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No Purpose Shaming

People like me who have been talking about individual and organizational purpose for two decades now are probably putting unnecessary pressure on some.  I want to be there for them too.

The reason we talk about Purpose has a different intent for sure. As I went into depths of Purpose learning from philosophers, pioneers, psychologists, neuroscientists, authors, thought leaders I realized there are many layers to it and there is no one good answer for everyone.

I got passionate about it because it came to me in my early 20s when I asked myself what my purpose is in life and at work. That question never left me, so I went deep. When I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life, it gave me extra energy, flow, joy, and fulfillment.

As soon as I experience something that enhances my life, I have this automatic urge to share it with everyone who is willing to listen. If you have known me for a while, you already know I will write, speak, do videos, post on social media, reach out any way I know how so that it can be consumed by those who need to hear it.

Having said all that, it is OK not to know what your Purpose is. There is no reason to think less of yourself or feel any shame. If you do, please show some self-compassion. I say it because some of my clients feel this way. Some cannot even approach a Purpose person like me because they have no clue what it may be. Obviously, I don’t want this as an outcome. Purpose is a very old concept, what is new is we have daily conversations around it now. I know part of it is because many science fields and many research companies have data to support how important it is for human beings.

No matter what your age is or where you are now, please say to yourself that there is nothing wrong or missing in you if you have no clear idea what it is.

My work with individuals and organizations regarding Purpose makes me believe :

  • Purpose is using your gifts in a way that matters to you that involves something beyond you that has a positive impact

Examples: Your purpose is to save dogs that have been abandoned.  You want to save animals going extinct. You want to grow your plants to eat healthy. You want to be part of the sustainability movement to save our planet. You want to foster a kid to give him a better life.  You want to know about more history to understand today. You want to preserve historical buildings to protect our history. And so on.

  • Purpose can find you, instead of you finding it

Examples: I have seen horrible things happen to people to bring their Purpose up front or change it. I have seen parents take on a purpose to change the laws because their precious child died in a shooting. People who have an illness took on a role to help other people who get sick with the same disease. You witnessed 9/11 and decided to become a fireman to save lives. You volunteered at your child’s school and your purpose sparked from children around you; decided to become a teacher.

  • Purpose can also be found by doing some inner journey to understand who you are and who you want to be

You want to find meaning in your life. You want to leave a legacy. You are not sure what your talents and strengths are so you take this inner journey and find what makes your heart leap. You find the intersection of your gifts, your passion, your values, what matters to you and take that on as your purpose.

  • Purpose can change and evolve

Examples: Your purpose at a young age was to become a good leader. Now you want to mentor others to pass on your experience and create new leaders.  Your purpose was to be part of an innovation team of a tech company., At some point, your purpose changed to teaching technical skills to high school students. These can be all very unrelated too.

  • Your purpose does not need to make the headlines

Examples: You just had your first grandson and you want to help your adult children raise him. You became a coach to help people handle money better.  The point is, none of what you do has to be “impressive” to others. What you feel and how you wake up every morning to that purpose is what matters. Sometimes it is as easy as just claiming what is already in your life. Some people feel like it has to be significant to everyone and cannot even share their most precious purposeful acts thinking it has to be huge. Not at all is my answer to them.

  • Purpose can stem from what looks/feels wrong or inspiration

You started working and it did not make sense to chase weekends and hate your Mondays. You questioned the status quo and you made it your purpose to build better work environments where people enjoy work every day. (hmmm, that sounds like me  -smile)

You watched someone like a scientist, a speaker, an author, or an artist. You get excited and inspired and you know you want to do the same. That person gives you a purpose.

So wherever you are in your journey it is OK. Definitely, nothing to feel bad or shame. You are not trying to be like somebody else or doing the Purpose journey just for the sake of it. Yes, science tells us it makes us happier and healthier so it might be worth it when you are ready but do not force it. Many organizations are forcing it and it is not working there either.

When you are ready, it might not be a long journey either. Maybe just looking at your life now and claiming what is already important to you is going to do it.

Brooke O. Erol
Brooke O. Erolhttps://www.purposeful.business/
Brooke O. Erol started her career at IBM following the traditional path she was given to be "successful". She quit her "great job" on paper after 11 years, feeling she is not aligned with it. She started her journey to find her purpose in life. She started her first business in 2003; Your Best Life to help professionals who don’t like their jobs and want to find more meaning at work. After being around so many unhappy people at work as her clients, she decided to help the organizations and leaders who employed them. She started her second business; Purposeful Business to help leaders catch up with our times and grow their businesses without sacrificing the well-being of their people; where profit becomes a by-product rather than the main goal. She believes life is too precious to live only for weekends and retirement. She is the author of Create a Life You Love. She is also the co-author of "From Hierarchy to High Performance: Unleashing the Hidden Superpowers of Ordinary People to Realize Extraordinary Results" that became an International Best Seller in 2018. She speaks and writes about Leadership, Purpose-Driven Life and Organizations, Future of Work in the US, and abroad.

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