Living on Purpose

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

While making changes such as losing a substantial amount of weight, stopping smoking, or taking control of your life in someway can have a profound effect on your health and happiness this type of change is only a piece of a bigger pie.

The change can be achieved through a series of questions:

    • What do I want to do
    • When do I want to do it by
    • How will I measure success
    • What resources do I need
    • Who hold me accountable

If we are then to dig a little deeper we might ask:

    • Who will this impact and how will it impact them
    • How will things be different after I’ve made this change

finally:

    • Why do I want to make the change.

I have a number of these change activities underway now, some more advanced than others, and have a collection of ‘whys’ for each of them that I’ve been staring at for a couple of weeks in the hopes that they will integrate into a grand unified why, or a purpose, or at least a mission statement.

Important? I would argue that it is. If you aren’t living with intention then you’ll drift along being taken where ever the current leads and how can you live with intention if you don’t know what’s important to you. What you’re willing to dig in and take a stand for? What are the guiding principals that your actions align around? Perhaps you just intuitively know what’s the right thing to do? Why not write out the reasons for the choice that you made. Are they consistent with the next choice you made and the next? Or are you flip-flopping around more than a politician in election season?

Answering the ‘big why’ question and identifying a purpose that is bigger than you, one that puts you in the service of others, can be tough which is probably the reason that less than 5 % of people have a clear sense of purpose at this level. Fortunately there are lots of ways to get to an answer. Steve Pavlina recommends the following exercise:

1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

from How to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes

As an alternate, an approach described in the book Business Model You for uncovering your purpose is to rewrite the following sentence:

“I would like to HELP PEOPLE through these ACTIVITIES.”

replacing HELP with a verb, (e.g. support, encourage, nurture…), PEOPLE with a noun, (e.g. artists, artisans, craftsmen…) and ACTIVITIES with a verb (e.g. photographing, listening, promoting..) then finally rewrite the sentence to have it be a compelling statement of intent.

As an example, the evolved and rewritten sentence could be:

‘I will develop devices that are energy efficient that are able to produce and purify water at large scale to serve the populations in areas where clean, sanitary water is scarce.’

or

‘I will support emerging artists by creating an co-op that provides access to the tools and resources necessary to get a foothold in the business of art’

The Business Model You book is a great career development resource and I’m on the acknowledgments page in my Red Sox hat. See if you can find me! Also check out the business model you website here.

As always comments and thoughts appreciated.

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One thought on “Living on Purpose

  1. Pingback: Be Present and Do Your Best Work | Andrew Nixon's Photo Blog

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