Working out your purpose: 3 ways

My last post was all about understanding your "why" or your purpose. Once you can define this and really know  and understand yourself, your career and life choices become much easier.

This is not an easy process and it takes time and reflection. It can be frustrating if you know you are not enjoying where you are at, but don't know how to move forward. I once worked with a lovely colleague, who has now become my friend, even though she lives on the other side of the world. She would often say to me "If only I knew what I wanted to do, then I could work towards that". She is in her fifties and still working it out!I I think its pretty normal to not know your purpose. I received lots of comments about my last post from people who needed help working out their purpose. It seemed to make sense that I should pull together some ways to do this.

You might be fine with the first suggestion below. If you need a little more time and effort to work it out, try the third one.

1. My first suggestion is a good one if you have a fair amount of self awareness already. I have been a participant on leadership programs where I have used this technique. It works well if you take it seriously and take some time out. Find a quiet place and sit with a pen and paper. Writing is a great way to bring clarity to your thoughts. Answer the following questions:
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • When do you feel most alive?
  • What interests you most about yourself?
  • What types of situations do you feel most at ease in?
  • What types of situations do you feel most uncomfortable?
  • What situations stress you?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What do you love doing in your spare time?
  • What do you do in your current job that you would continue to do, even if you weren't being paid?
You might like to come back to these questions over a few days, or a week. Once you have been able to answer all these questions, review your answers. Can you summarise them? Hopefully this summary will help you understand what you like and don't like, and what your purpose might be.

2. At the Simon Sinek workshop I attended one of the audience asked Simon "How do I work out my why?" and he answered with the following:

Ask this question from some of your good friends, who you respect: "Why do you like being my friend?" Your friends will sqirm and try not to answer. Keep at it. They will say things like "I don't are nice....we hang out are funny.....(it's a bit like asking your partner why they love you!) Keep at it! Keep asking. Eventually they will start saying things like "I like myself more when I'm with you" or "You inspire me". This is the good stuff! Ask some more questions like "Tell me more about that" or "How do I inspire you?"

Simon has some great online tools which you can fine here.

3. Sometimes you find great books at the airport. I was recently in Changhi airport in Singapore, waiting for my flight home to Sydney and came across this book Business Model You: A One-Page Method for Reinventing Your Career. It's a comprehensive way to work out who you are and what your career purpose is and it helps you put actions in place to make change. It's well written and thoughtfully set out with great graphics. It includes real life examples of how people have used the Personal Business Model, which is my favourite part of the book. If you are really struggling to work out your purpose you could work through this book over a number of weeks or even months and I think you would have your purpose clearly defined, as well as being inspired by the people featured in the book. There is also a great website that supports the book.
        Business Model You

Inspire me

David Kelley discovered his purpose while sick with a potentially fatal illness. I'm not suggesting you get sick to find your purpose but it often seems this is a catalyst for many people to work out very quickly what matters and what makes them happy. In a TED talk David reveals here that everyone has creativity and that you just need to build confidence to use it.

Develop me

Do you know your purpose? Well what are you waiting for!? Larry Smith knows all the excuses as to why you will fail to have a great career.

Just for me

Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning is a Harvard Business Review blog post about staying focused in a world of distractions and the two lists are easy to implement.