To the Mountaintop and Back
Who am I? Why am I here? Whether it’s for you personally or in an organizational context, identifying your core purpose can have a profound and lasting impact. When I guide someone through the process of discovering his/her purpose, I describe it this way: We’re going to the mountaintop and back. It’s “to the mountaintop” because it feels lofty to consider the big P-word and it does require a higher vantage point. While there is much to say about how best to explore those mountaintop questions, today it’s the “and back” part that I’d like to address because the real value is what purpose does for you once you return from that metaphorical mountaintop and are walking around in real life.
Three Things Happen
Once you acknowledge your purpose, you can expect three things to happen rather quickly:
#1) Decisions are clarified. Even before you decipher the larger questions such as your next career move or direction to take in life, you can start using your purpose to make everyday decisions. When my client, Catina, realized her purpose is: to stimulate growth, I supplied her with the following list of questions to use throughout the day – at work, parenting, or anytime:
Which decision or course of action will stimulate growth? What can I nurture today (in myself or others whom I encounter)? What supports growth here? What inspires me to grow? What would bring new life to this situation, project, or conversation?
It’s been over five years now and Catina says that her purpose continues to influence her choices – sometimes in surprising ways – and has led her to challenge herself and accomplish things, both in her personal life (running her first marathon, teaching dance to children), as well as in her career as a Business Intelligence professional.
#2) Communication is amplified. As the themes that comprise your purpose start to gel, you’ll find that they pop up in your conversations: as you share ideas at work, deliver presentations, update your resume, or summarize the why-you on a job interview or sales call. How you communicate your point of view gets a big boost. Instead of limiting yourself to job description bullet points, you start articulating the difference you care about making. And it’s not tag line snazzy or slick – it is simply and authentically you.
Communicating your purpose helps people see you. Tina, a Project Management Professional, recently accepted a new job within her company. As she explored various positions and submitted her applications, Tina incorporated language that conveyed her unique perspective. When the hiring manager who is now her new boss initially interviewed Tina, this is the feedback she gave: Your resume leapt off the page in a sea of resumes. It created a clear image of who you are and what you value. It was compelling. I didn’t just want to interview you… I wanted to meet you.
#3) Motivation is fortified. The third thing that happens once you identify your core purpose is that you now have direct access to a powerful source of motivation. The work involved feels worthy when the through-line to purpose is there. Purpose is your touchstone and the reminder of who you are and aspire to be. It clarifies, aligns, decides, communicates, and motivates. Connecting with it feels good and brings joy.
Purposeful & Practical
Whether you have a definite sense of purpose or are at the clue-collecting stage, allow what you know about your purpose to influence how you move around in the world.
Call To Action:
- What are the themes that appear to be part of your purpose? Insert them into the questions that I shared with Catina (see #1 above) and use them to guide your decisions.
- Reinforce the times when you feel connected to your purpose. Before bed, review the day in your mind and note when you acted from your purpose in ways large or small.
Seeking your purpose is a worthy endeavor. It might feel a bit abstract or lofty to consider, but it is actually extremely practical.