A Sense of Purpose

Coach’s Corner:  Sense of Purpose

~ A Conversation with ECN Executive Coach Linda ~

It’s interesting when you think about the times that we’re living in right now. A lot of people are basically being forced to reevaluate where they are in life and career. And not just identifying, but really crystallizing the language around their sense of purpose, which helps them identify and narrow options. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Purpose  Passion Alone

Often people use those words interchangeably, ‘purpose and passion’. There’s a slight nuance there that’s really important, especially in the times that we’re living in these days.

Passions are things that give you high enjoyment and high energy. Very often when you’re fulfilling your sense of purpose you do feel a sense of passion, but you can have passion-absent purpose. To give you a quick example, I might be passionate about cooking. I love doing it, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it, but it’s not really fulfilling anything other than my own personal enjoyment.

Purpose is when there is fulfillment involved.  Carol Dweck at Stanford likes to ask the question, “What contribution do you want to make?” Someone who knows their purpose will say, “I’m doing this because I feel driven to make this contribution. I’m called to do this kind of contribution in life.” Contribution inspires you and it motivates you. When you have a sense of purpose, you feel pulled forward by it.

With passion, you can do something in the moment and you’re done.  You enjoyed it, but that’s it. With purpose, you wake up in the morning and feel compelled take that step forward on that path (even if you didn’t sleep well that night).

Purpose is a Compass

Having an understanding of your sense of purpose tells you what you should be doing and what’s more sustainable. Knowing your purpose helps you make career decisions.  Say you’re considering two positions that look good on paper. They’re both financially rewarding and have the right location, etc., but one of them makes a contribution that you just feel drawn to. That’s the one you’ll pick because it aligns with your sense of purpose.

Identifying and Codifying a Sense of Purpose

I find a shockingly large number of people that I coach actually have only some vague idea about it, but they’ve never really sat down and thought about it.

  • Why am I doing what I’m doing? 
  • What is it that I’m getting out of it?
  • What is my contribution? 
  • What sense of fulfillment am I getting and am I offering my environment?

If you know this about yourself, there are a few things that it does for you.

  1. It makes my decision making easier,
  2. It’s a source of motivation for me, and
  3. It’s a source of inspiration for people around you.

If you’ve ever met somebody who is says, “Oh, I’ve always known that I wanted to be a paramedic.” You’d probably say, “Wow, that is so cool. You realized your dream and you’re doing it. And, look at the impact you’re having!” And, it’s just very inspiring to be in the company of someone who’s been that thoughtful about their life and their career.

A lot of people just go through life and try to make the best decisions they can. It helps if you really sit down and say, “Okay, this is what matters.” Sometimes purpose is connected to things more personal to you. Someone might say, “I want to be the best father I can be. And in order to do that, I’m going to seek out this kind of lifestyle that enables me to meet the criteria of what being the best father is in my family’s definition of that.”  It’s just that little bit of thoughtfulness that keeps you from jumping from one job to another, to jobs you can do and be successful at, but where you might not be happy.

Not everybody knew from an early age what they wanted to be when they grew up.  How do you find your purpose?

Stay tuned for the answer in an upcoming blog post!

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