Leader Alert: Do You Know Your Purpose (and what you can do about it)


Whether you are a leader with teams to support you or a leader looking for a career change, knowing your purpose or “big why” is a power tool you want to have.


Know your Purpose

It is a hallmark of the resilient leader.    In order to prioritize, maintain focus, set context for effective communication with others, and maintain high energy in the face of obstacles, nothing beats knowing your purpose.

Knowing your  purpose is also fundamental for leaders and influencers who are seeking a more inspired career-track in mid-life.  This can be one of the most daunting experiences for people; they know they want to move and aren’t really sure how to launch into a different future.    For these situations, knowing your “big why” helps set a powerful foundation for making change confidently.

What stops us from moving forward is usually fear.  Making a mindset shift helps free up space to move forward, in small steps at first.  Savor the success and the serenity that comes from making a choice to do something based on your “why.”

Consider the famous story in which two bricklayers are working alongside one another at a building site. A man walks by and asks one of them what they’re doing.

The first bricklayer replies, “I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do is slap this crummy mortar on these crummy bricks and pile them up in a crummy line.”

The other bricklayer smiles, proudly proclaiming, “I’m helping to build the new cathedral.”

We’ve all met people who focus on the “what” they’re doing instead of the “why” they’re doing it. It’s difficult to feel passionate about something when we’re missing the meaning behind what we’re doing and why we’re here.

How a person defines purpose has as much to do with his or her mindset as it does with personal, philosophical, cultural, religious and scientific beliefs.


So why are you here? What’s your purpose?


How a person defines purpose has as much to do with his or her mindset as it does with personal, philosophical, cultural, religious and scientific beliefs.


The Purpose of Knowing Your Purpose

Defining purpose in work, life and business is not about the daily tasks, it’s about the reason for the tasks in the first place – the why, not the what. Discovering purpose allows a person to create the vision behind the tasks, and knowing that vision can dramatically change results.

For example, a chef’s purpose is not to cook food – that’s a task. The reason for this task is to help people enjoy life by having a good time with loved ones around a meal they didn’t have to prepare (or clean up) themselves.

People who are fulfilled at work know how the work they do supports the company’s vision, values and goals whether it’s their own company or someone else’s.


Knowing your purpose helps:

  • Give meaning to everything you do
  • Guide you through tough times and difficult decisions
  • Encourage you to follow your instinct instead of following the crowd
  • Motivate you on your journey even (or especially) when you encounter failure or rejection
  • Empowers you for effective communication


How to Fulfill Your Purpose AND Make a Living

We’ve been talking about finding purpose in the work that you’re already doing. If you want to envision a career based on your life purpose, try the following approach:

1. Determine your strengths.

Life purpose is directly related to personal strengths. E.g., if communication is your strength then your purpose may be found in that area.

2. Determine your passions.

Passions are the things you love to do – with or without external rewards (like money or recognition).

3. Determine your causes.

Identify the causes that matter to you. Is there a condition in the world that makes you feel discontent or compels you to action?

4. Find the sweet spot.

After determining your strengths, passions and causes find the overlap between them. That’s the sweet spot, where you’re likely to find the most fulfillment in your work life.

5. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Based on the information above, write a personal mission statement – it can help guide your passions throughout your career.

It’s not (necessarily) about the money.

Instead of focusing on a money goal, try setting goals that “add value” – a goal that improves the quality of people’s lives or of the earth.  Whether you’re a bricklayer or a CEO, or trying to become one, knowing your “big why” will help you get there.

To learn more about how you can develop this and other important leadership skills you might not yet know, I hope you’ll check out my new book, “Inner Switch:  7 Timeless Principles to Transform Modern Leadership.”  You can purchase it from your favorite online retailer at www.susansfreeman.com.

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