Aim to live a purpose driven existence

BY Archana Law

According to American humourist Mark Twain, the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the one you find out why. And there’s been a recent explosion of interest in purpose driven living and leadership.

Business experts make the case that purpose is key to exceptional performance while psychologists describe it as the path to greater wellbeing.

Despite this understanding however, a major challenge continues to remain because very few people have a strong sense of their purpose or are able to define it in a concrete statement.

While clearly articulating an organisation’s mission – such as Google’s ‘To organize the world’s information, and make it universally accessible and useful’ – purpose descriptions typically fall back on something generic like ‘help others excel,’ ‘ensure success’ or ‘empower our people.’

The lack of a clear action plan limits our aspirations, and we often fail to achieve our most ambitious professional and personal goals. This process of articulating one’s purpose and finding the courage to live it is the single most important activity one can undertake.

Here are a few proven ways to help you begin your journey of discovery…

WHAT IS PURPOSE? “Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us, unplayed,” noted American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Your purpose is who you are and what makes you distinctive. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur at a startup, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, call centre agent, software engineer or developer, your purpose is what you’re driven to achieve… the magic that makes you tick – your brand!

It’s not what you do; it’s how you do your job and why, and the strengths and passion you bring to the table – no matter where you’re seated.

Though you may express your purpose variously in different contexts, it’s what everyone closest to you recognises as being uniquely you – and would miss most when you’re gone. At its core, your purpose springs from identity – i.e. the essence of who you are, rather than a list of skills, qualifications and experiences that you’ve gathered in life.

Purpose is not a catchphrase such as ‘empower the team to achieve exceptional business results while delighting customers.’ It’s who you can’t help being!

YOUR PURPOSE The poet E. E. Cummings wrote: “To be nobody but yourself in a world, which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle, which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.”

Finding your purpose isn’t easy. If it was, we’d all know exactly why we’re here and be fulfilling it constantly. Despite being continuously bombarded by powerful messages from parents, bosses, management gurus, advertisers et al, when you have a clear sense of who you are, everything else follows naturally.

The first task is to mine your life story for common threads and major themes. This will help you identify your core with its lifelong strengths, values and passions – in short, pursuits that energise you and bring joy.

For instance, what did you love doing when you were a child? Describe a moment and how it made you feel. Name two of your most challenging life experiences and how they have shaped you? What do you enjoy doing in your life now that helps you sing your song?

ACTION PLAN Your action plan will differ from traditional development plans in several important ways. It’s a holistic statement, rather than business or career goal, which may neglect you having a family or outside interests and commitments.

What critical steps must you take in the next half year, three months and 31 days to make progress on your plan? The value of small wins comes from listing the activities or results that are most important.

Finally, look at key relationships in your life that are needed to make your plan a reality. Identify two or three people who can help you live more fully as regards your purpose.

WHAT IS IMPACT? We grow anxious when we don’t understand the larger goal or if purpose isn’t anchored to specific impacts. The impact of an action is an identified effect that can be seen and measured.

There are many reasons for doing what you do; but they generally follow the same fundamental driving force. Writers Andrew Bryant and Ana Lucia Kazan explain that “self-leadership is the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feelings and actions towards your objectives.”

Managing the purpose driven self is about constantly developing one’s inner game or mindset and the outer playoff or action.

The inner game consists of intention, self-awareness, self-confidence and belief in yourself. These qualities are needed to achieve personal mastery while the outer game consists of influence and impact.