Many businesses have a purpose statement of some kind but for many it is little more than words on a website. The principle is very simple – in order to score you need to be clear what you’re aiming at! If you and the people you work with don’t have clarity about your purpose then the chances of achieving are greatly reduced. To use a sports analogy, you’re a bunch of people having a kick around in the park; you’re not a team. And you’re certainly not on track to win the league. This applies on an individual level as well as where teams are concerned.
Finding your purpose is not always easy but here are three pointers I’ve found helpful.
1.You discover your purpose through struggle. You may know the story of a man who was bedridden for a number of weeks. On the windowsill by his bed he noticed a chrysalis had formed. He watched it closely unti,l one day, the butterfly inside began to emerge. He watched for hours as it struggled its way out, seemingly making no progress. Eventually the man could stand it no longer. He took some scissors and clipped, very slightly, the end of the chrysalis so as to help the butterfly crawl out. But that’s all it ever did: it only ever crawled. For it turns out that the process of struggling is what causes the fibres and sinews in the wings to strengthen that in turn enable the butterfly to actually fly: to be what it’s supposed to be.
Struggle isn’t something to be avoided; it’s absolutely essential. The struggle to fly is exactly where you you find your wings. Every challenge is feedback. The flightpath to success is never a straight line; we bounce our way to success: up, fail, learn; up, fail better, learn; up again… A purpose statement isn’t a one time thing. It needs re-visiting each year. Look at the periods of struggle in your journey: does a theme emerge that helps you identify what you are passionate about?
2.Your purpose must be other people centred. This is essential. If you were to look back at the proudest moments in your career or life I wonder how many of them would have to do with how you impacted someone else’s life? My guess: most of them. As humans we are hard-wired for relationship. The quality of our happiness in life is directly proportionate to the quality of our relationships. Scientists tell us that the brain releases seratonin and oxytocin (pleasure chemicals) when we do something for someone else: a ‘helper’s high’. We gain fulfilment from making a positive contribution to the lives of others: whether by developing a great product, delivering a great service or in the way we interact with others. Identifying your purpose in terms of your impact on others has huge potential for galvanising and motivating your team.
3.Finally, I think the most significant things happen in our lives and businesses when we go off-piste and outside our comfort zone. Fear and risk aversion are the enemies of reaching your true potential. You’ll never know whether you CAN unless you jump. In other words: fulfilling your purpose lies ahead (not behind you).