You don’t have a purpose. You pursue one. (3 reasons why.)

I worked with one international corporation that was intent on defining a purpose. The discovery was fruitful. And the workshop sessions were full of productive debate. In the end, we forged something that was relevant and meaningful. Something that evoked a sense of pride for all those involved.

Another success story, right? Well, yes and no.

Yes it was successful because the proven process delivered the clarity of purpose the organization sought. We all walked away feeling that some profundity had been captured. Unfortunately, the organization never bothered to walk back. It was like they had checked the box and called it a day. That profound purpose was all but left to gather dust in some binder on some executive's shelf.

Pursuing a purpose

The organization I mentioned treated purpose like it was some sort of talisman. Like a magical incantation that, if we just said it out loud, would transform everything.

That ain't how a purpose works. Yes, we hope to capture a purpose. But we must realize that we are capturing an ideal. An ideal that will inspire a unparalleled pursuit. It's not a goal to be reached. In fact, it is something we never fully attain. So why pursue it if you can't attain it? Because it is the pursuit that will yield innumerable benefits – year after year.

Here are three reason why purpose can fuel that rewarding pursuit.

  1. Purpose propels – working toward something larger than ourselves is irresistible. We are motivated by the idea of making a difference for our fellow man. When an entire operation adopts it, it can create a kind of momentum that's hard to stop.
  2. Purpose anchors – times will get tough. Knowing the right thing to do will have us feeling like we're swimming in murky waters. Returning to purpose gives clarity to all our decisions and actions. Because we have an unshakeable sense of what we're trying to do.
  3. Purpose inspires – purpose reminds us that we are part of something meaningful. When we feel that, we create a fertile mindset where big ideas can grow. Moreover, focusing on this larger meaning opens us to collaboration with our likeminded peers, which also fans the flames of innovation.

It's the pursuit that gives our work meaning. That breeds the excitement and energy we all want to feel as we greet each day.

It's a journey to discover a purpose. But what we shouldn't forget is that, when you get there, the real adventure is just beginning.