The Value of Purpose
Sometimes I meet people who have been so busy trying to achieve wealth, status and security that they’ve forgotten to ask ‘what is it all for’? While most of us would like all three they’re not really enough on their own. I think the reason for this is that we seek something more: we need meaning and a sense of purpose.
If we don’t have this we can be super successful and still wonder what the point of it all is. Meaning and purpose take us beyond ourselves, they raise questions about what really matters to us. And when you start asking questions about them you invariably find the answers involve something bigger than you.
This is worth doing because as soon as you have purpose that is aligned with your values you become much more energised. (People often tell me they feel like they’ve been given a new lease of life).
So, what does matter to you?
For a lot of people this isn’t immediately clear, because they’ve never really thought about it. Their focus may have been on just keeping their head above water and trying to keep up.
But as soon as you clarify your purpose, you’ll start to have direction in your life. Purpose creates a new benchmark to measure you decisions against and so ensure you’re on track. This is because purpose gives you clarity.
It also keeps you congruent by making you consider whether what you’re doing is really an expression of you at your best. Purpose then is both profound and empowering.
How do you find purpose?
Simply ask yourself what really matters to you and how might you contribute in a positive way to the lives of others?
This could trigger all sorts of questions. For instance, you might ask what is the point of what you’re currently doing. If the only answer is, “well it pays the mortgage”, then you might want to ask yourself “is this enough?” (Is paying the mortgage really the purpose of your life?)
This is an ongoing inquiry and often easier to explore in a dialogue with a coach. If it seems like a big job and you’re questioning what you currently do, no need to pack it all in and completely change direction.
Instead, consider what small changes could you make that would enable you to move in the right direction for you? Do enough of this and you will end up with significant change.
Do you have direction?
Purpose is like a compass; it helps you stay on track.
But suppose you didn’t really pay attention to the compass. Think about what could happen over time to your direction of travel. Maybe you were just one degree off when you started. But ten miles – or ten years – down the line you could end up in a very different place from where you intended!
I think direction is more like a river than an arrow. While purpose can remain constant, direction is always moving and adapting to its surroundings. It makes in-course correction and does what is necessary to move toward the goal.
In my experience once you have purpose and direction you don’t feel adrift and your daily satisfaction level goes up.
People also feel more resilient when dealing with life’s changes because when you have a goal that really matters to you, you become more determined.
Friedrich Nietzsche put it well when he said “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”