Key Point: I talk to so many people who are confused and/or frustrated about determining their life purpose. Unfortunately a lot of psychobabble has added to the “guilt quilt ” on this topic for lots of folks. It’s like one day you wake up and should know your life’s purpose. The reality is that determining one’s purpose is a uniquely personal journey and for MOST of us mortals, it is a process and not an event. It normally evolves over years. The best work on having a framework for honing in on our life purpose comes from Harvard’s Clayton M. Christensen. Read on for a digestible guide. For a more complete examination read his (along with James Allworth and Karen Dillon) new book…How Will You Measure Your Life?
1. Determine Likeness:
Likeness is the definition of who you want to become. The likeness you draw will only have meaning and value if you deeply think and act to become what you aspire to. It can sound like “mush” to an outsider. It is uniquely important to you because you have given deep consideration in adopting it. Christensen’s likeness statement is:
* A man who is dedicated to help improve the lives of other people.
* A kind, honest, forgiving and selfless husband, father and friend.
* A man who just doesn’t believe in God, but who believes God.
2. Becoming Committed.
The likeness statement is aspirational. So how does one become deeply committed enough to make it a guide to daily living? The gratification comes from aspiration translating into day to day practice. You need to know your likeness is right for you by continually asking yourself “who do I truly want to become?” Being committed to the likeness is VERY hard work. It is not always convenient. It takes constant practice and work. You will get challenged all the time. Your likeness takes shape through the application of all the little daily parts of your life. Every once in a while, an elephant size spoonful of “life test” is served up to stress test your resolve. But most comes about in our daily habits. For example, if you want to be a highly respectful and caring person, you can smile to your neighbor in the grocery store, but giving him the famous finger when you’re in a traffic squeeze is a step in the wrong direction. (But hey… It’s not about being perfect).
Stay tuned for next week’s blogs for the rest of the “purpose story.” In the meantime:
- Give yourself meaningful time to check in where you are regarding your life’s purpose journey. What likeness aspirational statements have you clearly defined? What could you do to sharpen the aspirational definition if you haven’t done so already?
- Honestly reflect on how committed you are to what you aspire to become. What is evolving well? What’s tricky? What could you do more of? Less of? Stop? Start?
- Ask a dear trusted advisor how they see you relative to your purpose statements? Try not to be defensive. Learn.
- Enjoy where you are in the journey. If you’re breathing, it is NEVER too late to start the rest of your life.
Life’s purpose and The Character Triangle,