When I speak of heart in this article, I am referring specifically to our heart’s purpose, inspired from within, deeply stirring us, leading us to take actions that matter most to us. In my work with clients, I find that many don’t have a clear idea about their purpose (often called mission) and how it differs from a vision.
To clarify, a purpose is not what I do, or how I do something (those are both part of one or more vision statements). It is why I exist and as an extension of me, why my business exists too.
A purpose has always been and always will be a positive focus of our life when we are most authentic, no matter what our outward circumstances and despite if we have defined our purpose or not. To many, if a purpose is recognized appropriately and applied to business, it may seem at first glance as if it’s vague, squishy, lofty, esoteric, overly feminine or spiritual, nice but relatively insignificant. It is anything but. And, if we have been excited by a particular vision over a long period of time, we may view revisiting our purpose as unnecessary, over-complicating things, even redundant.
A purpose holistically derived from our most meaningful experiences is one that deeply inspires us, centers us, motivates us, and provides a focal point from which we inspire, center, and motivate others. It is the touchstone we draw upon especially when times are tough, when we are tired or afraid or have lost our way, even if only for a moment. It is the stable foundation from which great things can grow and sustain long-term. From it, we determine our values, how we must behave and be in order to cause our purpose. Then, we determine visions for the way we express our purpose; the how and what we will do, create or accomplish.
I recently worked with an executive who, like many, had his purpose confused with one of his visions. Visions are chosen, hopefully fulfilled, and then replaced by new ones. In contrast, one’s purpose could be expressed in thousands of ways, can affect many or just one, and are not dependent upon a job or relationship. It is interior. Purpose permeates one’s being. My client’s purpose is, “to help people know their goodness and worth.” Knowing this is key to greater effectiveness for him.
Without awareness, he was missing opportunities to extend his purpose to intentionally and positively impact his vendors, employees, parents, donors, advisors and himself. His purpose can now inform his current and future business systems, his path to growth, his strategic plan, and all functions of his operations including sharing it to inspire all who resonate with one of his visions – to expand his organization.
One of his advisors said of his purpose, “It sounds too Zen, something applicable to the Dalai Lama, (who by the way is only one of the most powerful and influential people of our times, likely to be remembered for centuries). The abstract nature of a purpose can often seem at first glance, too ungrounded, impractical, heart-centered. It is in reality psychodynamic, the seat of our intrinsic motivation.
Awareness of one’s purpose leads to wisdom and actions arise from it. This helps one to stand firmly on a path because that path is aligned in a meaningful way. Our purpose is the yin to the yang, the emotion to the action, the heart to the head. Both are needed and both are less without the other. Without purpose, we act but tend to be blind to many right things that could be done or end up doing many right things in a very wrong way.
My purpose is to help create a world where people love their lives. One value I draw upon is leadership; honoring the power within (myself and others), with passion, determination, and fierce conviction, even when doing so is not fully valued or understood. Dive deep into the heart of the purpose for your business. Let it guide all your actions. Be zealous about it. You never know, you may be the next Dalai Lama the world desperately needs!
Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is CEO of LifeWork Systems. She can be contacted at 314-239-4727. Visit www.LifeWorkSystems.com/services/ to get a FREE report on your workplace.As published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly April 2015