Last week, I spoke at Leadercast— —the world’s largest one-day leadership event– where the theme of the day was “Powered by Purpose.” Those three words were affirming and challenging at the same time. We talk about purpose a lot, but what does it really mean, and how can we find it through our work?
“Purpose is a path to meaning,” shared Andy Stanley. And meaning is what we all seek. We want to know that what we do matters. When we are guided by purpose, our lives and our work become more fulfilling. What we do becomes more fulfilling when we know why we do it.
What really matters, reiterated author Daniel Pink, is feeling as if you’re doing something each day that truly matters.
Purpose is about others.
When I spent time getting clear on my own purpose with renowned psychologist Jim Loehr at the Human Performance Institute, he shared with me that 99% of people’s mission statements have to do with others. Andy Stanley echoed that with this simple statement: “There’s got to be more to this life than just ‘me.’”
Our interactions with others in many ways determine how we assess our lives. When each of us devotes ourselves to more than ourselves, we ultimately have more than ourselves to show for ourselves. As Andy put it, we launch our purpose when we stop asking, “What am I here for?” and begin asking “Who am I here for?”
By serving others, you are filling your cup. Without human connection, our purpose exists in a vacuum. I recently had a conversation with Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo that will be appearing on my podcast soon. In it, he reflected on his purpose. “I got a chance to live my dream,” Tom said. “My mission now in life is to help others live their dreams.” Tom’s strong sense of purpose energizes him through the exhausting grind of NCAA Division I college coaching. Winning games and building on his Hall of Fame legacy isn’t what keeps Tom going. It’s helping those 18-year old kids live out their dreams.
Purpose is an anchor.
Superstar film maker Tyler Perry also took the stage at Leadercast and shared how purpose guides our decision-making. “As a leader, if you have no purpose, you’re an expensive yacht without a rudder,” he said. Purpose anchors us on a path to fulfillment. I believe what we all really want for our lives is fulfillment not just achievement. Can we have both? Yes, but achievement without fulfillment equals emptiness.
Jess Ekstrom’s leadership story is a great example. She founded her company, Headbands of Hope, in college, and ramped up with national publicity, sales goals and social media targets.
“For a while I was chasing a lot of achievements,” she said. “But a mom sent in a letter that her daughter was finishing chemotherapy and didn’t want to go to kindergarten because her hair hadn’t grown back and she thought everyone would think she was a boy. She got her headband in the hospital, and came home and laid out her whole outfit because she was so excited to go, and that confidence came back to her. That’s when I realized, that’s my success. Everything we’ve done lines up to that moment of purpose, and answers why we started.”
Your Game Changer Takeaway
What I’ve found is that everyone’s individual purpose is as unique as our fingerprint, but they all have two things in common. 1) Purpose is about others and 2) Purpose is your anchor. True purpose is integrated with the impact we make beyond ourselves.
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her new book, Fearless At Work, is now available for order. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.