Once in a while, in a one to one conversation, I’m asked, or I ask a person what their personal purpose is? This is often because our conversation is around the job or role they’re doing, that they may not be enjoying. Sometimes, the person will react with horror, as their personal purpose isn’t connected in any way to the work that they do. For others’ who have an inkling of what theirs might be, or if they equate it to their organisation’s purpose, the conversation will then lead to some fascinating depths and insights that can be extremely valuable.

However, very often, the person will say they really don’t have a personal purpose and can’t even think of how to identify it. Many discount themselves from even considering the matter, but I assure you, it’s extremely helpful and powerful to know what your purpose is. Waking up each morning with the knowledge of why you are going to do what you do each day, is grounding and surety building. Knowing your purpose and calling it over to yourself is so helpful because it counteracts many of the pressures that lead to stress or anxiety, 

So, should you ever be confronted with such a question, and feel uncomfortable, because you think you should have one, I offer some steps below to begin to discover what could be a really powerful motivator in your life.

Begin by trying to discover if there’s a thread that runs through your life that connects you to your life’s energy. What activities give you energy and make you come alive? Is it people, business, horses, animals, computers? Or is it innovation, engineering, architecture, or service delivery? What do you do that puts you into flow, or as some athletes describe it – gets you into ‘the zone’? What values guide your daily decisions? You may wish to take the Talent Dynamics profile which is a helpful tool I use, that quickly identifies some of your innate talents and accompanying values. (If you’d like to do this, let me know and we can make it available to you).

Try to see patterns in your answers.
If you don’t get far using these questions, don’t let this intimidate you. You’re not trying to uncover the meaning of life – just what motivates you at this time in your life – because over time, this changes. I heard a radio interview with Dr. Benjamin Spock, the author of the international best-selling book on raising children. The interviewer couldn’t understand why the famous paediatrician and author was now involved in anti-nuclear demonstrations. Dr. Spock explained, “I became a paediatrician because I loved children. I became an author because I wanted to teach parents how to raise more healthy children. And now I fight against nuclear weapons because I hate the thought of what war does to children.” Although his life took many turns, the theme was always the same: children. If Dr. Spock wrote a purpose statement it would probably read something like this:

“I was born to heal people, especially children. My purpose is to use my talents and skills to help children all over the world.”

Ask yourself some questions:
Do you enjoy business? What aspects of it do you enjoy? Do you enjoy taking risks? Do you like to negotiate? Are you an entrepreneur? Are you good at creative problem solving? Do you like being with people? Does the thought of being an investor give you a surge of excitement? Is work important to you? Is it in your blood? Or, can’t you wait to go home to do what you love? Will what you do, to help you express who you really are? Are you an artist, an author, or are you a competitive horse rider? Is this your purpose? If your business made you wealthy, would you retire or wish to keep working? What would you do, if you were financially independent and could do exactly what you wanted?

You always find time for the things you really want to do, no matter how busy you are. When you are on purpose, nothing stops you. When you aren’t, any distraction, problem, obstacle, disappointment, negative thought or feeling can divert you.

A Purpose Statement
By reflecting on these questions and using your answers you will be able to construct a Purpose Statement, a short description of the priorities which guide your life and its meaning. You can revise this purpose statement periodically as your life unfolds. It helps to anchor your actions and helps motivate you in the difficult times we all experience now and again. I like to review my purpose every year – at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, I ask myself what am I doing now and how is that fulfilling my purpose? Does my personal purpose statement need to change?

My current purpose statement goes as follows:
“My purpose is to educate, inspire and unleash the innate genius of myself and others.”

What is yours? 


Penny Sophocleous

10 February 2010