Your Purpose

Text: What's your purpose... your driving why?

What’s your purpose… your driving why?

Everyone seems to be talking about purpose – especially as it relates to finding your purpose and what it means for business. But what is it? It’s a simple word that just means intention, or the reason something is done.

In the purpose-driven community, we generally think of it as being focused on creating positive social and environmental change.

Let’s explore this at a personal and organisational level.

Your Personal Why

Most of us are looking for happiness and meaning. Purpose is key to this. As Emily Esfahani Smith outlines in her great TED talk, she concluded from her positive psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy research that there are four pillars to meaning: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling – especially the stories we tell ourselves.

We want to do work that’s meaningful and matters. It’s fascinating seeing the trend of expectation toward meaningful work. Research shows 90% of employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work.

How much? The average was 23%! Though I disagree with the premise that we should earn less when doing purposeful work that creates multiple types of value (financial, social, and environmental). That’s a failure in our market system.

There’s a lot of talk about finding your purpose – often with language that implies our one true purpose will be revealed to us and we’ll know what to do in life. I disagree. So does the research. As Kira Newman writes in her article How Purpose Changes Across Your Lifetime, where she reviews some of the research over the past 30 years:

“In fact, purpose isn’t something we find at all. It’s something we can cultivate through deliberate action and reflection, and it will naturally wax and wane throughout our lives.”

Kira Newman

It’s worth the time to reflect on what motivates us, what we get energy from, our driving why – but don’t expect it to be absolute and unchanging. And if this isn’t something you’ve already been working on for a while, don’t expect to have it resolved after a half-hour session.

Ikigai

I find Ikigai a useful and simple way to articulate a lot of this – I’ve used it for myself and in coaching conversations with others. It’s a four circle Venn where the intersection of the four circles is said to be “your reason for being”. I use a version of this when asking people to reflect on their strengths and assets.

Here are the four Ikigai circles with the question I asked:

  • What you love… What do you love doing?
  • What you are good at… What are you really good at?
  • What the world needs… What do you really care about?
  • What you can be paid for… What do you get paid for doing?
ikigai


Ikigai doesn’t magically give you the answer to your personal why, but it helps you think through and reflect on some of the key ingredients.

If you can bring these four pieces together with how you spend your time professionally, it increases the chances that you’ll do meaningful work that brings you fulfilment, creates social and environmental value, is financially successful… and increases your wellbeing while you do it.

Your Organisation’s Purpose & Vision

Organisations often spend a lot of time and money crafting vision and mission statements, cultural values, and maybe even principles. Traditionally these are inward facing and centred on the organisation. Over the past decade or so there’s been a trend to try to focus these statements on the customer.

Customers or people who will buy and use our solutions are very important, but in purpose-driven business the context of our primary purpose is even bigger. Let’s focus on one real question – why does our organisation exist?

Clarity of purpose makes decisions easier. It gives us a clear filter to assess and prioritise options. When we have a meaningful driving why, it helps us keep going through all of the challenges we face. It helps us persevere. A compelling purpose and vision also increase engagement with our teams, customers, and investors.

Purpose is our reason for doing it. Vision is the better future we’re working towards. Vision gives us hope and a clear direction to move in. Your 10-year vision and 3-year picture. More on that coming very soon.

“Hope for a generation, just beyond my reach. Not beyond my sight.”

Hope by Fat Freddy’s Drop

Values

I strongly recommend articulating a set of values for your organisation. The important step is to turn this into practical guiding principles and be explicit about what these values look like as behaviours. The behaviours you expect of yourself and each other – and the behaviours that you won’t accept.

This activity also works well when you have existing value statements. Too often, organisational values are a generic set of words that don’t mean much in practice – and mean different things to different people. When done well as a collaborative process, they’re a powerful guide for decisions and behaviours.

During the 20th year of Dynamic4 in 2021, I shared our core values and guiding principles, with some reflections on what I’ve learnt.

Teams

If you’re a team within a larger organisation, you might want to do this at a team level too. It should align with the overall organisation purpose. I recommend doing each action as an individual first, and then discussing it as a team to see where things are common and where there are differences. Understand why, and take the opportunity to align.

Start With Who

Simon Sinek famously says start with “why”, and we’ll do an action on that in a moment. First, let’s start with who.

Example:
I want to help all people have fun creating their purpose and happiness and have increasing quality of life on a planet that’s cleaner and healthier – and live in communities that are more empowered, inclusive, and regenerative. I obviously can’t do that myself directly.

The way I (and Dynamic4) can contribute most to this is to help transform the way business is done. To accelerate the transition to more regenerative ways of living and doing business.

I’m focused on helping leaders and their organisations solve problems that matter in more empathic and innovative ways – and design business models, products, and services that are regenerative – so we can realise these great outcomes for all people.

Your Turn:
Take a few minutes to list the people and groups of people you’re focused on helping and creating value for. Think about your customer segments, the communities you operate in, your teams, and other stakeholders.

Start broad and then get specific.

Now that you’ve clearly identified the people and groups of people you want to help, think about your why. We’ll use Simon Sinek’s famous Golden Circle for this.

Your Golden Circle

Simon Sinek gave one of the most popular TED talks of all time in 2009, and he’s the author of Start With Why. He’s created a lot of great content on leadership and purpose, with a strong focus on empathy.

Simon Sinek simply and powerfully explains how compelling it is to be able to clearly articulate your Why. It engages and inspires others to action. There are specific biological reasons for this. It’s best to hear it directly from him.

There are three circles to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle: Why? How? What? Here’s a simple description so you can get started:

  • Why? “What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?” Those are Simon Sinek’s own words
  • How? What makes you special or unique? What’s your “differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP”? How are you “different or better”?
  • What? What’s your product or service? What does your organisation do?


The process can feel a little uncomfortable. It’s often hard to get to the Why because we tend to spend so much time focused on trying to work out the What. Clarity on our Why helps us make better decisions and filter options for the What.

Example:
Why: A world where people are happier and have increasing quality of life on a planet that’s cleaner and healthier – and live in communities that are more empowered, inclusive, and regenerative.

How: We coach, train, and work alongside leaders to help them design, build, and launch ideas that customers love, make money, and do great things for people and our planet… all while increasing wellbeing.

What: Leadership, design thinking, and innovation programs, supported by coaching and advice, and my book Solve Problems That Matter.

Your Turn:
Now it’s time to draft your Golden Circle. Spend about 3 minutes on each of these three parts. Don’t worry about perfect wording, just do your best to capture the core concepts and important words.

Why?
What’s your Why? Build on the work you’ve already done on the why that is driving you. The vision you’re working towards.

How?
What makes you, your idea, and your organisation special? What’s your value proposition?

What?
What’s your solution? What’s your idea? What does your organisation do?

Your Purpose Statement

We now have the ingredients to craft a simple purpose statement. Don’t worry about perfecting the words, but see if you can bring these three parts into a paragraph – following the same order: Why? How? What?

Example:
We help create a world where people are happier and have increasing quality of life on a planet that’s cleaner and healthier – and live in communities that are more empowered, inclusive, and regenerative – by coaching, training, and working alongside leaders to help them design, build, and launch ideas that customers love, make money, and do great things for people and our planet… all while increasing wellbeing – with our leadership, design thinking, and innovation programs, supported by coaching and advice, and my book Solve Problems That Matter.

Your Turn:
Your turn to draft your purpose statement, and bring together the elements of your Golden Circle. Take 5 minutes and follow the same order: Why? How? What? Use whatever words best help to join the three sections. I used “we help”, “by”, and “with” in my example.

Read it through. Do the three pieces flow logically?

The real test is to share your purpose statement with other people. See what parts resonate and where they have questions, or it isn’t clear to them. Refine and test again. And again.

Your wording, and even some of the core concepts, will refine over time, but looking at your purpose statement now, you’ll hopefully get the feeling that you can link what you actually do, or what your idea is, to your driving why or purpose.

This refined clarity of purpose will make decisions easier. It will give you a clear filter to assess and prioritise options. My hope is that you’ll use your purpose to drive every business and design decision you make and help us rapidly transition to more regenerative ways of living and doing business.

Solve Problems That Matter

In Solve Problems That Matter, I go into a lot more detail on all of the things I’ve covered in this post… and plenty more. It’s a playbook with actions and worksheets to help you take a human-centred design approach to design, build, and launch your idea. Ideas that customers love, makes money, and does great things for people and our planet… all while increasing wellbeing.

Let’s Collaborate

We specialise in coaching, training, and working alongside leaders.

A key way we do this is by designing and delivering action learning experiences with masterclasses, workshops, innovation sprints, and leadership, design thinking & innovation programs. These sessions build personal, team, and organisational capability to solve problems that matter with more:

  • Clarity on your purpose, goals, and approach to navigate complexity and make progress
  • Momentum to achieve your goals by building the workflows, rhythms, and habits for success
  • Confidence to move forward with more certainty and less risk while increasing your wellbeing


Ready to have fun collaborating to solve problems that matter?

Book a free 15-minute discovery call.