Most leaders want more out of life and work. Leadership expert Simon Sinek describes working hard for something we don't care about stress and working hard for something we love passion. In his poem, The Voiceless, Oliver Wendell Holmes concluded that many of us will go to our graves with our music still inside and unplayed. Before you can unlock a better future, you have to know what it looks like. Taking an "I will know it when I see it" approach will not help you get in front of the busyness of life as a leader or persevere when life throws you a curveball.
Why Knowing Your Purpose Matters
Evidence suggests that the positive psychological effects of knowing your purpose include professional success, well-being, reduced stress, and physical benefits such as longevity. A research study of over 40,000 adults found that both men and women with a clarity of purpose had a decreased risk for death from external causes.
Once you understand where you are going, you are better positioned to know when to say no and when to say yes. The clarity that knowing your purpose creates is a competitive advantage for individuals and organizations. Purpose leads to personal engagement, which energizes the leader and their team amid complexity and volatility.
2 Powerful Questions for A Better Future
Simply living day to day without a vision for the future is not a great approach if you want to make the most of your life. Success and significance are not accidents and will require being deliberate and persevering.
Ask yourself the following two powerful questions:
What do I want to be remembered for in life and at work? Starting with the end in mind goes far beyond knowing what you love or desire. This question requires considering why and what outcome you want from your personal and professional investment of time and energy. To answer this question, you have to factor in the impact you will have on others, what you stand for, and how you want to show up daily.
What does personal and professional success look like this year and over the next five years? We are bombarded with images of what success should look like. Images such as vacationing at a luxurious resort, buying a dream house, or driving a new car are images likely floating around your mind when you think about success. Also, our answers to this question are influenced by our culture and upbringing. When thinking about the answer to this question consider the following types of success: material, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical, commercial, organizational, environmental, time, and team.
The following answers come from recent interviews I conducted for my new book, "Breaking 10 Leadership Bad Habits." I spoke with successful high-potential directors, executives, and businesses owners to understand how they measure success and significance. Hopefully, their responses will inspire you to consider these questions:
being able to chart my course
financial and business metrics
If you want to unlock a better future, now it is your turn to answer the questions and the following steps can help you get started.
Finding Your Purpose
A serious threat to achieving success and significance is not being deliberate. Use these steps to get the most out of these two powerful questions.
Schedule some time in your calendar to reflect for ten minutes on each question. Discovering your answers can be challenging in a world full of suggestions for what success and significance should be.
Ask yourself each question and journal what comes to mind. Don't filter. Just write it down. Journaling is often an underutilized tool. It is simply not enough to reflect. To gain traction, you need to be able to come back at a later time and reflect on your answers. If you aren't in the habit of journaling, you may like the structure and ease of the Day One app.
Find a few people that know you well, that you trust, and will be encouraging of your exploration. Ask them how they would answer the questions for you.
Consider hiring an executive coach. Some leaders become anxious with introspection. An effective executive coach will challenge assumptions and views and encourage, stretch, and challenge you. Coaching is a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. Finding an individual leadership purpose can be challenging in a world full of powerful and influential advice about what is success and significance.
Reflect on what you heard. Consider themes rather than specific points shared and, as needed, edit or delete points you journaled.
Likely your answers to these four powerful questions will evolve. Yearly, repeating these steps will help keep you moving in the best direction.
Are you feeling stalled in your current role? Have you faced challenges without the success you had hoped for? Do you want to switch careers? Are you unsure how to focus on your personal development? Do you want to live your best life?
If you said yes to any of these questions, you might want to hire an executive coach to help.
Let's talk about how we can help you achieve your goals with transformational executive coaching and organizational solutions that work.
Hollensbe, E., Wookey, C., Hickey, L., & George, G. (2014). Organizations with purpose. Academy of Management Journal, 57(5), 1227-1234. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2014.4005
Holmes, O. (1891). The autocrat of the breakfast table: Every man his own Boswell. Mifflin
Schippers, M., & Ziegler, N. (2019). Life crafting as a way to find purpose and meaning in life. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2778-2778.
Sinek, S. [@simonsinek]. (2012, Feb. 28). Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion. Twitter.