Why are you here on the planet? What part of the story of humanity are you playing? Great leaders are connected to an unshakable sense of purpose. So much of our careers focus on what we do and what role we play. But, what is the simple truth behind why you exist in this world? It is both a spiritual and practical question.
In organizations, we have vision statements. These express the world as we seek to contribute to it or transform it. A vision statement is the reason an organization exists - its purpose for being. Let's bring that down to the individual level.
Drawing again on the work of Dr. Mark Jones, he poses four big questions that help us reflect on our existence and reason for being. They are questions a leader at any level can ask themselves.
When you can answer these four questions, you'll be closer to clarifying your purpose. And when you know your purpose you can be more steadfast in crisis, confident during stressful settings and difficult decisions, and trusted by your followers because they know what you're about at your core. Let's explore each question in more detail.
Am I relevant - This one feels heavy, doesn't it? We hear this from manufacturing works wondering if robots are taking their jobs. We hear this in political and cultural ideology debate around the relevance of white supremacy culture and governance models. There are hundreds of things in our lives that were relevant at one point, but aren't relevant anymore. Books, songs, movies, kitchen appliances, clothes, computer programs, mindsets... They all served a purpose at one time.
There's a substantial interconnected difference between what you DO being relevant, and YOU being relevant. We live in a culture where we often associate what we do with who we are. It's easy to conflate the two.
What is core to who you are? Is it bringing joy? Reducing suffering? If there were one thing you were brought to Earth to do, what would the people around you say it is?
Am I connected to something greater - Take a moment and make a list of all the greater sources, communities or ideologies you're connected to. Might include an alumni association, military service, spiritual community, the land, or any identity group. Name all the ways you're connected to something bigger than yourself. What do these have in common? What do they reveal about how you might be living out your purpose?
Am I in relationship - While it seems impossible to NOT be in relationship, we all feel lonely sometimes. Think of the multifaceted and limitless ways you're in relationship with your family, body, pets, emotions, neighbors, food, sky, plants, coworkers... there are an endless number of relationships available to you. Where are your relationships the strongest? Which relationships feel the most generative and life-giving? Take a look at your top five relationships as determined by you. What you notice?
Am I loved - To start, write down your definition of love and how you know when love is being expressed. Write down your origin story of love - how you learned what love is. I want you to really challenge yourself to expand beyond the idea of romantic love here - and it is totally okay to use your imagination if you feel skeptical. How is love and your expression of love connected to your purpose?
Move slowly and gently through these reflections. Then, dig deep to consider how you might practice decolonizing in each of these areas. For example, a colonial mindset might tell you you're only relevant and valuable if you are producing something. It might tell you a story that your relationships should be selected through hierarchy and power-over something or someone else. A construct of love might be rooted in a colonial framework of ownership, possession or obedience.
Part of my purpose is to increase joy in myself and others. No matter what job, what relationship, or what circumstance, it is my purpose to cultivate joy in every interaction.