Originally written and posted on shonaliburke.com
We are often more strategic in business than in our personal life. At work we wouldn’t think of beginning any important assignment without first carefully determining and articulating the goals and objectives. Only when we have a clear understanding of the desired results, what success looks like, the timeframe for delivering these results, the budget and resources available to us and the parameters within which we must operate can we begin to develop a plan to achieve and, ideally, exceed the stated goals and objectives of an assignment.
By rigorously following this protocol, we are very likely to succeed at work. Rinse and repeat over and over again and this is how we can build a strong track record of business success.
In our personal life, however, we employ nowhere near the same rigor to help us accomplish what really matters. Too often we just lurch forward in life, hoping for the best and banking on the bet that we’ll live long enough to discover and accomplish what is most important. This is a very inefficient way to live our one very brief and precious life.
To accomplish what is most important to us in life, we must be as intentional and purposeful as we are in business. To start, we must make time – it doesn’t take long – to discover and articulate our life purpose. By a life purpose I mean a succinct statement of how we will leverage our talents, expertise and passion in service of other people and our planet.
A life purpose is NOT just about your job or making a lot of money or becoming famous or being able to take care of you and your family PERIOD. If everyone behaved this way, orphans and those in need without families would be sh@! out of luck.
A life purpose is recognizing that our lives are connected to one another and that by serving others we are, in fact, serving ourselves.
A life purpose, therefore, is as much about helping others succeed as it is about helping ourselves succeed.
By discovering and having the courage to live our purpose we can UNLEASH our leadership ability and greater success, fulfillment and joy in life.
Helping client Soni Kayinamura discover her life purpose – “To communicate the exciting stories of transformation taking place in Africa to challenge and inspire Africans to work together to create a brighter future for our continent.” – resulted in her living her purpose through her agency, Clarity Communications, based in Kigali, Rwanda. Soni’s business is thriving and her work and life are more personally fulfilling than ever before.
I was forced to “rethink” my own life purpose 16 years ago when I sought help from an executive coach at a time when I was depressed in the wake of 9/11, and exhausted from building my PR agency, caring for a sick husband who had been valiantly battling a brain tumor and fulfilling myriad obligations to professional and civic organizations. My wise coach, Suzanne Levy, told me that if I could rethink my purpose, she would help me live my purpose and, in doing so, feel much better.
Two weeks later at my next coaching session with Suzanne I shared that “My purpose in life is to choose joy, to be mindful of my joy, and to share my joy with others.” The moment I communicated this purpose to Suzanne, my life took off on an exciting and totally unexpected journey that continues to this day.
Discovering and actively living my purpose caused me to take up ballroom dancing – something I longed to do since I was eight years old, dreaming of dancing like Ginger Rogers. I got hooked at my first hour-long lesson. I took more lessons. When my dancing improved, I started competing in ballroom competitions and after a few years began winning ballroom championships. I then decided to write a book, Becoming Ginger Rogers…How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO, to share how I was able to bring joy back into my life.
The lessons I learned from ballroom dancing like the value of close partnering helped me to grow my PR agency 800 percent by close partnering with other mid-size agencies to co-found successively larger companies, including CRT/tanaka and PadillaCRT (now Padilla), creating one of the “top 10” largest independent PR agencies in the country and the largest employee-owned PR agency.
Living my purpose led me to create a consultancy, Joyful Planet, focused on helping individuals and organizations discover and actively live their purpose to unleash greater success, fulfillment and joy in their personal lives, their workplaces and their communities. Living my purpose also led me to write two best-selling books, Beat the Curve and Performance360, focused on life and organizational purpose.
Importantly, living my purpose has given me more time and energy to share my joy with three non-profits that are near and dear to my heart: Dancing Classrooms, Girl Scouts of Greater New York and The Phelophepa Train of Hope.
The simple act of discovering and living my purpose helped me to accomplish twice as much in the past 16 years that has been truly meaningful and fulfilling to me than I had accomplished in the previous 32 years. This is the power of purpose!
Bottom-line: Discovering and living our purpose is a powerful, competitive advantage because it can focus and drive us to accomplish what is most important in a highly efficient way. And isn’t this how we should be living our one very brief and precious life?