When an organisation defines its purpose for being – and incorporates this purpose into every aspect of its existence – it becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Purpose-driven organisations are more likely to have a highly-engaged workforce, retain a loyal customer base, and enjoy better overall financial performance.
But on the other end of the spectrum is your own personal purpose. Why do you exist as an individual – both in your professional and personal life? What’s your purpose for being? And is your current employer helping you to achieve that purpose?
Big questions that deserve big answers, that’s for sure, but people with a firm understanding of their own personal purpose will be better positioned to make the most out of today’s new world of work environment. Here’s how to go about it:
What’s your professional purpose?
When you first started out in your career, you probably entertained seemingly-farfetched ideas of where you would end. Perhaps you saw yourself launching an exciting tech start-up that will cause all kinds of chaos in your sector. Or you might have envisioned yourself working for a not-for-profit organisation providing clean water to poverty-stricken communities.
And while you may have started out with the best intentions, it’s easy to lose sight of your purpose when you’re navigating today’s fast paced and rapidly evolving workplace. That’s why so many people get to a point in their lives where they start to re-evaluate their careers and question their own personal purpose – quintessentially a career mid-life crisis.
But it’s worth pointing out that your purpose isn’t what you do, or even your end goal – it’s the reason why you do what you do.
So, looking at your career in the grand scheme of things, why is it that you do what you do? What drove you to choose your current career path? And what does success look like beyond the pay cheque? Write it down!
What’s your personal purpose?
While organisations can often narrow down their reason for being into one clear and transparent purpose statement, people are much more multi-faceted. For example, it’s more than possible to be incredibly passionate about providing for your family and, say, protecting the planet from global warming at the same time.
And unlike an organisational purpose statement, which should hold the same meaning in a hundred years’ time as it does now, your personal purpose can change as time goes by.
Write down all the things that matter to you the most – your family and friends, your hobbies, causes you’re passionate about, as well as your personal ethics, values and beliefs.
Look over everything that matters to you personally and professionally, and while it may take some time, try your best to combine them all together and form your own personal purpose statement.
For example, Sir Richard Branson’s purpose statement is: “To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes.” It’s simple, but also applicable to everything he does on both a professional and personal level.
Does your purpose align with your organisation’s purpose?
The majority of people want to work for organisations that are making a difference, whether it’s a difference to their community, to the environment, or to their industry in general, and this sense of purpose plays an essential role in their own individual engagement and fulfilment.
According to Deloitte, six in 10 millennials said a “sense of purpose” was part of the reason why they chose to work for their current employers. And the majority believe business has the power to do good, with almost three quarters of millennial workers believing business has the potential to solve the challenges that concern them.
When talking about this quest for purpose, I like to use the word disintermediation – an economics term which means to reduce the use of intermediaries between producers and consumers, or cutting out the middlemen. Applying this same principle to personal purpose, there’s a growing number of professionals looking directly to the organisations they work with to fulfil their own personal and professional purpose.
Finding greater meaning in what you do.
If you already work for an organisation with a purpose you believe in, chances are you’re more focused, engaged and productive as a result.
But what if your personal purpose doesn’t match up with your employer’s? You could start looking for new organisations with an enticing purpose proposition.
Or another alternative is to find a greater sense of purpose in what you do. One way to go about this is by redesigning what you do so that it’s more aligned to your own personal purpose. What do you like and dislike about your current job? Is there room to take on more in certain areas and less in others so that it’s more aligned with your purpose?
Another way to go about it is by finding something within your organisation that motivates you – perhaps on a social, financial or environmental scale. Has your organisation decided to go green, or is there an employee development scheme in place, or are there any CSR initiatives you’re passionate about? Getting involved in these initiatives could give you an entirely new sense of purpose.
While this approach might seem like you’re putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound, finding out how your own personal purpose can potentially align with your organisation is a much better strategy than expecting an organisation to provide a sense of purpose for you.
On a more personal note, I’ve defined my own purpose as: “to fix things and make them better.” That definitely binds me to my organisation, where all we do is fix things for customers through enabling fulfilling career opportunities and enhancing organisations through people.
We are living in a very exciting time, and as both organisations and people are switching on to the notion of purpose, would it not be great if we could find a way to align personal purpose to organisational purpose, and assess that with evidential data? This would not only help organisations to find people passionate about their cause, it would help people to find a greater sense of purpose in the new world of work.