In coaching leaders to greater professional success, I often steer discussions to the idea of “Living a Purposeful Life.” As I think about my own approach to that issue, I’m drawn to thinking about my own daughter, Lindsay, and what she might tell me she sees as being my purpose in life.
I think she’d say – because she’s been told it often enough – that being her mom was my #1 job in life. That I felt strongly that, once I’d given birth to her, I was going to give mothering all I had – that there would be no priority higher than her upbringing, during the years that that was occurring.
I think she would also say that my purpose was, and continues to be, to serve people and, professionally, to help them out with the skills I have in areas that are important to so many businesses—sales, marketing and leadership. I’d say it differently.
Years ago, in a seminar, I was asked to complete the following sentence: “I am a _____, ______, and _____ woman.” I thought about that for quite awhile, and decided that the adjectives that best describe me are “gentle, giving and fun-loving.” And that my purpose in being alive is to share the love I have to give, and do whatever I can to make the world a better place.
When Lindsay first started thinking about college, I shared with her my view that, although I don’t think most people think of it this way, careers in management allow one to have a very positive effect on people.
Most people work in one sort of business or another, and there is much bad management in evidence. When people’s jobs aren’t going well, it’s hard for much else in life to go well, because we spend more time at work than we do sleeping, eating, or enjoying our families – work is so central, and good leadership and motivation can help people to be happier while they do what they do to keep the bread on their table.
Lindsay chose Political Science. And along with choosing that major, I think she saw her purpose as defending others against injustice. Those thoughts are evolving for her now.
And what does all this thinking about purpose mean – how can it contribute to our lives? I think that knowing one’s purpose is a bottom line thing: when the chips are down, we can return to that, and put the complexities of the present moment up against that purpose, to see what really matters, and how much priority competing “projects” (by “projects” I mean “places where one’s time can go”) really should get.
So, is your time and attention going toward your purpose in life these days?