First, a definition. Purpose is your Profound Why – Why are you working so hard? For what higher-order reason? It can’t be just to sell more widgets than you did last year – your work is more than that. That said, your work doesn’t define you; you define your work and how it serves the purpose you articulate.
Thankfully, a well-crafted purpose integrates what we do with who we are, helping work and purpose serve each other seamlessly.
But therein lies the problem.
The idea of having a purpose stops with many at the loftiest of levels. As in “Sounds good, but sounds difficult to define.” Actually, it’s quite doable with the right process, and the pursuit is 1000% worth it. Research shows having a strong sense of purpose in one’s work nets meaning and fulfillment and correlates with heightened performance.
The process is built on introspection. Take some time to thoughtfully answer the “Purpose Power Questions” below (broken into four categories) and you’re on your way. The answers to any one of these questions just might lead you to articulate exactly what your purpose is.
1. What are your superpowers? Which of your strengths can you use, like a superhero, to do good for others?
2. What are your values and beliefs? Our most closely held values and beliefs are often the seeds of a purpose waiting to bloom.
3. What would you do for free? What are you doing when you lose track of time at work? What do you catch yourself daydreaming about?
4. What part of you is not showing up at work? We’re living with purpose when we’re bringing our whole selves to the workplace. This question can point to strengths locked within that you’re longing to bring out.
5. What have been your happiest moments? These can indicate the fundamentals of your purpose.
6. What have you learned from career misfires–and triumphs? Misfires provide clues about what your purpose isn’t, triumphs help define what it is.
7. What deed needs doing? What problem needs solving? What does the world need more of that you’re well suited to serve? What’s your cause?
8. Who would you serve? Who are the beneficiaries of your servitude? Who you find yourself drawn to serving can provide important clues about your potential purpose.
9. What would coworkers miss if you weren’t there? The delightful ingredients that you bring to the workplace stew can be clues to your purpose.
10. What would people say you were meant to do? What would others tell you that your second profession should be?
Many of these power-questions have an important thread running through them – when you commit to something greater than yourself, your purpose often reveals itself more clearly and potently.
So, after some introspection you should have an idea of your purpose. Now it’s time to get nitty-gritty by writing down a purpose statement. If it’s written well enough, it can make your pulse race and give you energy when you need it most. The key is, as you write it, pay attention to the verb you use. For example, are you:
· Creating a movement of kindness and generosity
· Unlocking the potential of every willing person you meet
· Bringing civility and respect back to the world and workplace
· Helping women succeed by overinvesting in their success
· Stirring the disengaged into action and into believing in themselves once again
Carefully choosing the right verb ensures your purpose statement is inspiring, action oriented, and actionable–for you. It’s not important that your purpose statement is unique, just that it speaks to the unique you. It should just feel right and convey that what you’ve been doing throughout your life adds up to the purpose you’ve now defined. You share it with friends or loved ones and they say “Of course–that’s you.”
So, armed with power questions and a purpose statement, you’re ready to make your Profound Why profoundly real.
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