What Purpose is….
Your best bit.
Purpose is meaning. What then do we find meaning-full?
8,9,10: If you could measure your life experience on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being “fantastic, great, a rollercoaster, I love life” and 1 being “I’ve got a pulse”. Purpose is always above an 8.
It’s inside us: It can’t be anywhere else. What gives meaning to each of us is distinct. It can’t be found in the external. It must necessarily be within, in our experience of life. Cars, houses, beaches, partners, wine is all great and wonderful, but they are decorations to our lives. They are not in and of themselves meaningful. It is what we bring to it that gives rise to meaningful experience. It is always about how much of ourselves we give which brings out our best and consequently the best in others, on the beaches, sipping the wine. We treat experience as something passive, as if the taste of food ‘happens to us’ or the film was ‘entertaining’ or ‘interesting’. It’s not. It’s active. We lean into the present moment, extending ourselves towards it. Tasting the food, engaging the characters in a film. Life is the same. We have to extend ourselves into it to experience every morsel. Purposeful people are passionate. All we take with us at the end of our days is our experiences. Where do you want yours to figure on a scale of 1-10?
Gotta give: If giving ourselves leads to a fuller experience of life, then giving to others is what triggers our catalogue of abilities. They become the conduits of our expression. And if we indulge and dive deeply into the expression of our abilities, how could that experience be anything other than meaningful? Our Purpose is something we serve. It is, by definition, greater than ourselves.
So here it is… our Purpose is where our values, our gifts, talents and abilities and the contribution we are most inspired to make, intersect. That crossover point is incandescent. It is the key to your mastery, the open door to your soul and… it makes you relevant.
Relevant? What do you mean, relevant?
When we give the best of ourselves to the highest good we suddenly become relevant to the whole. It’s as if we intersect with our community, society and the world in a different way, with the interface being our talents. It’s a perfect system. It’s as if the world wakes up and recognizes us. I was delivering training sessions to 12 people at a time, getting excellent results and making a comfortable living. I then discovered Purpose (more about that later). Almost immediately I was asked (asked!) to design a program triggering a fundamental shift in 10,000 people in a year using all my experience in theatre as well as from the training room. 12 to 10,000 in the blink of an eye.
You become relevant.
What Purpose isn’t…
Your job, your possessions, something you must fulfill, your destiny.
Our Purpose is greater than us. It is a path of expression and exploration. When Gandhi became active in South Africa his self nominated job was ‘to elevate the status of the Indian community with legal rights and safeguards’ his Purpose however was not fulfilled or confined by his job. We might say that his Purpose was “the non-violent emancipation of all peoples” and his actions admirably served this. Seen this way, one’s Purpose is the through-line and trajectory of what you choose to serve, bring, create.
Purpose isn’t your job. It’s also your job.
You are not defined by what you do.
You are and You do.
What is destiny really? It is the journey towards your destination. YOUR destination. You choose it. Sometimes we get a feeling of destiny, as if everything is flowing to this single moment in time and there is such a feeling of ‘rightness’ to it that it must be ordained, given by something or someone bigger than me? Surely?
What if it isn’t that at all? What if it’s really what we would choose for ourselves if we were living the 8,9,10 part of ourselves. Maybe it’s that which feels so ‘right’, so compelling, so all inspiring. Maybe we’re just not used to feeling like that. When, at school, were you asked ‘What’s your Purpose?”, “ok class gather round. At some point in your life you’re going to make choices about how you want to live, so let’s explore your greatest gifts, the ones that are not measured by our curriculum, and the path that will inspire and ignite you beyond words”. I don’t know about you, but that never happened to me. Neither was I asked it at home, by my friends, in television programs, in the cinema… anywhere in society, in fact. It wasn’t on the cards. How then, could I have had any experience of my 8,9,10 except in anything other than an arbitrary fashion – something I could not repeat at will, let alone build my life around it.
Destiny is when we are on our way to our highest destination. In that sense Purpose is your destiny.
Do we define ourselves by our relationships? I’m a husband, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a son. Yes these things give meaning to our lives but we cannot let other people define who we are. Nobody knows who we are. Not really. We think we know other people perfectly. We don’t, but thinking that we do means we make up a million assumptions about them. Most of the time we have no idea if those assumptions are correct but without the lack of any other evidence we just assume that they are and carry on. Not knowing but thinking that we do is putting someone in a box in our minds. We want and expect them to behave in predictable ways and often get upset when they don’t. “That’s just not like you!” How do we know?!? Perhaps if we could see the inner lives of the people we meet we would realize how similar we all are. However, the reality is that we are all infinite variations on a theme. Our uniqueness is our greatest asset and the reason we have the ability to express ourselves. Our value is that distinctiveness. The great seditious collusion of society, however, is that we all try to ‘fit in’. As unfair and inaccurate as it is to box up other people it is equally unproductive for them to do the same to you. You do not share the same fingerprints, thoughts, laugh, voice, gait, or regard as any other human being who has ever lived or who ever will live. Not only that but sometimes when we get married, become parents or managers, we start ‘playing a role’, unconsciously mirroring the role-models of those people and emulating them in the circumstances of our lives. This is something that is so ingrained in us…. to repeat the patterns of our parents and teachers, that we have no idea that we are doing it. The ‘role’ just seems to fit. With that though, comes routine – the unmindful repetition of actions for the sake of habit. Have you ever been driving in your car and found yourself taking roads which are familiar patterns instead of driving where you want to go? We all do it in different areas of our lives. These are routines. With that lack of mindfulness we put a part of our aliveness to sleep.
You cannot be defined by a relationship, you can only express yourself in it. What you choose to express, therefore, can be in alignment with your Purpose. We can be a husband and Purposeful, a Purposeful wife, a Purposeful son, a Purposeful manager.
Your definition, if you need one, is through your Purpose, not through a role.
Richard JACOBS is the C.E.O of YES, a leading Culture Change Consultancy specialised in mindset and behavioural change that designs and implements large scale transformation programs. Richard has been designing training, change programmes and media for 25 years. He has personally trained over 200,000 people, has won numerous awards and is a pioneer in his field integrating interactive theatre, improvisation, graphic novel storytelling and dynamic exercises into his programmes. He is a sought after speaker and the author of the groundbreaking books: “What’s your Purpose?” , “The 7 Questions to find your Purpose” and the forthcoming “Rides of Passage”.