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.

Do you understand your why?

Some weeks come and go without much remarkable happening. We go to work, we do our jobs and come Friday, we look forward to the weekend. Other weeks stand out because we are given a gift that was unexpected, surprising, and that changes our view of the world. I had one of those weeks this week. In the past month I have returned to my job, from being on maternity leave. My job is relatively new, both to me and the company, and I have two new managers of sorts and two new team members, one in the US and one in the UK. I'm still finding my way. What are my responsibilities? What person needs me to communicate what? Which people do I need to build strong relationships with? Who do I need to influence? What do I need to remember? I'm sure many of you can relate. 

Despite this, my week has been one of connections: meeting new people, having new experiences, consolidating my views and passions,  learning some new things, being inspired and as a consequence challenging where I am at, where my career is heading and our priorities as a family. While lots happened this week there, were two main events that stood out.

On Tuesday I attended the Simon Sinek workshop in Sydney run by Business Chicks. I joined Business Chicks fairly recently as they run interesting events and networking opportunities. When I first moved to Sydney, over 10 years ago, I attended as many free networking opportunities as I could to try and meet new people and build my contacts in what seemed an overwhelmingly big city. Not a good strategy. The only thing I achieved was eating bad food and being a captive audience for marketing opportunities conducted at 7.30am. After a couple of years of this I decided no more free breakfast networking events. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for!

A couple of other awesome 'business chicks' I know also had joined so I thought I would give it a go too. So far I have been to two events and I can say they are well organised, professional and awesome. The food has been great and I haven't been 'marketed' to. I even got out of bed to see Danni Minogue over breakfast (my first Business Chicks event). Anyway, back to Simon.

I had seen Simon's video on TED and knew he was going to talk about leadership. It was a inspiring workshop and I'm glad I went. He had some great things to say that relate to personal and career development, as well a leadership and business. He comes across as authentic and passionate and is a great storyteller. The key takeaway for me was that organisations need to understand why they exist, and it's not to just make money (most of the time that's a given). What is their purpose and why do they exist? A goal to make an unrealistic amount of money by a particular date is not something that employees or customers can connect to.

The same can be said for individuals and leaders. What is our purpose? What do we exist to do? This is really important when you are thinking about your career. The best most inspiration leaders I know are very clear about the "why" they do what they do, not what. A discussion with one of my favourite Managing Directors this week revealed that while she obviously wants the business she leads to do well, grow and be profitable, her purpose and passion is looking after the people who work in her organisation and providing a great place to do that. When you meet her she is very authentic about this. It is evident in the way she communicates, the way she leads her business, and the way she lives her life. As a consequence people want to work for her. A true leader has followers.

Yesterday I was invited to a networking event with the HR Leadership Forum.  This is the second time I have attended as a guest and they, like Business Chicks, provide interesting speakers and solid networking opportunities. They also hold their events in really nice places at lunch time. Yesterday was a function centre on Sydney Harbour and on a sunny, sparkly Autumn Sydney day like it was yesterday you couldn't help feeling positive about the world.

The first speaker was Dennis Shanahan, political editor of The Australian. He talked about the current state of Australian politics and the recently released labour government budget. Dennis obviously lives and breathes politics and his intimate understanding of all things related was inspirational. Passion is a very attractive trait. Unfortunately I just can't get excited about politics so I was hanging out for Peter Murray (Director of Operations) and  Peta Jurd (Group General Manager) from Veolia. Veolia had been featured in the Australian series of Undercover Boss and were to speak about their experiences being involved in the production. Don't you love a "behind-the-scenes" story?

When you are sitting enjoying a lovely lunch with a nice glass of wine, with a nice view of the harbour you don't expect to have your perceptions changed about waste management companies, have a laugh, empathise, be inspired and then be in tears. All in the space of an hour. However it bought home to me again (and again and again) that organisations have great responsibilities in looking after the people who work there. Veolia benefited greatly from being part of Undercover Boss. They received lots of media attention, got amazing feedback from members of the public and their Senior Managers gained a lot more insight into their operations.  The stars though, were the featured employees who demonstrated that when organisations are clear about their "why", employees will be attracted to work for them, be passionate about what they do for that company, and will go waaay outside their position description to help the organisation. It was clear that Veolia takes recycling and their environmental responsibility seriously and their employees are passionate about "why" Veolia exists. 

The trick in our life and in our career is to work out our purpose and be true to that. As Simon Sinek says "When we have a clear destination the route is flexible."

Inspire me

"When you work really hard but don't know where you're going it's called stress. When there's a destination it's called passion." Simon Sinek

Develop me

Not sure how to work out your "why"?  Check our Simon Sinek's website for tools and courses.

Just for me

If you want to learn more about Veolia and Undercover boss you can watch the episode here