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How to Find Our Purpose in a Surprising Way

Purpose is the new conversation point, especially as Millennials are the new generational majority in our workplace. The reality: purpose is often discussed. From purpose-driven to purpose-centered, purpose continues to be a focal point. The difference may be in how it is playing an earlier role in careers, which is a good thing.

Each generation seems to struggle with purpose. Some individuals get it right and live, lead, and work in what their calling is. Others start paying more attention to purpose at the end of their careers or in retirement. Why purpose is a struggle may always contain a certain mystery in why we cannot find our purpose and work on it as much time as we can.

In thinking through this puzzle, a certain surprise point rises. Before getting to the surprise, why does purpose matter?

Why Purpose Matters?

Purpose simply is the reason we exist. We exist to:

  • Grow and learn
  • Care for ourselves and our family
  • Participate in and care for our community
  • Advance an organization – happy customers, engaged team members, sustainable revenue, better profitability

Each is necessary, but many feel there needs to be a higher reason to why we exist. Purpose contains a desire to leave a positive mark that stands the test of time.

More than this, purpose inspires us to do the right thing as often as we can. Purpose creates higher aspirations within us in the work we do, the family we guide, and the community we serve. Purpose enables us to be better human beings and leaders.

How Can Leaders Find Their Purpose?

Purpose is core to what makes us better leaders. Given this, how can we find our purpose? The simple –  but hard to do – answer is quitting.

Quitting to find our purpose is a surprising answer. When we consider it, quitting to find our purpose begins to make sense.

Quitting to find our purpose is not giving up or checking out. Quitting to find our purpose is clearing the clutter to find what matters most.

During our careers, we become a magnet. Activities stick to us, and we get weighed down. Add to this the distractions we carry. From our digital devices to multitasking, we lose sight of our purpose. Only until our career or life’s end do we begin to release and try to recapture a purpose.


What Can We Quit to Activate Our Purpose?

Finding what to quit to clear a path to lead with purpose is the challenge. We likely know where to begin, but some sparks of what we can start quitting may help pave the way to lead with purpose more fully.

Quit Getting Involved. Too often, we want to jump in and just make the decision. It seems faster. However, when we do this, we are now more involved in the activity, and we have sent the message that we need to make more decisions like this one. More and more decisions will be sent to our email inbox or arrive in front of our desk.

Instead, we need to take as many opportunities as we can to push decisions down to our team members. Two benefits to this approach. First, we may be creating opportunities for others to find their purposeful path by getting them more engaged in daily and quarterly activities. Second, we are clearing our own path to spend time where it matters most.

A sanity checkpoint: When is the last time you said: “Will you take the lead on this?”

Quit Filling in Your Time. Our calendars get filled with meetings, telephone calls, and lunches. At the end of the day, we are exhausted, but we are left wondering what we accomplished. We have a lot of activity but little purpose-filled progress.

Rather than scheduling every minute with meetings, we need to schedule in two or three 15-minute breaks to take a walk or just close our door and think. These breaks give our minds time to release, refresh, and renew. More than this, it gives us time to assess how we are meeting our purpose today.

A test point: What are you discovering about yourself during your daily breaks?

Quit Procrastinating on Purpose. Purpose seems to get saved for a rainy day, meaning it is put off for later. Later can be in a career change, retirement, or other life event. Later is too late. If purpose is important, then we need to begin to write down what our purpose is and then carve out time each week to enact it a little more. Incremental purpose realization is okay. As we move in steady steps, we may discover more of our purpose until it takes on a whole life by itself.

When we empower others to make decisions and we clear daily time to take a thinking break, we can re-center on our purpose and ensure we are doing the activities that enliven our purpose more each week.

A check-in point: How much time have you spent on your written purpose this week?

Quitting to Be Purpose Clear

The more we quit, the more clarity we gain in what our purpose is. More than this, by quitting certain things, we will find out if those items really mattered. We may have a withdrawal, but will we miss those items? If not, then we have opened an opportunity to spend our time in a more purposeful way.

When we cut to the core, the core gains strength because it has room to grow. We need to get to our core in order to lead on our purpose.


jon mertzJon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders. Follow him on Twitter @ThinDifference or Facebook /ThinDifference



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