Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to Confirm Your Purpose

The 4TsHow to Confirm Your Purpose

Ever have one of those days when you're stuck and wondering what you're doing with your life? Those days are clues that you are not fulfilling your purpose. Maybe you think you don't have a purpose. That's a glum outlook, but even if it's true you still have a job to do.

I'm reminded of one of the anti-success posters that depict the ruins of a shipwreck piercing through the waters surface with the caption, "Your purpose may be to only serve as a warning to others." You're probably not that person because if you were, you wouldn't have read this many words in one sitting.

So, let's start with the assumption that you have a burning in your stomach. This exercise will help you better identify that yearning or confirm the one you're pursuing is worthy of your attention.


Think about how you most often win others over to your way of thinking. How do you successfully get your way most often? It might be through humor, or telling a story. Maybe you communicate with pictures or through writing. Perhaps it's via deceit and debauchery or brute force. In this exercise I'm not going to judge your answers. I do have an opinion on pursuing a worthy purpose versus something less savory, but people have different standards of "worthy". This is a matter of influence. How is your influence most felt in your world?


Where do you find your rewards? For many, this means money and that's fine. If profit is the applause you get for doing good work, where do you get your standing ovations? Rewards needn't be money. Yours might be measured in smiles or hugs or some other way that makes you feel happiest.  For many people, that's a check. It feels good when people pay you. For others it's intangible.  Identify what it is for you.


What group of people do you most enjoy learning from? In school you probably had a favorite teacher. Think back as to why? If you're no longer in school, you're still learning things from people. It could be your parents or your children, your colleagues or members of your spiritual circle. You might learn something from a favored author, or the neighborhood grocer. These life instructors are all around you. Take stock of who they are and see what they have in common.


This is the amulet you wear around your neck, figuratively, but maybe not. Think about what symbolizes you most. It's a tangible object you can look at, and preferably hold that epitomizes you. Some people can answer this very quickly. Truth is, the first few things that entered your mind were probably accurate. Some people feel compelled to combine a bunch of images into a collage, like a family crest. Some can get too complex or confounded by this, but you're the one who has to look at it with meaning. It's your symbol.

Look at your tool, treasure, teacher and talisman of choice and you'll have a good indication of your purpose. I'll run through mine as an example.

I influence people most via my writing, that's my tool. I do a decent job with public speaking, but those words first come from my writing. If I need to have a difficult conversation with someone I often script it out first to practice.

With consulting there's a wide continuum from analysis and advice to instruction, collaboration and implementation. My treasure, both figuratively and literally has always come from a variation of my consulting. My rewards come from helping people find the a-ha within and accomplish great things.

My teachers come from nearly everywhere, young and old, left and right, foreign and domestic. What they all have in common is that they are leaders or artists. That's who I learn from most readily, easily and frequently, Leaders and artists. Because those are my teachers, they are who I serve.

My talisman, the symbol that epitomizes me was a toss up between the scales (both of justice and of the zodiac sign Libra) which have always attracted me, and another image I couldn't shake, a pen. In truth I am never far from one. It is my sword; my ornamentation; my functionality. It couldn't be anything else but a pen.

When you combine writing, consulting, leaders and artists and a pen you get a pretty good picture of my purpose. When I do things that combine those elements, I'm acting on purpose. When I drift away from that foundation I'm not.

Now it's your turn. Share your tool, treasure, teacher and talisman items with me and tell me what your purpose is. If you need help, send me a note.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Passion No Purpose

HTSWYWTQHere's part of an old letter which illustrates a still common concern of many people.

Dear ____,

In the last two to three years, I have devoured many of your books and audio programs. They have educated and inspired me. I'm 31-years-old, a college graduate, married nine years and we're expecting our first born in August. I'm a frontline manager with ____ Corporation.

On good days I feel unstoppable, achieving many goals throughout the day and week. There are other times however, when work-wise I feel very unfulfilled even though I earn accolades, receive awards and recognition. I suppose it falls to the basic "know what you want" mantra. The problem may rest in having too many hopes that are too large.

I enjoy writing and have had a couple of agents but not sold any work. I enjoy the idea of politics and the ability to oversee and improve the lives of a great number of people, but I am not involved in any community activities. I constantly strive to be in a leadership position but, I'm unfulfilled in the journey. Do you have any advice and how to adjust my goals to fulfill them?

Sound familiar? It may if you find even in the moments of greatness in what you do, you still have a nagging sense of unfulfillment.

Certain skills, knowledge and a commitment to do a good job can carry you so far. The author of this letter had vision and limited action, but no passion and therefore was not working on purpose. I know this definitively because this is a draft of a letter I was going to send to one of my mentors eleven years ago. I never did. No passion, remember? It's fun when your future self can give advice to your past self. I wish they had met a little sooner.

The level of dissatisfaction I felt just over a decade ago did kick me into action. In the time since then I earned my masters degree in executive leadership where I developed tools that helped equip me to do battle with the poor leaders I encountered. I gained the confidence to pursue new business skills. The experience led me to write, "How to Stay When You Want to Quit" a small but powerful book that has reclaimed people's careers and improved business relationships. Now I'm running my own business and hopefully in some way helping people improve their lives.

Do I have too many lofty goals? Probably, but that doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I know the difference between goals and wishes and I don't spend as much time wishing things to happen. I find it that making things happen is much more fulfilling and so should you.

If you're not feeling like you're achieving the things you wanted to three, five or ten years ago, start examining why and decide if you still want those goals. If so, are you ready to get serious about achieving them? If not, it's time to eject them and make room for some new ones. Yes, it's okay to do that. It's better to change your mind and be successful than it is to stay on a course that's taking you down the wrong direction.

Start acting on purpose, not by habit.