Finding purpose - a beginning


In my last post I explored the considerable benefits of developing a sense of purpose in life and work. But knowing about these benefits only takes you so far. The important question remains: how to go about finding purpose?

First the bad news. Finding purpose is not easy, or straightforward. It will take time, and will require you to develop competencies (for example, of self-reflection and assessment) that may be unfamiliar to you. 

Now the good news. It is possible for everyone to connect with a sense of purpose, no matter your background, status, or even stage of life. Also, this may not take as long as you think.

It turns out that finding purpose is not some form of mystical event, that happens only to the lucky few. There are, perhaps, some people who just know their purpose, and always have done. But for most people, purpose emerges when they make space in their life to engage in a systematic process of inquiry and reflection. My aim in this post is to share some tips and tools to help you begin this process.

the purpose triangle

The Purpose Triangle provides a simple roadmap for beginning the process of inquiring into purpose. As the diagram shows, purpose is found at the intersect of your personal talents/strengths, your passions, and the needs in the world that speak most strongly to you.

By taking time to reflect on each of these areas, and in particular on the areas of overlap between the three, a sense of your unique purpose will start to emerge. 

Remember, as I explained in a previous post, purpose is not about the things you do, or would like to do. Rather, purpose is an orientation you bring to the world. It's how you do your job, and why. As Nick Craig and Scott Snook describe it, it's the magic that makes you tick. So in reflecting on your talents and passions, and on the needs in the world that speak most strongly to you, try to avoid thinking about what you should be doing. It helps to keep the inquiry broad and open at this stage of the process.

It also helps to keep a journal of your reflections, to keep you on-track and focused. And as thoughts and insights emerge, stay curious and try to go deeper. Ask yourself further questions about your insights: Why do I enjoy doing that? What is it about that issue in my community that really upsets me? What was the real strength that I displayed in that situation? Don't think too much about what you write down - and never delete anything! You never know, what seems like a preposterous thought today, might be the key to unlocking something tomorrow.

Lastly, it helps to be able to work with a coach, or with a trusted friend, to explore your findings as they emerge. Of course, if we can help in any way, don't hesitate to reach out to us.