In 95% of my coaching sessions, my clients tell me they want to work for a purpose-driven company.
As humans, we need to feel useful to a purpose larger than ourselves. And our generation is increasingly putting purpose above profit.
But, in our pursuit of purpose, we make some mistakes, which I would like to explore with you today.
We over-index on purpose and forget pleasure.
I often coach overworked leaders who, between their job and family obligations, have neglected themselves. On the surface, it sounds like a noble thing to do; the philosophers said so:
“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be “happy.” I think the purpose of life is to be useful.” – Leo C. Rosten
“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” – George Bernard Saw
And while I agree with the quotes above about being useful to an important cause, there is a problem.
Unless you take care of yourself first, there will be unconscious selfishness in everything you do for others. You will be subconsciously working to feel OK and good enough, and that will sabotage the very things you try to do.
Dalai Lama said that the meaning of life is to be happy and useful, not just useful. LSE researcher Paul Nolan argues that we need both purpose and pleasure in his book “Happiness by Design.”
So there is a paradox here. You need to be selfish to be selfless. You need to be taken care of to take care of others or the planet. And this is not about complaining about why the world is not designed to make you happy. This is about you caring for yourself.
I love a mantra that the team of the coach of Michael Neil has: “Overflow, not effort.” You want to give to the world from the overflow of you. When you are full of love and insight, and inspiration, it overflows to the world.
How would it look like if you served your clients, your company, your community, and your family from a position of overflow?
We ignore the purpose that is under our nose.
I heard a phrase by wealth coach Patrice Washington that deeply resonated with me:
“You do not find your purpose; you accept it.”
We all have gifts that are useful to others. But many times, we do not accept these gifts as our purpose because we are searching for something sexier.
Are you a talker? Maybe your gift is to teach and share your learnings with people. Are you a writer, a coach, an empath, or a strategist? How about accepting those gifts and then use them to make the world a better place?
Sometimes we fight our gifts because they get us in trouble. I used to get told off for being too honest in performance reviews. Now, my honesty is what my coaching clients are paying for.
Sometimes, you will need to change environments or jobs to be able to use your gifts for a worthy cause. But many times, you can infuse with purpose your current job.
The cashier at the supermarket could be someone who makes everyone’s day a bit brighter. One of the NASA janitors in the sixties famously said he was helping put a man on the moon.
What is the obvious purpose that you ignore because you are looking for something sexier?
We forget that we can have multiple sources of purpose
We often expect our work to fulfill all our sense of purpose, just like we hope our partner meets all our emotional needs. It is not possible. We need several sources of meaning from a portfolio career or things we do outside our work, just like we need a group of friends and relatives to be fulfilled and not only one partner.
How can you infuse all your life with more purpose? Charity donations? Volunteering? Mentoring? Being there for your family?
Do any of those mistakes resonate with you? Just hit reply and let me know.