Find Your Purpose
“Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes.” — Kenneth Hildebrand
Now is a great time to find your purpose. Today, I’ll help you find your purpose in a very simple way. You can use your purpose to get more out of work and life, every single day. In this post, I’ll share an exercise you can use to find your purpose with skill.
When you know your purpose, it helps you jump out of bed in the morning.
Your purpose helps you connect your work to the greater good. When you know your purpose, things feel right. You fire on all cylinders. Your get your thoughts, feelings, and actions all going in the same direction.
Nothing beats connecting what you do with why you do it. That’s purpose in action.
When you know your purpose, you make more impact. Your purpose also keeps you grounded among the chaos. It’s your North Star. It guides you. It helps you adjust your sails to the winds. It gives you the strength to fight your good fights. When you fall off your path, it helps you get back on the saddle again. Perhaps, most importantly, your purpose helps you find your drive when you need it most.
I’ve been doing more talks on my book, Getting Results the Agile Way. This past week, I gave two talks – one talk to a group of 20+ small business owners, and another to a team of 70+ at Microsoft. It was more than a talk, though — it was actually a workshop with a focus on deep skills.
A key exercise in my workshop is finding your purpose. I know when people find their purpose, they get their groove on. I like how people flourish when they connect their unique skills and experience with a purpose that inspires them.
The Power of Purpose
Before I take people through, the exercise to find their purpose, I step back and share how I use mine. My higher-level purpose is to improve the quality of life for as many people as I can, as long as I can. I use skill as my way, that’s why I focus on principles, patterns, and techniques, but my drive is to help people get more out of life, and to unleash what they’re capable of.
At work, I connect my purpose by helping customers succeed on the platform. I help my teammates and colleagues bring out their best. I find ways to share and scale success, up and down the chain. That’s how I connect my uber purpose to may day to day activities at work.
My Approach to Purpose
I’ve practiced the art and science of purpose for years, with myself and others. I mentor a lot of people, so I’ve learned how to make purpose a practical tool in my tool belt, and not something to put on a pedestal. Here are some tools to help you find your purpose, and get your purpose on your side:
- One-liner purpose statements. I’m a fan of one-liner purpose statements. It keep them simple and sticky so you don’t have to look them up. For example, Google’s is “Organize the world’s information.” Starbuck’s is “World’s best coffee.” Apple’s purpose for ITunes is “World’s best online music store.” Microsoft’s is “Help people and businesses realize their full potential.” They’re aspirational and they inspire. More importantly, they are easy to say, which means they are easy to use. I wan to be able to say my purpose in the hall, so I use one-liners.
- Multiple-purpose statements. Draw from many versus one. I draw from multiple purposes. Some people get hung up if they haven’t found their “super purpose” or their “uber purpose.” My recommendation is to just start with a few one-liners that inspire you. I draw from multiple purposes, and I have them at my finger tips. When I’m mentoring, it’s “make others great.” When I’m leading a team, it’s “empower people with skill.”
- Role + Purpose. Use your role to find your purpose. I also use purpose to give meaning to my roles at work. For example, in one of my last jobs, my purpose was “Shape the story for the Cloud for Enterprise customers.” It helps guide me each day, but it also helps others quickly understand what I’m focused on. It also helps attract the right people to help me in my quest. “I am” statements are powerful here. For example, one of my favorite examples is an HR rep that said, “I am the truth advocate.” She used this to get beyond people thinking she’s on the manager’s side or the employee’s side.
- Aspirational and tactical purposes. I also have aspirational purposes, which are more abstract, as well as more tactical purposes that are very concrete. At work, especially, I drive to a simple purpose for my role that inspires me, but then I always connect it back to my higher-level purpose in life.
- “I believe” statements. A friend of mine got me started using “I believe” statements. For example, I believe everybody deserves a chance at a better life. I also believe that life’s better with skill.
- “I help” statements. I saved the best for last. If you want to find an inspirational purpose in a very practical way, ask yourself, what do you want to help YOUR world with? Michael Hyatt’s simple “I help” statement is, “I help people lead on purpose.” Dr. Alex Lickerman’s statement, author of Undefeatable Mind, is “I help people become healthier.”
I share these ideas with the group so that purpose becomes a practical thing and a tangible thing. I also share the examples to show how purpose can connect your work and life, and give it deeper meaning. I also share examples to show people that purpose is not “out there” … purpose is more powerful when it’s right there by your side.
With that in mind, let’s dive in and find you some purpose statements.
Find Your Purpose Exercise
To keep this simple, it’s a three step process. Here is the process:
- Step 1. Write Your One-Liners Down
- Step 2. Say Some Out Loud
- Step 3. Choose One that Resonates Right Now
Step 1. Write Your One-Liners Down
Write down a bunch of one-liner purpose statements. Take five minutes to write down statements that reflect why you do what you do.
Here are some examples:
Here are some examples beyond work:
Here are some key tips:
- Dump whatever comes to mind. Don’t edit yourself.
- Don’t worry about getting it “right” … worry about getting started.
- You’ll refine your purpose statements as you use them in work and life.
- Try out some “I help” or “I am” statements. “I help” statements are simple and powerful.
- Capture who you are, what strengths you bring to the table, to the work you do.
- Figure out in the team you have now how you fit in in a unique way.
- Describe what is indispensable about you right now.
- Describe the role that you think you should be playing on your team.
- Have fun with it!
Keep in mind that the more you play at this, the more you’ll tap into what inspires you.
Step 2. Say Some Out Loud
Say some out loud to see what resonates. It’s one thing to say them in your mind, or write them down on paper, but now say them out loud. Simplify them. Make them easy to say.
It’s very easy to over-complicate them and make them wordy descriptions or linguistically challenging. Tune and prune them so they are easier for you to say out lout. Out loud is the key.
What you might find is that you have one that is so personal that you don’t want to share it, yet. Even then, make it easy to remember and say, even if only for yourself. If this is the case, you should still find a few one-liner purposes that you can stand behind and are happy to say. For example, at work, my job got more clarity and I was able to summon more impact, as soon as I could say that my job was “Shape the Cloud story for the Enterprise.” It took on new meaning, and I connected more dots, and more people could work with me because they were involved in some way, shape or form.
Step 3. Choose One
Choose one and use one. Choose one of your one-liner purpose statements that resonates right now. Actually use it. Use it to give purpose to your company or blog. Use it to give purpose to your resolutions for 2013. Use it to drive your day and shape your week. Write it down somewhere so you see it ,and it reminds you, and inspires you.
For example, one of my mentors, a former CIA agent, told me long ago that my gift is that I can help anybody do anything better. I laughed, but she said she was serious and that I have to appreciate the gift I’ve got. More importantly, she said I need to use it, whether that’s in taglines or for books, etc. She said it’s a rare gift and the more that I use it, the more it will grow.
I finally decided to listen to her, so I’ve added the following statement to my About page:
“I help anybody do anything better.”
I like that. It pulls together my experience of more than ten years of deliberate practice sharing and scaling expertise. It leverages my experience as a mentor, helping individuals and teams bring out their best. It integrates my deep experience with principles, patterns, and practices across a variety of subjects. It taps into my knowledge from thousands of books on personal development, personal development, leadership, productivity, and thinking skills. It uses my ability to get rapid results and to rapidly learn and distill insight and action for others. It also leverages my network of skilled people that have their gifts to share with the world.
The big thing to remember when you are finding your purpose is that it will evolve. The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s already there with you, you just need to articulate it. It’s been a running theme in your life, but now you need to surface it so you can use it more effectively. When you have clarity in your purpose, you’ll find you bounce back faster and you have extra energy for going above and beyond.
Have fun with it. If you’re up for it, share your one-liner purposes in the comments and help inspire others.
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Image by juvetson.