Why Do I Need a Purpose?

Many ideas about leadership and personal fulfillment preach the same thing: be the captain of your own ship.  Live your own life.  Be yourself.  Those are easy soundbites to have, hard to put them into practice.  You have to know who you are and how you operate to do those things.  Defining your values is a piece of the puzzle, so is understanding your instincts (good and bad) and what triggers them.  Another big piece is knowing your purpose.  The following article is all about that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.  What did you connect with?  What does it make you want to learn more about?  What isn’t making sense or is causing you to push back?  Is this useful or not useful?  Please ask for time to talk or send me your thoughts via email if you have something to say.

Thank you for your time!  -Becky

Why Do I Need A Purpose?

by Becky Lemon, 1/9/19

I just Googled “why do I need a purpose.”  Thousands of results popped up, about half of them argued that we have to stop asking that question.  Having purpose in life clearly means a lot of things to a lot of people; for some it’s about God and doing what he put you on this earth to do.  For others it’s about finding a life calling, those narratives sound like this; some people know “what they’re going to be” from a young age or it’s bestowed upon them by chance in a magical moment of clarity, others agonize over when or if they’ll ever figure it out (“what the hell am I supposed to be, what great thing am I supposed to do that will define my life?”).

 

At Vestalia we favor another way to think about purpose where it is not a goal or aspiration or title.  It is not something you happen on or discover, it is something that has always been uniquely yours and merely needs to be uncovered.  You surface it through self-awareness and feedback from others about your authentic talents, skills, and interests. Your purpose serves as an anchor and a compass that, once defined, is something that you can live into everyday and use as a guide to connect with people, situations, jobs, and any other circumstances that bring meaning to your life.  You shape your world by living through your purpose, it doesn’t plunk you down into a predetermined role.

Do you absolutely need a purpose?

Well, no.

Human beings crave comfort and familiarity, we often prefer it over the fear and anxiety of the unknown.  If we move through life untethered to our purpose – to the knowledge of what truly keeps us engaged, excited, and feeling alive – we’ll stay in our safest routes.  We stay in jobs that pay the bills but fill us with boredom or dread. We stay in relationships that offer stability but lack love, respect, or even safety. We’re more likely to feel angry and helpless in our lives, to recognize that life just happened while we weren’t paying attention, as if our choices were made by someone else.  Over time that drains our self-confidence, our courage to go after things we know would bring us true joy and meaning and we start shooting for “fine.”

A life lived without a purpose can still have richness, still produce fantastic memories and meaningful work.  After all, your purpose is rolling around in you somewhere, guiding you to spend energy and attention on things that spark your interest.  If you don’t define it, you’ll experience great moments throughout your years, yet will be less able to weave them together into a whole that you can claim is yours.

What happens when you have one?

Well, a lot.  When you live life with your purpose in mind you are more likely to:

  • have an increased sense of self-worth, resilience, and integrity
  • focus on the journey and not the outcome
  • act with intention and thus feel more powerful and confident
  • invite and engage in opportunities that unlock your creativity
  • contribute to the greater good; to positively impact a person, a team, a family, an organization, a movement, sky’s the limit here

It is useful in life and leadership, especially when you pair it with personal values.  As a leader, you often have to take into account the beliefs, needs, and perspectives of many different people as you make decisions.  People count on you to have integrity in your responses to varying types of situations. Running anything that comes at you through your purpose and values (and the organization’s purpose and values) allows you to hold all of those conflicting variables and respond consistently.

There is also a good chance that, as a leader, you are asked to do everything all of the time.  Hop into this meeting. Join this project. Do this task. Take this over. You simply cannot say yes to everything.  Outside of what you have to do, how do you decide what responsibilities to say yes or no to? Your purpose can help you figure that out.  Keep it if it’s aligned, decline or delegate it if it’s not.

Beware the Anti-Purpose Noise

How do you go about defining your purpose?

There are many ways to uncover your purpose and summarize it into a concise, useful statement.  We have a process that can be done in coaching, if you haven’t embarked on that exercise and want to learn more about it, please ask and we’ll talk about it.  The purpose statement you create can be yours forever, or you can choose to revisit it over time or as conditions change. This article has some examples of a personal purpose statement and an exercise you can do on your own to get a sense of what they can sound like and how to create one.  However you go about it, I highly recommend that you find a partner or guide when creating your statement, being in that process with someone else can produce deeper reflection and better results.

I defined my purpose statement about three years ago:

“To hold a safe space for people to feel seen and understood where they can realize and connect with their own personal power.”  

Did it change my life?  Yeah. Still does. What could knowing your purpose do for yours?

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