“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away!”
The goal of living is to achieve our full potential. And to live fully, we have to break free of two developmental prisons:
- Self–focus – self-absorption and self-consciousness
- Achievement–focus – over valuing the material world and image management
If we are willing to do the work, we learn to accept ourselves, love and give without expectations and find satisfaction from being of service.
For a leader this translates elegantly into leading others with self-awareness, humility, care and a focus on achieving outcomes that impact positively. We lead with purpose and everyone from our team members and customers will benefit.
When we combine our purpose and passion with a detachment from our own ego needs, we are most likely to succeed. By having a future goal and intent to contribute, purpose becomes the antidote to drifting, being selfish, fitting in with status quo and mindlessly doing what everybody else is doing. We ask the question of what life expects of us, not just what we expect of it.
It takes courage to lead with purpose. Alternatively, the cost of living an unlived life is high for us and those we lead. Five years ago, I escaped death in a car accident. I remember the slow-motion feeling when I was in the tumbling car. I remember the sensation of being in a washing machine, out of control but feeling totally calm. I was the calmest I had been in my entire life. I absolutely knew that I was going to survive this devastating, unexpected experience. It was not my time. The crystal-clear thought came, that I had not achieved my life purpose. I was now ready to step into the next stage of my life and I have never experienced such gratitude. I knew I would never take a single day for granted again.
Difficult times can be more readily endured if we have a sense of purpose. For the last two months I have been having thoughtful and heartful conversations with business leaders. They all are experiencing their own car crashes, as the COVID crisis has catapulted us all into the space of the unknown. And we have all been given the opportunity to ask big existential questions. The saying – Never waste a good crisis can be now reframed into – A good crisis is an opportunity to search for our individual and collective meaning.
Our unique purpose is always linked to both our personality and life story. I am an optimist and as a middle child in a large dysfunctional family, I learnt to constantly adapt to adverse situations. I now view my story and its lasting challenges, as one of desirable disadvantage, as I understand why I am strongly drawn to helping individuals and groups resolve inner and outer conflict and gain unity.
So how do leaders or any of us find our enduring purpose? We can’t see our reflection in running water, so being still and reflective is necessary. Spending time in nature is not only rejuvenating but it reminds us of the natural grain of the world, and it becomes easier to find our own flow. Every day in COVID isolation I have visited nature with the simple goal of observation. To find our purpose, we need to dive down deep. It is a process of discovery, a little like an archeological dig. All artefacts, symbols and clues are important. If you stick with a process, similar to the one outlined below, you will learn again what you already know to be true of you:
- Ask yourself – what is the transition you need to make at this point in your life?
- Briefly document your life story – highs, lows and key themes
- Detail all your strengths and the work and tasks that bring you deep satisfaction
- Go for a walk or sit in nature every day for at least half an hour
- Be silent, still and write down what you notice and observe around you
- Reflect on your life purpose and start drafting a short sentence that reflects who you are, rather than what you do. Refine it until it feels right. You will know.
Once you work out the details of your purpose, you can build a vision and action plan for your life work which will well up from deep inside you and inspire you. It will come to define and shape everything about you in all your roles. You will live every day on purpose.
Put some thought into this quest, as you are the greatest project you will ever get to work on.
FOLLOW THIS MAP
In my book- The Worthy Leader – I couple two universal and timeless notions – wisdom and leadership to speed up leadership development and improve business outcomes. The Map below provides a comprehensive picture of all the developmental elements you need to switch on to accelerate your growth. The map has five key elements, each of which has three coordinates. In this article, I explore – purpose - as leading with purpose creates fulfillment and impact.
The interdependent map elements are listed below:
- Knowing – The cognitive element: Our self-awareness, and perspective that will help us lead innovatively through this crisis.
- Connecting – The emotional element: The relationships we invest in that return loyalty and teamwork during challenging times
- Being – The spiritual element: Our calm self-belief, sense of purpose and character will steady us and reassure our teams.
- Discerning – The element of insight: How we think systemically, hold ourselves to account and make the best, often tough decisions, sometimes in haste and with insufficient data, as the crisis unfolds.
- Delivering – The element of action: The actions we take in an unknown space, resulting in better outcomes. Impact – This concerns consequences: The lasting positive impact our decisions and actions can have on our teams, peers, the business and ourselves.
Maryanne Mooney has never been so inspired to help leaders connect with their potential and encouraging them to act on it. Her goal is to help leaders navigate their challenges and to support their growth. She does this through the power of meaningful and practical conversations. In the past 25 years, Maryanne has worked on five continents with more than 10,000 leaders and teams. Her focus is leadership, team and organization development, across all industry sectors. Her experience includes building two consulting firms that were market leaders. Maryanne lives in Australia and works with leading organizations throughout the world. She is an executive coach, president of the Board for the USA Senhoa Foundation and a YPO Spouse and Certified Forum Facilitator. Maryanne's method to coach leaders develop faster on their journey to wisdom is outlined in her recently published book – The Worthy Leader – From Mastery to Potential. The book is available on her website – www.worthyleader.net.
Maryanne will be writing a weekly column in this newsletter, drawing on her book and years of leadership development experience, to provide practical tips about how to be a worthy leader, in troubled times.
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