This is the second of a 3-part series on using your life purpose to make greater impact in the rapidly changing world of today.
In my previous article, I explained the importance of rediscovering your life purpose during crucial periods of transitions that seem to be ever-present in today’s economic and political landscape.
In this present article I elucidate the step-by-step process you could use in re defining what the purpose of your life is.
Consider Anna Edwards, a bright energetic woman in her mid-thirties who was on her way to establishing her mark in her industry. Having been in the radiology technology field for almost fifteen years, Anna was keen on her job, her hospital work setting and her range of patients’ clientele which has evolved over the last few years.
However in a recent railway fire incident that engulfed her neighbourhood in a city she has come to call her home, Anna’s house was completely burnt down. Anna was lucky to have not been at home at the time, having been out of town on a work conference.
What is Anna to do?
Just like Anna, such devastating crossroads are critical moments when individuals are faced with re-thinking what their lives are all about. It is the moment of soul searching and true discovery.
However, you do not have to be in the kind of situation Anna was before you take the step to unravel your life purpose. As I mentioned in the previous article, positioning yourself to lead in these uncertain times of today calls for being cognizant and fully aware of what your life purpose is. In addition you need to become resolute to tap into that life purpose to make a difference in your world.
Are you ready to crack the code of your purpose?
Your purpose is like a ‘thread-like pattern woven through your general life, your career and your leadership pursuits’. So the process of unravelling this purpose calls for making sense of that thread that has been used to weave patterns around areas of your life. When that thread is pulled out, you can decode your purpose.
Here is the outline of the four steps you could use to figure out your purpose.
- Step 1: Outline your life’s top stories
- Step 2: Write S.M.A.R.T stories. Ask your peers, associates, friends for input- a story, a special quality or your brand- what they noticed in you.
- Step 3: Find common themes in the items listed in Steps 1 and 2.
- Step 4: Put it all together. Write a purpose statement for your life-career-leadership pursuits
These four steps should be carried out in an environment where you can spend some time in reflection. It is also important to enlist the help of friends, relatives, peers and colleagues who might be able to help you come out with some of the themes and key points. Thus doing these exercises in a team environment of a few of your colleagues will provide you with some insight and creativity. Each team member could help the other members of the team with suggestions of themes and stories to use.
Step 1: Outline your life’s top stories
Imagine you have been approached by a motion picture screenwriter commissioned to write a script of your life’s stories. Which key plots would you like to include in such a script? These plots could be in the area of your personal life, career and/or leadership pursuits.
Try and recollect as many as possible from different areas of your life
List some of these key plots. Out of this list, choose three to four of the best that you know demonstrates the essence of who you really are.
You could also include a key story that was identified by one of your close associates that reflects your essence.
Outline the main plot for these stories.
Why did you choose each of these stories? What makes you proud of them? What is the key element that this story illustrates about you/your brand?
Step 2: Write S.M.AR.T stories
Your purpose is linked to your passion- what you particularly enjoy doing- something that you do not mind spending a significant part of your time on.
Your purpose is tied to your passion
In addition you often live out our purpose through the demonstration of your strengths. In your career and leadership pursuits, your strengths are depicted through the unique ways through which you perform your different tasks or execute your leadership functions. This is often called your brand strengths.
The following exercise will help to bring out the different ways you have expressed your purpose in different work situations/environments/contexts.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Which problems or challenges have I solved in my organization/company/business/workplace/community?
- How have I used my brand (theme strengths) to solve similar problems?
- What was the bottom-line benefit and ultimate impact of solving the problem in that way?
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for
Situation with Metrics
ROI Results (Impact)
Theme (Brand Strengths)
Such SMART stories could revolve around any of the following:
- Improving productivity
- Team building
- Talent Development
- Streamlining operations
- Conflict resolution
- Devising New Strategies
- Reduced customer complaints
- Championed development of new infrastructure such as playground for children’s school
- Improved communications with Board of Directors
- Engaged more meaningfully with stakeholders
… and more.
The ‘how’ of solving the problem- the way you solved the problem signifies your brand. (Someone else might have solved a similar problem by another method).
Your brand tends to radiate your purpose
Which SMART stories came up for you?
What theme (brand strengths) dominate these stories?
Step 3: Find common themes in the items you outlined in Steps 1and 2
This step is actually similar to cracking a code. Search for common themes in the stories you have outlined. Watch out for such themes as:
- helping people to solve a particular problem
- creating a particular environment
- enabling someone or a group to do a particular action.
Write these themes down.
Step 4. Put it all together-Write a purpose statement for your life-career-leadership
To reiterate, your purpose statement should answer such questions as:
- What are my aims in life/career?
- What am I striving for? What are my goals in my career?
- What am I determined to achieve in life?
In addition, it should also incorporate some element of the action that this elicits –i.e.
- Because I am striving for ( …………) , I am poised to take (……….) action
Thus your purpose statement signifies your essence, your core values, who you really are, and also include a call to action.
Your purpose statement could be described in terms of what you are passionate about- a metaphor – that you like and makes you tick, so that when you say it or read, you are instantly inspired for action, it conveys a vision of an ideal future that you are looking forward to.
Here are some examples of purpose statements:
-My purpose is to be the illuminator, brightening up my environment and enabling clarity
-My purpose is to enable, bringing entities to top form and strengthening what already exists.
As you can see, these statements are exciting, energizing and tend to make you ready to take action and live out your life fully.
I encourage you to go ahead and follow the steps above towards re-cracking the code of your life purpose.
Which purpose statement did you come up with?
In the final article in this series, I will explain how to use your life purpose to make impact in your circles of influence.
For other examples of how people like Anna re-cracked the code of their life purpose, download my free e-book –Decode Your Purpose.
What are your thoughts on the above steps for re-discovering your life purpose?
Have you recently had to re-delineate what your life purpose is? What purpose statement were you able to draw out?