Talking about purpose can quickly conjure images of Mother Teresa, Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr.; people whose lives reflected a clearly and publicly defined sense of meaning. It can also trigger a sinking feeling in your gut if you feel confused by a lack of clear purpose in your life and how to find it. Sometimes, talking about purpose can even elicit a big yawn from those who think it’s too theoretical to apply to their life, and especially to their career.
But a growing body of research strongly suggests that exploring your own sense of purpose is an especially wise way to invest your time and emotional energy.
“The amount of evidence accumulating showing that purpose is worth having is really quite impressive,” says Director of the Purpose and Identity Processes Laboratory and Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, Anthony Burrow, Ph.D. “But people should be even more impressed by the fact that everyone has the potential to find that thing. It’s hard to point to anything else in the psychological literature that seems as promising as having a strong sense of purpose in life,” he shares in video interviews.
The practical value of purpose
You can dig into the importance of tuning into your why
and learn practical approaches to better understand and develop your professional and personal purpose at WFF’s new Leadership Development Workshops
, Renewed Purpose. Renewed You.
launching in September streaming live and in-person in select locations.
In a featured session titled Lead and Live On Purpose
, certified leadership and professional development coach, Jovian Zayne, will help participants explore what she calls “the breadcrumb moments” that point to deep-seated values, expand self-understanding and lead to a greater grasp of your unique purpose. Zayne leads The OnPurpose Movement®, a firm committed to helping individuals and organizations "live and work on purpose.”
“Purpose is something you identify over time as you grapple with your sense of identity, and it is something you both uncover and cultivate throughout many different seasons in your life,” Zayne explains. She describes both “big P” purpose that can act as a grounding force and source of meaning throughout your life, as well as “little p” purpose that revolves around more transient areas of focus, such as a commitment to specific career development activities, volunteer work or cultivation of new hobbies and skills.
When people lack a fundamental sense of purpose, Zayne says it can lead to difficulty managing stress and anxiety, a lack of clarity and joy, and a sense that you are operating on autopilot or by accident.
Purpose rises to the occasion
Burrow’s research demonstrates that having a sense of purpose helps people deal with challenges in healthier, more optimistic ways. Purposeful people tend to react less to challenges and recover from them more quickly. They maintain a more even keel emotionally in the face of both positive and negative circumstances.
In a series of studies exploring the impact of receiving positive feedback on social media, Burrow found that “likes,” not surprisingly, gave most people a boost in self-esteem. However, people with a greater sense of purpose showed less reactivity to the positive feedback. Their sense of purpose helped provide a greater feeling of direction in their life and confidence in where they were going that relied less on external validation. “It’s worth cultivating this sense of purpose because it has real value in our everyday lives,” he advises.
Build purpose now
As the extreme challenge of COVID-19 continues, disconnecting people from many of the things that helped to make work feel more purposeful, such as relationship with others, Zayne urges that now is an especially important time to cultivate your sense of purpose. Consider these starting points.
- Continue to build and connect to your tribe. Surround yourself with the people who both see the best in you and who ask the tough questions that help you stretch to your potential. They will help you increase your self-awareness and remember the moments when you have felt most alive.
- Review your core values. Look at where you spend your most precious resources (time, money and body) and whether those investments align with what you care about most.
- Explore the moments you have felt most connected to who you are. Ask yourself, “If no one were watching, what would I be doing?” How do you want the world to be better because of your life?
- Try new things. Engaging in new activities can remind you of things you naturally love to do and provide a sense of what might be missing in your life.
“Every life and every career will be filled with ups and downs,” Zayne adds. “When you are living on purpose, you have a sense of conviction about what you’re doing even in those downturns, and a greater sense of the up that will follow it.”
Take the first step to better understanding and capitalizing on your sense of purpose when you REGISTER
for the 2021 Leadership Development Workshops and discover Renewed Purpose. Renewed You