An Executive Coach’s Guide to Finding Your Purpose
Purpose is a word that has been used a lot as of late with the world re-evaluating and reflecting after a pandemic, but many of us still do not understand what it really means and or how to use it.
Why Purpose Matters
I think of purpose as a verb, as the purpose will be the catalyst for behaviour change for movement in new directions and for clarity in goals.
Without knowing what truly matters to you, you are wasting time on goals or objectives that in the end will not bring you fulfillment or true happiness.
A Common Challenge for Everyone
I was working with a senior leader recently who had been contacted by a recruiter and he was interested in this new opportunity. As he named off the list of all the attributes of the new job, not one of them spoke to who he was as a person or how this change would bring the happiness and fulfillment he was really looking for.
I then asked him: “How does this change fit with your values or the things that are important to you in your life right now?”
He was stumped.
That is the work you need to do before you go looking for a new job, partner, home —anything, really. Our constant want for more, bigger and better, is leaving us feeling drained, empty and unfulfilled. Each of us lives with our own interests, our own spark of what makes us feel alive, and until we tap into that we will never get to a life that provides us with real joy!
Understanding Your Wants and Needs
Getting clarity on what you like (or don’t like), why things are important to you (or not), can be challenging. These can even change depending on the stage of life that you’re in, which is why they always need to be re-examined.
Letting go of the expectations and voices of others is often a breakthrough moment. Many of us will say typical things like a nice house or a big pay cheque because they have been socialized into our psyche. We may not even now how much it is engrained in our thinking. We need to pull away and listen carefully to our own voice to understand who we are, what we want, and let go of judgement to really understand our purpose.
Sometimes going back to your childhood can offer some clues. What we naturally did as a child before we were told it wasn’t the right thing to do or how to feel can help us get below the surface. This is where coaching can help; to unlock layers, ask questions and help with reflecting on what really matters to us and why.
When I was eight years old, I wrote a speech and told my teacher that I wanted to enter the public speaking contest at my school. I won that competition and went on to win the regionals. I wrote my speech and did not let anyone make changes. What I knew as an eight-year-old was if I followed my heart and had the opportunity to be in front of others, I could help people see things in a different way. It was all right there and a window into what now is the basis for the work I do.
I suggest making a list of the top five things that are important to you right now. Then, write down how each of these things makes you feel.
For example, we will all likely put family as a top factor that is important to us, but what about family makes you feel great?Is it a sense of direction, knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life, or having support? It is the feeling we need to get to.
Similarly, if you put ambition as a top value,you then need to consider why this is important to you; it could be that making it to the top in your career will bring you joy of recognition, but ensure you are tapping into a genuine need and not a need based on perfectionism or what others are expecting of you.
If you want to be the best in your field, this could be a valuable and fulfilling pursuit that will make you feel a sense of fulfillment and pride. Don’t shy away from things even if they seem too trite; if a title is important to you, then as a coach I will ask you to dive in deeper to understand why.It’s not a bad thing but we may feel ashamed of this as it is ego-driven. There is nothing wrong with being ego-driven as long as it is bringing you a feeling of accomplishment and helping you be the best person you can be. Strong ego can bring about confidence and focus on our goals and convictions.
What are your top five right now? Take time to reflect and put the why beside them. If you need help on this, a coach is a great resource to help you as you ask yourself the right questions and dig deeper into what is important to you and how to find that happiness and fulfillment we all deserve. A coach can also help you to build a plan of moving towards building that life of purpose once you understand your why.