What is your purpose?
The other day I was in a workshop facilitated by Tokona Te Raki, the Māori Futures Collective. There were a lot of people in the room, who all shared an interest in increasing Māori participation, success and progress, but many of us had never met before.
The facilitators began the workshop by asking each person to briefly share with the group, their name, where they come from, and what was their life’s purpose. For most of us the name was the easy bit. I struggled to actually say where I come from - I was born in Wellington, lived most of my life in Canterbury, but now live in Wellington, so I am never quite sure of the exact location of my roots, although I have been known to cheer for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes...
The most interesting thing about this exercise was to observe people’s reaction to being asked to share their life’s purpose. The room was basically split into two - those who were able to easily answer the question and those who couldn’t.
“The two most important days in your life: the day you were born
and the day you discover why.”
So why is knowing what your purpose is, so important? Not knowing your purpose makes it much easier to drift through life, going from one thing to the next, and spending your days meeting the expectations of others.
When you know what your purpose is, you are less likely to accept a job that you won’t like, and even less likely to stay in a job that doesn’t bring you joy.
Knowing your purpose will help you stay motivated.
Daniel Pink in his book Drive lists the three keys to motivation:
Autonomy - the ability to have choice in your life
Mastery - having things you are good at
Purpose - being part of something bigger than yourself
As humans we have a strong need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Knowing your purpose makes it easier to identify what is that ‘bigger than yourself’ thing.
If you are one of those people who find it difficult to articulate your purpose there are some clues that you can uncover within your own life.
Think about what you are doing when you go into a ‘state of flow’ - that state when time ceases to have meaning and when you ‘come to’ you find that significant time has elapsed of which you were not aware. I often experience a ‘state of flow’ when I am writing or putting together a keynote or workshop. There have been many nights when my husband, having arrived home from work, has come into my office, and I’ve nearly jumped out of my skin, by being jolted back to reality, by his friendly greeting.
Another clue is to think about what it is you are good at and enjoy doing. The enjoy doing bit is the key - there are lots of things I am good at like vacuuming and reconciling my expenses, but I don’t enjoy either of these jobs, so you can guarantee that they won’t be part of my life’s purpose. On the other hand I get great feedback from workshops I facilitate, and I really enjoy doing this work, so there is a reasonable chance that running workshops will be part of how I fulfill my purpose.
This week as you go about your life try to be cognescient about what you are good at, you enjoy doing, and that time passes quickly for you, while you are engaged in that activity. Next week’s post is about a Life Map, a tool I am developing to help people discover their purpose.
If like me you are pretty clear about what your purpose is, you might find it helpful to use Simon Sinek’s golden circles to deepen your understanding.
Why - is your purpose. Why were you put on this earth?
How - how you go about bringing your purpose to life. These will be your long-term goals
What - what are you currently spending your time doing? This will align to your how and exemplify your why.
Applying the Golden Circle to my life looks like this:
Why? - helping people create compelling futures for their lives
How? - I coach people to co-design futures.
What? - I teach people and organisations the process of design thinking as a vehicle to design their desired future and I coach leaders. I also write a weekly blog to help others live more successful lives.
This week the final word goes to Winston Churchill:
“It is not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”
Till next time,
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