It's Exhausting Without Direction
James (name changed for privacy) is an entrepreneur in his mid-thirties who approached me with the following issue: “I have been lacking clarity and guidance for a long time, and it’s time to clean up my mental mess and get some tools and guidance and an action plan. I often don’t get the reward for all the things I do, or I pay for it with stress and poor health.”
James felt powerless without clarity, and things were just happening to and not through him.
People often struggle when they have not found their purpose in life. This is what I understood was happening with him.
What Is Purpose In Life?
In psychology, purpose in life (PIL) is a robust intention to accomplish something that is personally meaningful and at the same time to contribute productively to the greater good. In other words, not only search for your meaning in life, but also make a difference in the world beyond yourself.
This definition of PIL implies that you have a personal value system to define what is meaningful for you and the motivation to accomplish something in the future.
Benefits Of Life Purpose
“What’s the benefit of knowing your life purpose?” you wonder. Turns out knowing your meaning in life is good for your physical and mental well-being.
Studies in psychology and neuroscience have found that having a life purpose can have powerful health outcomes: lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, a calming effect on immune system activity and enhanced recovery from negative events.
All important health factors — whether you’re running a Fortune 500 company, an entrepreneur or a high-level professional.
Another important aspect of PIL is that a sense of purpose in one’s career is correlated with both greater satisfaction at work as well as better work-related outputs.
Imagine you’re a hospital cleaner. Day in and day out you perform the same basic tasks. Let’s assume you just see yourself as a janitor in the hospital. How would you feel then? Would it affect your mood? How would you score your job satisfaction?
Most of us would feel depressed, with low job satisfaction.
Let’s assume that you see yourself as part of the overall healing process and you see your role as a healing function. How would you feel then? Would it affect your mood? How would you score your job satisfaction?
This is exactly a situation psychologists investigated. They learned that cleaners who saw their role as part of healing function were more satisfied and spent more time with patients, worked more closely with doctors and nurses and found more meaning in their jobs compared to the cleaners who just considered themselves as janitors.
What is so remarkable in these findings is that seeing yourself as part of the greater good determines your well-being and performance. If cleaners in a hospital find a purpose in their work, we can begin to appreciate the positions we are holding within our organizations.
Explore Your Purpose In Life
I normally start the process with the question: “Who are you?” and repeat the question until clients strip away surface definitions of profession, family or gender to go deeper and deeper to their inner essence — the core of their existence.
This is a good starting point for defining your PIL.
Practice 1: Know what matters.
Values are statements about what we want to strive or aim for on a continuous basis. There are guiding principles like beliefs and goals that are important and emotionally positive for us. Values are highly individualized.
Values are like a compass that gives us direction toward our PIL and keeps us on track while we’re traveling. Using your values in this way will guide you in choosing actions and making decisions that are aligned with your core values and rejecting actions that are not aligned with them.
One exercise to define your values is “Imagine your 80th birthday.” Two or more people make speeches about who you are and what you stand for, what you mean to them and what role you have played in their life. In your ideal world, where you have lived according to your values and beliefs, what qualities are they mentioning about you?
Write down the qualities that are said. Write down at least 20 to 25 words. Now cross out the words you don’t resonate with as much. Narrow down the list to five or fewer words. Now find a tagline that combines all the remaining words.
Some examples: wise counsel (mine); focus - develop - raise up (James')
Practice 2: Recall what you loved to do.
Recall what you loved to do as a child between the ages of 7 and 14. This is the time your talents emerged and were often shuttered by demands from school and parents. You can also ask your siblings, parents and friends what you loved to do and what made you thrilled.
This exercise will reconnect you with your true desires and what you wanted to do in your life.
Practice 3: Know your strengths.
I ask all my clients to do the CliftonStrengths assessment. It is a great tool to understand ways you most naturally think, feel and behave.
From here you can align your values and actions in complete harmony.
James revealed the guiding system "focus - develop - raise up." As a child, he always loved to build things. When asked to connect this passion to his business he realized that he is not the one who will maintain a business but will start one. His core strengths were completely aligned with his direction: futuristic, developer, focus.
With this awareness, he was able to restructure his business in a way that acknowledged his strengths and to create a business that brings joy and beauty to the world.
Source: The article was first published on Forbes on 13. Dec 2021
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