Are you struggling to find purpose? Do you wake up each day wondering what life is all about? Or perhaps you know your calling, but the stress of achieving your goals has taken the passion out of the things you once loved. These are some of the issues people, entrepreneurs, organizations and even societies at large have been going through for most of their existence.
Today, the word ‘reset’ is used in ways we have never seen before. The pandemic has definitely contributed to people asking these key questions that are usually reserved for new year’s resolutions or when a drastic event happens in one’s life. But the truth is that a reset, just like purpose, is hard to sustain.
It is important to pause and reflect, so that this time around, our views on purpose lead us to an achievable path. My book, Unpurpose, looks at how we can all shift purpose from the pursuit of a goal to a way of life.
Purpose, at least in the conventional way we are taught to understand it, is a hard concept to grasp and yet, like an ever-elusive ghost, it is something we’re told to search for, regardless of cost or the amount of time it will take. We’re led to believe that without purpose, we will drift aimlessly through life, achieving little.
While we all have our own unique talents and interests, it is rare for us to find one singular passion – our purpose – that will drive every part of our lives. When we are told to find our purpose and come up empty-handed, it can leave us feeling inferior, as though we are lacking a key part of ourselves.
On the flip side, if you’re one of the lucky few who actually find their purpose, you’re expected to live it every day. For these people, life can become overwhelming, due to the intense pressure of working ceaselessly towards a goal.
What’s remarkable, is that deep inside we know that success is not what we use to measure the everyday. In Harvard University’s Dark Horse Project, 91% of people surveyed said that for them personally, success equated to someone who was purpose-driven, in comparison to society’s definition of success, which 74% of those surveyed said was someone who was powerful. Those who are living a purpose-driven life are not defined by their character, nor are they defined by their socio-economic background, nor their approach to training, study, or practice. These findings show that it is not an individual’s pursuit of excellence that leads them to fulfilment, it is their pursuit of fulfilment that leads them to excellence.
So how did “finding our purpose” – a phrase intended to inspire and drive us – lead so many of us to disappointment, frustration and even depression? It simply isn’t right. Might this suggest that we have been looking at “purpose” wrong all along?
In Unpurpose, I use a number of sportspeople, ordinary people and organizations from all corners of the world as examples of viewing purpose not as a goal, but as a way of life. Each example has had a disciplined approach to achieving their goals, no matter how long this has taken them. Many athletes spend their entire childhoods practicing just to be able to run a marathon in an Olympic arena. However, it is what happens after the goal is achieved – no matter how grandiose the goal may be – that I look at more closely throughout the course ofUnpurpose.
Indeed, working hard every day to accomplish a single, overarching goal means you have grit, determination and resilience, which are great attributes, but the ability to pull yourself together mentally and physically in competition is different from the challenges that await you beyond the sporting or corporate or entrepreneurial arena.
What awaits you is what has been there before the dreams of running a marathon or becoming a remarkable leader, mother, father, astronaut, teacher or whatever else you may have set your mind to. We need to remove the idea of “achieving it” and replace it with the idea of “living it.” By doing that we are shifting purpose from the pursuit of a goal to a way of life. Don’t reset – instead, unpurpose.