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Do you have a purpose?

March 24th, 2014

Ask this question to anyone and you’ll get many different answers ranging from: that’s my business, I don’t really have one, I want to be happy, to be content, to make a difference, to make lots of money, to have fun ….. etc. etc. The point is, it’s a personal thing, it quite like changes over time it may be inward looking or it may be outward or it may be both.

Simon Sinek has written a whole book on the need for a business and its leaders to have a “why”. In fact that’s the title Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. It’s a magnificent book and has some great ideas. So too has his recent book that I love called Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. This is a great read if you want a primer on why we humans behave the way we do and draw from that 5 lessons on leadership you could apply immediately to get greater team engagement.

However, at the end of the day we are all different. Sometimes I get the feeling that we somehow feel inadequate when we hear about the need to “purpose” or “why” in our life when in fact all we want to do is live a life that we enjoy (you could call it being happy) just getting along well with friends and family, deeply engaging with your children, doing work that’s reasonably rewarding but not necessarily life-changing or risky, taking care of your health through diet and exercise, and enjoying playing games or working at a hobby of some sort or maybe just sitting on the couch doing nothing at all.

The picture I’m trying to paint is one where it’s absolutely fine for you to live a life “with purpose” – your purpose rather than one that’s driven “by purpose” which is usually someone else’s concept of achievement. It’s a life that probably gives you balance between what you have to do to survive (the hunter & gathering aspect) and what you really enjoy doing which is normally something to do with relationships with people or mastery of something you find challenging.

A friend of mine alerted me to a cool presentation done by UK social commentator, Stephen Fry that summarizes where I’m coming from with this thought.

I frequently work frantically to help our clients enjoy a  better life by having a better business.  But occasionally, I pause and reflect on something I read a long time ago: social anthropologists have noted that (some) tribal communities of the world typically spend an average of only 3-4 hours per day engaged in hunting, gathering and making their shelters and tools. The rest of the time they engage in learning, story telling, singing, dancing and enjoying each other’s company.  Of course they are exposed to other dangers that we don’t face on a daily basis but it still begs the question – who has the higher standard of living?  I’ll leave you to figure that one out.

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