Personal Purpose

Fairy tale landscape and stepping stone path over a hill on the horizon at the Caoling Historic Trail in Taiwan

Personal Purpose

Your purpose will change how you see performance – and your life

Purpose is one of the most powerful and focused sources of energy driving performance and amplifying our impact. When this energy meets opportunity – something that the world needs – extraordinary results are created.

Purpose is already becoming a business imperative; it inspires the greatest organizations in the world, and it affects both investment flows and talent attraction.

However, the most important Purpose is – your own, personal purpose.

When I started my business career, fresh out of school with an MBA in my pocket, I knew that I wanted my work to have a positive impact.

So, I embarked on a professional journey in an international company, figuring out how to deliver what to whom – how to perform. This approach worked well for building a classic, vertical (and fun!) business career. I was clear about my professional contribution, quite confident, and successful by those standards.

I really loved the company and my job. But after more than 10 years in various leadership positions across the business, I started feeling – a kind of longing. I was not aware of it at the time, but deep in my soul, I knew I am not only here to produce incremental market share or EBIT% to satisfy budgets. There had to be more to it…

One day, I sat down and reflected on WHY I do what I do. I managed to formulate a purpose for myself – and in that moment, I made a decision that changed my life.

Recent research indicates that purpose-driven people live longer and are healthier and happier.

– mortality rates are less than half (Purpose helps reduce the experience of stress, and related inflammation); the cognitive functions of the brain work better, and for longer; it even seems that purpose helps reduce the risk of e.g., Alzheimers and dementia.

(Harvard Medical School, 11/2019; 08/2012)

Imagine living a life where every day is infused with meaning. Imagine you’re applying your best self, and that what keeps you busy is aligned with your most important values.

On top of that, you get the health benefits and live a long, happy life.

Indeed, in Okinawa, Japan, you find some of the longest living and most satisfied people on Earth. Reportedly, it is their awareness of Ikigai – “reason for living” – that does the trick.

Ikigai is the fusion of four things:

(source: ”Ikigai, the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.”, Garcia & Miralles 2016)

  • What you love
  • What you’re good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for
“OK, I buy it. How do I do it?”

In fact, there are simple ways to help us clarify our own personal purpose. I have helped more than 500 leaders write a short, resonant purpose statement for themselves. They all nail it – some faster than others – and are then able to integrate it with awareness into their daily lives.

Here’s one Personal Purpose exercise for you to try, inspired by “Ikigai”.

Imagine the perfect day at work…

What are you doing? Specifically?

What are you especially good at?

What do you love to do – what gives you positive energy and joy?

What do you want to be doing, to make it a perfect day?

What is truly important for you, as a leader – and as a human being? What are your most important values?

What is your sense/understanding of what the world needs? Your communities? People around you?

Now, use the keywords from your answers to formulate a purpose statement:

  1. Your purpose is long term – you will not finish building a cathedral in one lifetime ☺
  2. Write in the present tense
  3. Who do you help / what do you contribute to?
  4. What are you doing – how do you apply what you are good at?
As an example, here is my personal purpose statement for the work I do today:
“My purpose is to help leaders, teams, and organizations take performance to the next level 
by facilitating and catalyzing deep, systemic change”.

Good luck! Live long, happy, and healthy.

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