Why ‘finding your purpose’ is getting in your way

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

When I was training as a coach, we spent a long time talking about the importance of finding your purpose. What is is? Where is it? How do we help our clients find it?

And purpose is awesome. At least, the idea of it is. That somehow, once you find it, you’ll have some super-charged source of energy to get you through anything. 

But I realise more and more that’s relying on finding your purpose can stop you achieving anything.

It sends out the message that somehow ‘purpose’ has to be clear before you take action. That somehow you’re missing out, or inadequate, if you don’t know what it is.

Change the world!

Empower women!

Stop cruelty to children/foxes/the elderly!

or even:

Be a famous writer!

Create the best design company ever!

Find a business partner who really values my skills! 

All those are wonderful, inspiring, and needed.

But, honestly, where do they get you? Have you ever heard anyone, however successful, say they spent the day changing the world? (tyres, underclothes, budgets, team responsibilities, yes. The world, no).

Sometimes purpose isn’t big and shiny. Sometimes it’s just about saying, ‘I want today to be a bit better than yesterday’. It might be about just getting the kids to school on time or you back from work in time to have dinner with them. Maybe it’s making time to listen to one of your team share a concern. It might be about having one small but niggling task off your list, or saying no to something that you know you don’t want to find the energy for.

The speaker and writer Jez Rose talked on The Creative Life Show about his journey out of depression starting with the conscious decision that he didn’t want to cry himself to sleep every night. His purpose was simply to feel better, which led, eventually, to his career as an international motivational speaker and behaviourist.

Sometimes you see purpose when you look back at it

This week on the podcast I’ve talked to the quite remarkable Maggie Semple, OBE. Maggie is this: dancer, choreographer, public sector facilitator, leadership consultant, diversity champion, arts administrator, justice advisor, fashion label founder.

Phew.

But Maggie didn’t start with a purpose of having a CV bigger and crazier than any other. She simply wanted to engage with the major issues around her in the world. It’s led her on a journey that’s been defined not by job titles, but by a purpose of exploring and driving change in areas that excite and stimulate her.

If you’re overawed by the idea of finding your ‘purpose’, try this

As yourself: What do I want my day to involve, and what do I want to happen by the end of it?

Such as:

Today, I want my day to involve one good conversation with my team, and I want them to feel I’ve properly listened to them

Today, I want my day to involve writing, and I want to be at least 250 words further in my novel

Today, I want my day to involve doing something for my health, and I want to have walked for 20 minutes by the end of it.

It’s really important to be precise about this. So write down, as exactly as you can, what your plan is.

And then, come over to this week’s Creative Life Show, for your lunchtime inspiration or your commute, and join me and Maggie Semple talking about how to find a rich creative life almost anywhere. 

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