Monthly Archives: September 2009

Two Questions – One Purpose

 |  Leadership

Life, willing to surpass itself, is the good life, and the good life is the courageous life. It is the life of the “powerful soul” and the “triumphant body” whose self-enjoyment is virtue.

In a couple previous posts, I have talked about hope and will. Today I’m thinking about purpose. Leaders must be able to engage others to move to fulfill a common purpose. There’s a great deal written about organization purpose and mission; but that’s not my focus today. Everyone would agree that, leaders must know the organizational purpose and be aligned with it. More importantly, a leader’s personal purpose should allow her to align with the corporate purpose. Only in that way, can she inspire others to alignment. The authentic and transformative leader will know and actively live out her purpose in life.

The quote at the top of this posting, written by existential theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich reflects succinctly and powerfully what purpose is all about. Purpose involves the courage to imagine and pursue a valued goal. A sense of purpose grows out of an ability to show initiative, to explore our world and to seek out new experiences. It is a courageous and heroic act to intentionally seek to deepen and expand one’s human experience. Nietzsche called this “will to power.” A sense of purpose grows out of a strong will which is formed on a foundation built of hope and trust, two “hero traits” I’ve already explored.

Purpose is derived from initiative. When we are able and encouraged to assume more personal responsibility, we develop initiative. Even though we may experience failures, it is important to show initiative and accept the challenge the world presents and develop purposeful behavior so that we may cope with life’s challenges. The strength of will to show initiative and to risk begins to form in early childhood.

As leaders and as human beings it all boils down to two questions:

Who am I?

What is my work (purpose)?

Answering these questions and living the answers honestly and completely is all that really matters. It is a journey that takes and makes a lifetime.

When I coach leaders, we jump into the question of personal mission or purpose sooner rather than later. I think it’s important to take stock and explore questions like, “How purposeful are you? How willing are you to show initiative? Are you a risk taker? When and where are you most inhibited?”

How might you answer these questions:

I shy away from new things. YES NO
I am known as a risk taker. YES NO
I learned how to take care of myself early in life. YES NO
I am naturally inquisitive. YES NO
My parents encouraged me to explore my world and take chances. YES NO
I set goals and make them happen. YES NO
Life is a journey of ongoing discovery. YES NO
I tried many different activities as a child. YES NO
I am generally self-assertive. YES NO
I just go along with the flow in life. YES NO
I know what I want and will do what it takes to get it. YES NO
I have much regret about missed opportunities. YES NO

These questions explore our capacity to show initiative, take risks, and overcome inhibitions that may keep us from having the experience we want in life and getting the results we desire. The more ‘yes’ answers you record the more likely it is that you have a sense of purpose or at least have the capacity to discover it and pursue it.

Strengthening your sense of purpose starts with engaging your imagination. Project your life forward five years. Imagine what a day in your life five years forward looks like. Where are you living? Who are your significant others? What do you do for a living? What is the source of your happiness? What do you value?

Create a vision of a compelling future that draws you toward it. Once connected with a vision of your best possible future, you have a purpose – to make that future a reality.