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When My Life Was Shaken

I found myself in a really challenging season of life and I finally started wrestling with my personal sense of purpose. In that particular time in my life, I felt like I was stuck—like the aspirations and goals I had for my life were far greater than the opportunities I saw in front of me.

I wanted more. More for myself, more for my family, more for my job, more for my purpose overall.

With clenched fists and trembling hands, I felt like I was barely holding on. I had reached a point of total surrender to the fact that something had to change. That there had to be more. That a better, lasting sense of purpose could be found.

Maybe the same is true for you. Maybe you recently had a big life change, and you're wondering which way is up. Perhaps you're on the brink of a new job, a new journey, or a new relationship, and you want to walk into it with the confidence of purpose to steady you. Maybe you're on the brink of an ending to your education, your career, your current season of life, and the new beginning ahead has you questioning your purpose in what's to come. Perhaps you're just waking up to the need for a strong sense of purpose for the very first time.

No matter the circumstance you are in, I admire you for taking the courageous step forward to ask and answer the big questions that are to come. The answers to which, I believe, will be foundational for every future moment, day, month, and year you have remaining in your one unique life.

Recently, I attended a prestigious conference in the United States. Surrounded by leaders from all over the world coming together to connect, learn, and work to solve some of the world's biggest problems, I was honored to be given a seat at the proverbial table. One specific session was focused on something I was deeply passionate about: purpose. Together, we were diving into the importance of purpose, both for us as individuals and within our organizations as a whole. To say I was excited to soak in the wisdom from CEOs for major global companies on this big and meaningful topic would be an understatement.

The first question the moderator asked was direct and powerful. "Aside from your job, what is it you as an individual are in service of? What is your personal purpose?" As she turned the question to the panel, I was on the edge of my seat, excited to hear what their answers—their personal purposes— would be.

What are you in service of? What is your personal purpose? One by one, they answered the questions, and one by one, their answers left me perplexed. A gentleman sitting near me let out an exhale. He knew it, too. In fact, the entire audience seemed to breathe a collective sigh of disappointment. These panelists weren't really answering the questions. They were, in effect, just listing their job descriptions. The panel went on for another half hour before the time came for Q&A. First up, an author raised his hand, stood up, and asked the question I can only assume we were all thinking.

"I'm a bit confused. At the beginning of this panel the question was, ‘What is your personal purpose?' Yet you all answered it with your job description and the purpose of your company. Could you help me understand how that relates to your personal purpose?" Again, they didn't answer the question. A quick follow-up question came when a gentleman from Ireland raised his hand. "I am twenty-seven, and I want to know, when you were my age, what was your purpose? And, if you didn't have one then, when did you identify it and what caused you to define it?"

My eyes went back to the panelists. This was their chance. I was sure they were going to clarify their answers. Surely this was the moment they would wade into the vulnerable waters of personal purpose with us. This was the moment they would help us see how we could go deeper, learn more, and actually discover a real sense of personal purpose for ourselves. But it wasn't. No matter what was asked or how many times they were given the chance to answer, the panelists couldn't get to the heart of it. They couldn't or wouldn't put words to their own individual purposes.

Inside, I imagined myself standing up and pushing further. "If you lost your job right now, if your global company called you and said, ‘I'm so sorry, but you're out of your seat,' I beg you to answer the question: What is your purpose?" I once struggled to articulate my personal purpose. Clearly those leaders on the stage struggled with the same thing.

But what if it didn't have to be that way? What if there is space for another resource on the topic of personal purpose? What if all of us could have a better chance at knowing and truly living out our purpose in life?

All the CEOs on the panel agreed that purpose mattered. They believed that if companies want to be around for 50+ years, a strong sense of purpose is a prerequisite. One said that knowing your purpose as a company is a way of future-proofing your brand. Another said that knowing purpose is central to the heartbeat of organizations. All their words ring true for their organizations, but the leaders didn't seem to realize they ring true for themselves—for us—too. If we as people want to future-proof ourselves and tap into the heartbeat of who we're created to be, knowing our personal purpose is crucial. Because you picked up this book, I think it's safe to say you agree. You believe that purpose matters enough that it's worth contemplating, but you may be struggling to articulate it for yourself.

Ready to reduce stress and live out of intention? Get your copy of The Strength of Purpose: A Guide to Knowing and Living Your Reason for Being and the accompanying Handbook: The Strength of Purpose Handbook: A Guide for Crafting Purpose, Journaling Progress and Setting Goals To Live Your Reason for Being.


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