‘What am I FOR?’ – How discovering and living by our purpose dramatically improves our lives.
“What’s it FOR?” This is a question we ask about many things… The Royal Family, perhaps, or a hand knitted loo roll cover?
There are many things we just don’t get.
We keep asking because humans are naturally curious about the reason why somebody came up with something in the first place. Why did somebody decide that was what we all needed?
When we don’t understand we search for the ‘why’.
But when it comes to turning the attention to ourselves, the question of our ‘purpose’ is often harder to answer – It’s just not something all of us find easy or comfortable to discuss.
Some people of course have a very clear sense of their purpose in life. I don’t think Greta would take too long to tell us what hers is – but in raising that question to participants on our executive education programmes at the Møller Institute, it often seems to flummox people, or worse still, to cause them to look temporarily panicked, a real ‘rabbit in headlight’ moment as they face that most difficult, yet fundamentally important question, what is your purpose in life?
Why is it so hard for us to answer this question?
I believe it’s difficult because it’s not something that we are in habit of focusing on regularly.
To pause and consider it too often is potentially a dangerous game – for some this recent period might have allowed us the opportunity to pause and reflect on our personal purpose. But what if having considered it we were to find that we had somehow stumbled onto the ‘wrong track’?
What if, in doing so, life whispered to us that choices we had made, investments in time, education and a career that had once seemed so promising, are in reality playing out as a trapped, energy -sapping existence? Scary.
For anyone who has a life purpose around their loved ones, really reflecting on how long we spend working can be a sobering exercise, on which we prefer not to dwell for too long.
But I believe that it is so essential to ask ourselves the purpose question ‘what am I for?’
I spend a lot of my life talking about purpose.
I can’t help it. I’m obsessed. Fascinated. Driven by a maniacal determination to get almost everyone I meet to think about, and then tell me what their purpose is. Why? It is actually none of my business, of course, but it is theirs.
The identification of one’s purpose is, I believe, fundamental to personal success and happiness.
Because once you find it, you can start to live your life by it, and stop being dragged into so many other things which are possibly interesting, even enjoyable, but they’re not contributing to the core reason why you’re actually here.
Why does having a purpose matter?
At the Møller Institute, we talk a lot about creation of energy:
- Energy in teams;
- Energy to innovate;
- Energy to stay resilient;
- Energy to grow.
I know that my energy levels, and that of others around me, increases exponentially when it is in service of a real solid purpose, which is chosen and I believe in.
Energy Follows Purpose
Think about the last time you really believed in or wanted something? You might recall your surprisingly limitless, powerful energy to achieve it?
Imagine accessing that energy for everything you do? That’s what identification of one’s purpose can do.
Another reason purpose works is because in this frenzied, fragmented world, creaking under technology overload, we need to find a way to pause and focus.
In my work we practice this fantastic little habit of individually setting a purpose, which we then briefly share together, before every single interaction we undertake, and we write it down. I would now never ever start even a call with one other person without writing down my purpose.
We share ours, but we also consider what we think the purpose might be of those with whom we are communicating or teaching.
The results of this one discipline are amazing.
The interaction seems magically to go where we all hoped, and our collective purpose and progress is achieved.
Make this a disciplined habit. It is incredibly powerful.
A final reason why purpose matters, whether it’s for us as individuals, in our role, in our life or as a team or organisation is that it helps us to be more discerning.
It enables us to decide what we will not do.
Choices about how we use our time are limitless.. We have the internet, after all, which can occupy even the most industrious of us for hours.
So, my view is that in our leadership and in life, purpose packs a real punch.
It creates energy, pause, focus, discernment and it allows us to happily answer the question ‘What am I for?’