions. It has a timeless quality, which is beyond circumstance. It provides the meaning and direction of your life.
One day I got a call from the Head of Talent of a major law firm. Jane knew me well and that I specialized in coaching leaders to discover their purpose. She said that one of her most talented lawyers was questioning his future in law and was looking for some support. I met Stephen in central London and we found a quiet corner in a secluded hotel. He was extremely bright, quick thinking and personable. Stephen came straight to the point. He had been practising law his entire career, specializing in doing due diligence on major deals. But now, approaching his mid-forties, Stephen was reflecting on his future options. Should he stay in law, move into doing deals, enter the corporate world as General Counsel, take a risk and set up his own practice, or retrain in education and teach? I sensed quite a lot of confusion in Stephen and suggested to explore his purpose before looking at any external factors. I shared with him a definition of purpose and the steps he needed to take.
The starting point was to ask Stephen to think of the key activities in his life, and those which displayed him at his best. When he was most fulfilled and why? When he was in flow and why? When he was experiencing ‘peak’ moments and why? He recounted times like playing sports, academic achievements, pulling off deals, marriage and family. The next step was to identify the key themes emerging from his key experiences in order to understand their linkages. Stephen highlighted relationship, achievement and creativity as the standout ideas. We then entered a dialogue to go deeper into the meaning of these and the ultimate end-game he wanted to reach. He landed on ‘Being the best I can be’ as his purpose. We then road tested his purpose against 4 key factors:
· Consistent – he could apply his purpose to all areas of his work, life and relationships.
· Energizing – he was fuelled by the idea of it and it ignited passion.
· Fulfilling – he knew that by being on purpose he would thrive.
· Significant – he recognized that his purpose linked him to what matters most.
Stephen went back out into his life to put his purpose into action. Eventually it led him to transition from law into setting up an impact investment services firm, which he describes as a profit with purpose business.
The vital element to the discovery of purpose is to be open-minded, curious and committed to knowing what is true for you. Living your purpose starts by setting a deliberate intention to be purpose-led in your work, life and relationships. It then requires you to demonstrate a skillset which will inspire and engage those you interact with through your ability to listen, connect and bring the best out of others.
At the end of the day life is too short to simply have a job. What if there was something that could become your guiding light, no matter how rough the elements get or how you fly? What if you could be grounded in a state of being that would help you navigate any challenge, and enable you to keep perspective when everything is going your way? What if you had a clear framework for making big decisions and managing the big priorities in your work and life?
Having a purpose is the gateway for having an inspired and meaningful life no matter what. By discovering and following your purpose you will be on track, regardless of the obstacles you hit along the way. In fact, your purpose will give you the capacity to embrace roadblocks with a growth mindset and greater resilience. Your purpose will transform your work into a source of giving and service that will fully engage you. Your purpose will nurture your relationships so that you create new levels of communication, connection and shared reality. Your purpose will inspire you to be the best you can be and thereby inspire others along the way. To lead with purpose is simply the greatest gift life has to offer. It lies in your hands to accept the gift and use it well.
Want to learn how you can find your purpose? Check out my book Purpose: The Extraordinary Benefits of Focusing on What Matters Most, available in-stores and online.