Purpose driven reinvention begins with 2 snapshots: a picture of where you are now and a snapshot of where you want to be. Finding and sustaining meaningful change requires a sense of direction and motivation, rooted within our ‘whys’.
We must not cease from exploration and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive to where we began to know that place for the first time. – T.S Eliot
Growing up we’re taught everything from the history of English to integration calculus, but we’re not told how to find our purpose. We’re not taught to find something we stand for and do work towards what speaks to us on a higher level. As adults we’re then asked to “go live our passions” and “change the world”. For the lucky few that do ‘work’ out and live their purpose, a lot of experimentation, failure and serendipity has taken place.
Purpose serves as a compass and is crucial in reinvention because it guides us to what and how we live out our ‘why’. Regular review ensures the relevancy of our actions are aligned to that core value or belief. Thus, injecting fresh perspective here are 10 tips of finding and achieving your why:
1.Shift Your Mindset
Finding your purpose cannot start without the correct mindset. In an earlier post, I explored four personality concepts conducive to positive reinvention. According to Stephen Covey, personality shifts of attitude and behaviour only brings forth small change in life. Long term change requires focus on character principles.
One of these principles is to start with the end in mind. That is, in order to get clearer on your purpose, envision what it is you want to do – or could do if fear, lack of resources or time was no object. Following the principle that things are created twice; first mentally and second physically, Covey’s second habit “Begin with the End in Mind” is empowerment to ourselves, by not allowing other people and circumstances shape our life by default.
Admittedly, this is also hard for me to do. So instead of struggling with a monstrous vision, break objectives down into smaller units. I don’t know the end game for Rentention but having smaller objectives I.e. smaller ‘ends in mind’ means collectively they work towards a bigger purpose. For example, my ‘mini end in mind’ goal is to increase reader numbers.
2. Look Back into Childhood
Looking back into our childhood acts as mirror towards passions or dreams that once existed. Chased away by ‘realistic’, fear based conditioning in adulthood, childhood aspirations can be indicator of true purpose or a path to pursue if we haven’t already.
One of my earliest childhood memories was roleplaying two occupations during game time: a banker and teacher. I was conditioned to believe that working in a bank when I grew up meant I was successful. Growing up I did work in a bank; it was great, but it wasn’t my purpose. It never ignited a true spark within me. I never pursued being a teacher because I believed other things I was told about teaching.
Delving into these memories has highlighted that happiness is a result of living our purpose, giving a supreme power of choice. Understanding that I can chose my beliefs means that that I can frame how I want to help educate others and that it exists in many forms – not just that of a conventional teacher.
3. Ask Better Questions
Too often we get tied up with a solution rather than the problem; focusing on the answer rather than the question. As the famous Henry Ford quote goes “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.
Asking yourself better questions will remove the overwhelm of “I don’t know what my purpose is” or “I don’t know where to start”. If there is an identified problem you want to solve, initial progress will follow curiosity:
- Is this problem big enough?
- How is this problem currently being solved?
- What gaps exist in current solutions?
Understanding these answers will allow you to work towards your purpose. Following this your purpose becomes inherently due to the fact that it improves your life and of lives others.
If you don’t have an identified problem:
- What would you like to impact – for yourself, others or within the world?
- Who would you like to impact? (be specific)
- What end in mind do you have? (Or even mini end in mind milestones)
- I aim to….
I recommend going back to my first post on identifying your whys for an extensive list of questions to go through.
4. Don’t Wait for Perfection
F. Scott Fitzgerald said in ‘This Side of Paradise’, “Why don’t you tell me that, ‘if the girl had been worth having she’d have waited for you’? No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.” As it applies in our romantic life it applies to change in large organisations or within ourselves. Waiting for the perfect time or conditions results in little change at all.
Leaving the bank I witnessed stagnation everywhere; in project decision making, funding, partnering with consultancies or kickstarting incubators or new ideas. So much was wasted in time and progress. Similarly, people who stayed, stayed not because they believed in their work – but for reasons including comfort and fear. Whilst it is not my position to judge those people, things are moving so rapidly through Moore’s Law and exponential technology that we simply don’t have the luxury of waiting. For the right time, for perfection, for things to eventually fall into place. Our purpose is something we need to seek to fulfil, where action advances us closer to finding our purpose than seeking perfection.
5. Devote Energy and Investment
Uncovering your purpose is a developmental process involving energy and investment. Instead of being a defined “end goal” it is an evolving, fluid process. Feeling habitually stuck or with the belief that “I don’t know what I stand for” involves a lack of curiosity and willingness towards finding out. Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
Investing to find purpose doesn’t need to be a massive cliff jump. If you have a massive transformative purpose great, but your reason for being doesn’t have to be, nor does it have to be a single purpose. Could you pick up a new hobby, skill, course or meet up? Could you attend that networking seminar or read books on interesting topics? All these small acts of energy and investment will lead you closer.
6. Be Curious – Place Yourself in Different Situations
“Different places allow you to get different chances to reinvent yourself. If you stay in one place or one area you’re always stuck in that one mode”. – Matthew Hussey.
The third element following energy and investment to unlocking purpose is a bout of curiosity. Naturally, placing yourself in different situations will bring forth new learning and experiences. Again, these can be small and in my own experience have involved things like signing up for a digital marketing course, attending seminars, raising my hand as a leader of a team project or volunteering to go first for a presentation.
Doing things outside your comfort zone allows your thinking to go outside it’s conventional confides. You meet new people, develop new skills, get exposure to different likes, strengths and weaknesses. Imagine yourself as a tourist in whatever you do – taking everything with a fresh perspective bringing a new light to what it is you want to do.
7. Forge Your Own Category
‘Play Bigger’ co-author Christopher Lochhead notes that the greatest game changers don’t follow trends but rather redefine markets. Apple redefined the music ‘category’ through iTunes. As the market shifted to a rise in mp3 and streaming, traditional music companies still tried to compete on CDs and records. Steve Job’s purpose was to challenge the status quo, to which he did, over and over again.
Standing on the shoulders of giants is a great way to learn; leveraging what has worked and the failures of others. Not reinventing the wheel may improve our chances of success, however our purpose becomes a blueprint of solving a problem that is already being served. Focus your purpose with a problem that resonates with you. “People don’t buy drills, they buy holes”. Enter existing markets with the frame of teaching the world what you want them to think about you – about how the way you solve a problem is 10 times, uniquely better.
8. Reflect on Regrets
Defining a category based on a higher purpose sounds great, but where do you start? Often what resonates with us most is derived from pain. Advocating regret is something I don’t usually say as everything in life serves as a learning experience. However Lochhead suggests that in order to understand your purpose, defining passions and skills is the first step, helping identify where you want to be.
The next step is to spend emotional time recording your greatest regrets or potential regrets. When pain is great enough change yields. A good place to start is a review of the start-stop-do-more-do less in your life.
Channelling regret may seem intimidating, but it can be small as not speaking up or putting your hand up for a role or responsibility to not applying for that new job. Scaling this up it may include not deciding to make a career change or being too afraid to take a bigger risk with your reinvention. Regrets serve a guidepost to the mistakes or missed opportunities you don’t want to make again, bringing you closer to action and your purpose.
9. Adopt Routine
First I want to clarify that adopting routine should not inhibit your curiosity or placing yourself in different situations. Adopting routine creates efficiency gains allowing more space and time for exploration towards your purpose.
Majority of the most successful leaders adopt some form of routine whether a morning or daily routine to help optimise their performance and output. Routines create structure and instil good habits, fostering momentum and confidence.
Throughout my “mini-end goals” I aim to maintain a regular routine that consists of:
- Getting up early: between 5:30-6:00am
- Daily or frequent exercise – generally in the mornings, sometimes evenings
- Meditation, mantras or calming time
- Journalling – 2x a day if possible, but always once a day
- Scheduling time for errands, appointments and things that require attention
- Reading, podcasting or learning time – this also helps me wind down
10. Build on Unique Qualities
Building on unique skills harnesses the ability to finding your purpose. Before you eye-roll, there are unique qualities about you – strengths, attributes or characteristics that make you, you. Uncovering these in conjunction with points 1-9 will move you towards recognising and achieving your purpose and creating unique value for others.
Throughout my Reintention journey my passion and curiosity for learning and experimentation has led me to, “How can I use what I have to further develop myself and share this with others?”. Translate that question into action and you have this blog.
Narrowing in on unique qualities involves:
- Things, interests and hobbies that you enjoy
- Past experiences and current skill set
- Aspirational learning (what you want to learn or move closer to)
- Feedback from others – what others have observed about you
- What you have observed about yourself – repeated patterns, experiences and situations
Finding and working towards your purpose can appear to be one of the most challenging parts of fulfilment and uncovering our why, but it is not impossible. With a bit of patience, questioning and application, what I call a ‘formula of doing’ keeps us on track and clearheaded about what it is we want and where we are headed to.