Whenever something similar happens to me more than two times in a week, I take notice. These often become the themes for my blog posts. This week, I ran across this bumper sticker, and I thought to myself, that’s the third time I have seen something on purpose this week, there might be something there.
I just recently found my purpose. I am opening my own coaching business May 1 – Help Your Team Grow – to help managers with leadership development and personal strategy. While I am very excited about it, I am also quite terrified. Why you ask?
Focus is hard
Focus means prioritizing what you need to do, and choosing not to do the things you just want to do. You only have so much time in the day, and you can only do so much. It better be aligned with your purpose. Often, when I help organizations build their strategic intent, I advise, it’s just as much about choosing what you will do, as it is choosing what you will not do. Same goes for your purpose. It needs to be specific and focused. For me, it’s helping teams and businesses grow by coaching managers to be better leaders. I can say that in a short sentence. It doesn’t take long to explain. People get it when I tell them.
The path to identifying my purpose was not easy. As I pursue my purpose, I wanted to pause and think about how I got here. It’s been a journey. My first step was to take an inventory of my passions to identify and prioritize what I truly loved to do. Once I had narrowed my focus, I talked to people that did it well. Then, I made it happen.
Find your passion
Do you enjoy doing your job in your “free time”? Would you voluntarily show up at work without a paycheck? I imagine most of you shaking your head no to these questions. Based on my experience, I have found this to be a rare thing. It doesn’t have to be. I remember it all clicked for me when a client called me on a Saturday, and I gladly picked up the phone and helped talk him through a people problem he was facing on his team. I enjoyed it. The fact that I was going to have a real impact on this person and his team was very meaningful to me. I did not perceive it to be “work”. I was working for free. I challenge you to think of moments like that when you may have experienced something like this. Keep your mind open to lots of possibilities, asking yourself, “If I could do any line of work, what would I do?” Even if it’s not feasible, chances are something tangential to that exists.
Ask those you trust and know you well to describe your purpose to you. Sometimes others see things in ourselves that we have trouble seeing ourselves. This happened to me a year ago when I reached out to a trusted advisor of mine for advice, and she told me about a job opening on her team for a career coach. I had never considered that line of work, but she saw something in me I did not see myself. It just took me a year to discover it. Take time to reflect on similar experiences you may have had.
Once you have narrowed your focus, write it down. Make sure it’s just a sentence or two long. Concise and to the point. Test it with those you trust and know you well, and if they say “I get it”, chances are you did it right. If not, get the feedback, and fine-tune – it’s an iterative process.
Connect with purpose
Once you’ve got the purpose focused, find the people that have pursued a similar purpose. You want to surround yourself by those that have been there, done that. Chances are you are not the first person to think of a similar purpose, so lean on those to help you. You need to learn from people that have done it well. And, if their purpose is tried and true, these people are very likely to help you. All you have to do is ask.
I recently met with our CEO. Previously, she led a successful leadership development coaching business for many years. She’s exactly the type of person I should be connecting with. During our discussion, she challenged me to articulate the rationale for my purpose through “tell me more” probing. She got me to a much deeper purpose than I had ever even acknowledged to myself. To me, it’s about creating a legacy of better leaders for my daughter and step-daughter to live in a better world. That’s purpose. But, I needed a poke to get me there. Good mentors, advisors, coaches can help you get you there. Normally, I would have been hesitant to ask for more of her time. But, having this deeper recognition of my purpose, I had no issue asking for more of her time. Because she connected with my purpose, this incredibly busy woman said absolutely.
Make it happen
So, you have your purpose focused, you have connected with people that have done it well, now it’s go time. Time to pull the trigger. I have to admit, this took me a while. I found a million reasons to delay this. But, it’s never going to be the ideal time. You will always be able to find excuses to procrastinate what you know you need to. Don’t do it. Take the leap – your purpose is vital to your long term success and happiness as a person. It’s a primal, human need.
Knowing that this is the toughest part, here are a few things that I have seen work well. Do whatever you can to get an early win. I had this happen a few months ago when I was presenting to a large, skeptical audience of leaders. Through confidence and purpose, I was able to make a real impact on their trust and respect. That success was my tipping point. I realized that this line of work needed to be my full focus. Another tip, invest the time. The start of for any purpose takes some nurturing. Make a 30-60-90 day plan giving it the time it needs to work. Hold yourself accountable for the three things you can do weekly to pursue your purpose. Spread the word to others. In spreading the word of my purpose, I have had people volunteering to help me achieve it. It’s amazing how much support you get when people know you are serious. I used to say things like “I am toying with an idea” in a weak tone – now I say confidently and proudly – “I am starting my own coaching business to help managers be better leaders” – and people respond completely differently. They respond with intrigue and enthusiasm, and often refer clients to talk to me. I don’t have to sell it, purpose sells itself.
So, what’s stopping you from pursuing your purpose?