Purpose, Meaning & Life



Purpose is our unique contribution to this world (not just to the place that pays us), and often times it brings with it clarity, focus, and confidence. 

Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, identifies purpose as one of the three main ingredients that leads to exceptional performance in the workplace today (autonomy and opportunity to master something are the other two).  Studies have shown that employees who derive meaning from their work are:

    • 2.8X more likely to stay with their organizations
    • 2.2X higher job satisfaction
    • 93% more engaged at work

Also, leaders whose employees felt had clarity of purpose and communicated it inspired their employees to be:

    • 70% more satisfied with their jobs
    • 56% more engaged
    • 100% more likely to stay with their organization

So how do you figure out your purpose, and why is it important? 

When thinking about your purpose, think through these questions: What brings you meaning? What motivates you? What do you see that others cannot? Can you identify a childhood memory or a difficult situation that may have shaped your purpose? What is your unique contribution to this world? 

To help you get some clarity, I am going to use myself as an example. Note this may take you days, weeks, months to figure out, but it is worth the pursuit. Ok, back to me and my purpose:

Learn and share learnings that inspire others. 

I've re-written the sentence above many times over in the last few weeks, and I will probably revise it again, but at this moment in time, it feels right. Looking back, I've often taken on adventures, challenges, problems that helped me learn by doing, gaining new perspectives, and staying open-minded. Throughout my life, I've tried to tackle big decisions, projects, situations in the hope of learning more and maybe inspiring others to get curious, learn, and go on to tackle their own adventures. 

Now, why did I spend so much time trying to nail down this one sentence? Because getting clarity around what energizes you to train every day brings with it many benefits.

Focus/Clarity/Confidence: Nick Craig in his book Leading From Purpose explains that once you have figured out your purpose, you will experience a sense of clarity, focus, and will gain the confidence to take action and put your purpose to work. Without purpose, many leaders tend to lead with a lack of clarity and focus, which often results in indecisiveness and politics.

Growth Mindset: Identifying your purpose also leads to significant growth. Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset, defines what she calls a "growth mindset." Her research shows that we tend to look at the world in one of two ways: with a growth or fixed mindset. In the growth mindset, we believe that our intelligence and capabilities develop when we apply ourselves. In a fixed mindset, we believe we have a fixed level of knowledge and abilities. When acting out of purpose, we tend to be much more open-minded and lean into a growth mindset to learn more. 

Authentic: Purpose tends to make us more authentic. According to the dictionary, authentic means "real or genuine, not copied or false; true and accurate." It comes from the Greek word for author. At its core, authenticity means to be in the place of authorship. To be truly authentic, we must admit that at times we are leading from our purpose and at times we are not. We must recognize that everyone is a work in progress. 

Organizational purpose: A joint study by LinkedIn and Imperative highlights that purpose-oriented workers are 64% more likely to find fulfillment in their jobs and 73% more likely to find employment satisfaction. This signals that organizations with a clear and well-branded purpose can attract better talent and benefit from higher employee retention rates.

Know yourself: Purpose is a continuous journey of discovering a more profound truth that brings us to a fuller understanding of our unique gift. The more you act out of your purpose, the more you'll learn about yourself and those around you, which will help you tap into yourself even more. It's a self-giving cycle. You get better the more you practice. 

With that, what is your purpose? When was the last time you gave yourself the space to think about this? 

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