“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” — Aristotle
Now there’s a fine question to start you day with, isn’t it?
Take heart, this post just might let your inner-kid out to play and make your day more meaningful, in whatever you do.
You Can Have More Than One Purpose
One trap you can fall into is thinking you need a single amazing purpose to guide the rest of your life. Another trap to fall into is thinking that there is only one way to express that purpose.
Purpose is a good thing.
It helps you make meaning and find fulfillment. Flexibility is a good thing too. It helps you adapt in an ever-changing world. When you combine purpose and flexibility, you can find or create purpose as you need to, and you can express purpose in multiple ways.
Purpose is a powerful thing. It gives meaning to your work and adds juice to your day. If you’ve ever been “on a mission” you know what I mean. The ability to express your purpose in multiple forms is a way to free you up and be your best in any situation.
Take Your Game Wherever You Go
One of the light-bulbs for me was when a friend mapped out my Golden Circle (a self-leadership tool for finding your purpose.) Instead of lead you life with “what”, “how”, and “why”, you start with “why”, then “how”, then finally the “what”. The ‘what” is simply a form of expression, meaning you can take your game wherever you go. You think and act from the inside out, leading with your “why” and “how.”
Finding your purpose, making meaning, and expressing your purpose is a skill you started with as a child.
How To Express Your Purpose in Multiple Ways
In the book, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading, Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky share ways to find meaning and purpose in whatever you do, and express your purpose in multiple ways.
- Know that your content in life matters more than the form. Heifetz and Linsky write, “Just as measurement will distract you from truer appreciations of life, the form of your contribution is far less important than the content.”
- Don’t get caught up in the form of expression Heifetz and Linsky write, “If the essential ingredient of meaning in life is the experience of connection and contribution, then part of the magic of life in our organizations and communities lies in the human capacity to generate many forms for its expression. Meaning derives from finding ways, rather than any one particular way, to love, to contribute to the worldly enterprise, to enhance the quality of life for people around you.”
- Use service to others as a way to create rich and deep experiences of meaning in life. Heifetz and Linsky write, “Fundamentally, the form doesn’t matter. Any form of service to others is an expression, essentially, of love. And because the opportunities for service are always present, there are few, if any reasons that anyone should lack for rich and deep experiences of meaning in life. The most common failing, perhaps, is Lear’s failing: We get caught up in the form, and lose sight of what’s essential and true.”
- Give yourself freedom to have multiple purposes and to express a purpose in multiple forms. Heifetz and Linsky write, “Having purposes differs from having any particular purpose. You get meaning in life from the purposes that you join. But after working in a particular discipline, industry, or job for twenty or thirty or forty years, you begin to be wedded to that specific purpose, that particular form.”
- Ask, “What’s worth doing today?” Heifetz and Linsky write, “Children have generative power. They create meaning as they busily connect with whatever is happening. But grown-ups often forget that ability. They tend to lose that playful, adventuresome, creative generativity by which they can ask themselves: What’s worth doing today?”
- Rekindle your ability to generate new forms of expression. Heifetz and Linsky write, “The vehicles we find for meaning obviously take some tangible form, and certainly that form matters in significant ways. Some jobs suit your interests, personality, skills, and temperament; others do not. The point is not to diminish the importance of finding forms and taking roles that personally gratify you, but simply to rekindle that youthful capacity to imagine a host of possibilities. Then, when you are forced to compromise, or when you suffer a deep setback, you can recover your natural ability to generate new forms of expression. “
This post was well over due.
One of my mentors had given me the book a while back, with the ask that I help make the book more actionable and I apply the nuggets at work. I’m still making my way through the book, and this nugget has turned out to be one of my favorite insights on finding purpose, making meaning, and staying flexible in how you express it.
It helps combine the wisdom of experience with the play of a child to play at making meaning the rest of your life, one moment or one day at a time.
Photo by Drew Coffman.