When I have an inquiry around purpose, my natural comment is, it starts with caring. Your purpose will define your legacy.
I often read this really fantastic children’s book by Janet Campbell, fittingly titled, “Purpose finds his gift”. In the book, a boy named “Purpose” sets out to find his purpose and on his journey, he notices the peacefulness of the ocean, the brightness of the star, and the majesty of the forest. At each stop, he requests if he could have one of these things to define his purpose. However, each of the ocean, the star, and the forest remind him that if they gave away their awesomeness, they would not have special gifts to offer to the world. Exhausted, he returns home and recounts the disappointing journey to his father. When his father explained to him that the journey was purpose-defining in and of itself, he was enlightened. This book reminds us that purpose is found in the journey of life.
There are three things in life that impact your purpose: 1) Setting a personal goal; 2) Focusing on self-development and; 3) Realizing that growth lies in the journey, not the destination.
Like “Purpose” in the story above, with each step in the journey, there will be setbacks that appeared in different forms. The key is to learn that “Your special gift does not exist outside of yourself. It exists within you”. The best way to overcome setbacks is to act like a sponge, absorb the disappointments and learn from seeming failures.
In my life, I can think of failures and disappointments that hurt so bad they made me nauseated. Sleepless nights, hazy days and a clouded mind haunted my resolve. But when I go back to that personal commitment to be caring and true, to acknowledge the things that matter in my life, I find the strength to put one step forward and to seek growth.
In my early years, I experienced someone caring about my journey that had a far-reaching impact on my purpose and the energy I dissipate to those around me. My high school football coach and Guidance Counsellor @John Solarski (Weston C.I.) fulfilled purpose when he guided my life to pursue a career in engineering. In other instances, I witnessed Community Builders like @Devon Jones (YAAACE) embody purpose by dedicating his life to helping young people in under-served neighborhoods discover excellence through sports and education, producing not only basketball stars but also Doctors and lawyers. The common factor between John and Devon is that stick-ability factor, aligned to something bigger than self, allows them to display an unwavering commitment to excellence. Are you and your legacy aligned to something bigger than you?
Purpose comes to life when you act and is enabled by habits. Habits are born out of practice and personal commitments. In my ever-evolving efforts to fulfill purpose, I embrace a coaching concept called “culture hacking yourself” that involves me committing to 3 simple habits. 1) Embrace the owner of yet; 2) Realize that success is about the journey and not the results and; 3) Reward myself and celebrate achievements along the way. It was Wayne Gretzky who said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Have you ever felt that sinking sensation in your gut when you know you should have taken the shot?
You might think you have to be in an ideal situation to find purpose. The fact is, you could find purpose in whatever situation you are in. I think about Nelson Mandela, locked up for years in prison on Robin Island in a 6×4 jail cell, yet his purpose drove him to free a whole nation from apartheid. I think about Victor Frankl, who when in a Jewish camp found purpose studying the industrious habits of ants while others died around him, and gave birth to logotherapy, the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose. In those moments when life is not going so well and you question your purpose, who will you think of?
Are you ready to start building your legacy? Start by embracing the principles of Trust, Listening, Empathy, Presence, Questioning, and Awareness. Form habits that enable you to act, then set out on that discovery journey, like “Purpose”. Along the way, realize that irrespective of your deepest triumphs, fears, successes, and failures, the journey is more important than the destination. Doing this will cause you not to lose focus. If you are going through moments where you are trying to define your purpose, please reach out to me and share your thoughts.