We each have a deep felt need for meaning in this life. I have had the opportunity to travel to many different countries around the world, and consistently I see that we all yearn for a sense of meaning or purpose. We all want to belief that there is a reason for life. This question comes in many shapes and forms, but it sounds something like “What am I hear for?” or “What is the meaning of life?”
At some point of another, we all have these thoughts or questions. The problem is, many of us seem to dismiss the idea of “purpose” or “meaning in life” as some kind of fairytale, abstract thought, or crazy concept — one that we will never come to understand, let alone personally discover.
Over the past few years I have been personally wrestling with the concepts of purpose. As a young professional in Dallas, TX, I have watched my counterparts (and myself for that matter) chase after money, power, pleasure, etc. to eventually get caught up in the perpetual state of breathing, consuming and sleeping, as a continual cycle of life.
I observed this mind-numbing trend, but it was not until my first semester of my doctoral program that I begin to put a name to what I was noticing.
I keenly noticed that were some people that were driven by a pursuit of something greater. There were those who were driven by a belief that they were fulfilling a purpose (some valuable aim which benefited others that was beyond the intrinsic). There is subset of people who believe that they are contributing to something greater than themselves, and that in this pursuit they have meaning and happiness. They have a deep understanding of their purpose in life. And they understand how they are fulfilling that purpose through very practical and specific ways in their career and personal life.
I began to zero in on this idea, and came to call it “purpose in life” or “meaning” for the individual. Purpose is the reason something is done, created, or for which something exists.
I believe that the understanding for one’s “purpose in life” is a journey of self-exploration, self-awareness and actualization. This is a journey that is different for each individual, but I think we can use certain tools to enable this discovery: Finding Purpose.
The Source of Purpose
As a Christian, I am led by my belief that there is a one-true God and that through his son Jesus Christ, we can ultimately find meaning for this life. It is through accepting his son Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, can we come to know this. I believe this to be true because of my personal experiences with Jesus Christ that I have encountered in my life, and in the lives of those around me.
The bible tells us in Psalm 139:13-16 that God “created my inmost being; He knit us together in our mother’s womb … we are fearfully and wonderfully made; His works are wonderful … All the days ordained for us were written in His book before one of them came to be.” Also, Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The fact that we are breathing and living on this planet tells us that we have a purpose. The Lord has prepared us in advance to do good works, He is not done with us yet if we are still alive.
We have been made with purpose and each of us have a reason for living. It is our ultimate purpose to bring Him glory with the various aspects of our life. Following Christ is the greatest adventure that each of us will ever have, it is an adventure and life of purpose. The question is, in what way or through what vocation will you live your purpose?
To read more about how purpose contributes to organizational leadership, read the blogs titled: Exceptional Leaders lead with Purpose and Finding Purpose on the Job – Motivating the Millennial Workforce.
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There has not been a shortage of criticism for the millennial generation and their recent entry into the workforce. Heavily entitled, lacking communication skills, as well as critical thinking abilities, many believe the millennial generation wanders into the workforce unprepared, and lacking motivation to perform at expected levels. Millennial, if you want to know what I am talking about, check out the blog titled: The Top Job Skills Needed for Future Graduates.
As we look at the state of the workforce, and the development needs of our millennial generation, I believe a primary reason for this lack of preparedness in the millennial is due to a gap between their purpose (or) personal meaning, and a connection of personal meaning to their vocations.
The Millennial Difference
Today the millennial generation focuses much of its attention on careers that have a strong sense of meaning, fun, or exciting work, as well as opportunities for personal, professional, and intellectual growth. For the millennial, compensation and security does not hold the same powerful motivation to perform at one’s job as it did for their parent’s generation. For the millennial it is much more about the adventure and the impact!
Second, the millennial generation wants to feel a part of their organization, many times they want to be a part of a community. The millennial wants to do work together, they want to know they are valued, and they want to know you will be alongside them through the journey. For an example, read the previous blog titled: Let’s do War, Together.
This is very interesting to know, because if you are an organizational leader with a millennial team, then you cannot utilize the same development and motivation techniques used with previous generations. The way to motivate the millennial subset of the workforce is vastly different than the generations ahead of them, IE: the baby-boomers, generation x.
I have found that directly mentoring a millennial worker is an excellent source of motivation and increased job performance. Specifically, I suggest having intentional conversations on purpose, meaning, personal self-discovery and their future outlook.
I have found that when the millennial identifies a purpose for their life (or at least begins that self-exploration journey), and then connects that purpose to their vocation, their job takes on a relevance and personal meaningfulness that might otherwise lack. As a result, job performance sky-rockets. In this way, purpose can serve as an important source of achievement motivation.
As the millennial generation continues to become of age and enters the workforce, we as organizational leaders must take the opportunity to engender trust and motivate this new group of workers by aiding them to the discover their purpose (or) meaning and connect that to their organization and their job. This connection of purpose to an individual’s job responsibility resonates heavily to some of the values that the millennial generation holds to be of critical importance. IE: sense of meaning, exciting work, personal and intellectual growth. In fact, the millennial is willing to constantly job hop in order to find these things.
In short, give it a shot to mentor the millennial. Have regular, intentional conversations. Take “teachable moments” to show them new ideas or something valuable they do not know (you may even learn a thing or two yourself). Help the millennial find purpose in themselves and their work. I promise you will not be disappointed!
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We each have a unique story to tell. Our authentic story, lived out in a real way, gives us tremendous influence to make a lasting impact on others.
Think about this for a moment.
As individuals, God has equipped each of us with a unique mix of skills & abilities, a distinctive personality & behavior, and certain passions & desires. These things have been given to us as a “tool belt” by God to use in this life. Our “tool belt” equips us with the tools necessary to accomplish our purpose in life. In addition, the “experiences” we encounter also give us a very unique perspective in order to share our stories with others. The good, bad and even ugly experiences in our life come together to help shape our authentic story.
Romans 8:28 and Ephesians 2:10 from the bible remind us that God works for good in all things for those who love him, and also that we have been created in Christ Jesus long ago for His purposes to do good works.
By sharing our authentic story or “experiences”, as well as the wisdom learned from them, we find a valuable way to influence, inspire, develop and serve others.
Our “tool belt” and “experiences” come together to shape who and what we are under Christ. In fact, we really are a mix of these elements; it is the combination of these items that shape our authentic story. The trick is to understand these things in an intimate and vulnerable manner. This is what it means to be Self-Aware. Self-Awareness, or the understanding of one’s self to an intimate and vulnerable extent, is the beginning to authentic, influential leadership.
As a young professional growing up, many times I tried to mimic others whom I perceived to be successful in life or business. I found that while this process revealed a wonderful amount of insight and knowledge, I always seemed out of place. Often times I found this was a mistake, I would end up mimicking something that I was not. I felt like I was constantly trying on clothes that did not fit quite right.
What resulted was a realization that I needed to spend time focusing my efforts on understanding “Who I Was”; this included an intimate understanding of my “tool belt” and what my life “experiences” meant.
God has created each of us to be unique. When we try to act as how we see others, the result will not be authentic. In fact, when your leadership is perceived as unauthentic, the results will not build trust, nor will it provide meaning and purpose for your life.
There are two important concepts which are vital for leaders to understand: (1) Unauthentic leadership does not last, and (2) Self-awareness is the beginning for discovering authentic leadership.
Authenticity is a key trait for developing as an influential leader. Now, as a higher education administrator, and someone who spends a great deal of time with college students, I intentionally encourage others to discover and understand who they are.
Taking time to discover your “tool belt” and “experiences before God will lead to a greater understanding of “Who you Are”. Furthermore, this will lead you to help discover what your purpose in life is, which is tied to your authentic and unique story that you can share with others.
One of the reasons for building this website and blog was to encourage others to discover their “tool belt” as well as what life “experiences” make up who they are. When we use our “tool belt” and “experiences” in the way they are intended, God will use our life in a tremendous way to influence others and for making a lasting impact.
I would like to invite you to take check out our page: Finding Purpose
This page offers a variety of different assessments which have been put together to aide you in discovering your “tool belt”. Complete these assessments and then record your personal results from each of them. Additionally, I suggest taking time to map out the major experiences encountered in your life. These are all breadcrumbs from God which can assist you to discovering your purpose in life.
We each have an authentic story to tell, what’s yours?
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What does shoe shopping have to do with finding purpose? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s start by picturing yourself in a large shoe store, very similar to the store shown below:
There are rows and rows of shoes with different colors, sizes, shapes and materials. As you peruse through the rows of shoes, you begin to see certain styles and colors that appeal to you. Selecting a few different shoe styles, you begin to try them on, one by one, to see which fits most comfortably. You begin asking yourself, which shoes look the best on you, and which shoes best fit the purpose and reason for their purchase?
Finding purpose, is a lot like shoe shopping.
As we described earlier in this site, Purpose is a deep rooted set of values in which you believe that what you are doing is worthwhile and will have a positive and beneficial impact on others and society. Purpose in Life is the foundation in which all else of a fulfilled life and impactful career is derived. People that have a greater sense of purpose in their lives, resulting from a heightened level of self-awareness, tend to perform to greater extents than their counterparts and are more fulfilled and happy in their lives. Purpose in Life begins from a very intimate, vulnerable understanding on one’s self, including one’s skills & abilities, personality & behavior, passions & desires, as well as a willing and prayerful heart for God’s direction.
From my years of working with college students and in higher education administration, I have found everyone’s process to find purpose is very different. However, I have noticed a particular trend that involves focusing on these areas: (1) skills & abilities, (2) personality & behavior, (3) passions & desires, (4) a willing and prayerful heart for God’s direction.
No one, apart from God, can find your own purpose in life. It is up to the individual to start their journey to see what skills & abilities, personality & behavior, passions & desires they have, and then begin to see what shoe fits. All we can do is take others to the shoe store, provide advice based on our own experiences, and point them in the right direction. The size, style and color is up to the wearer.
If you decide to take this journey, you will encounter some very hard and sometimes scary truths about yourself. However, it is in those moments of vulnerable self-awareness that you can understand what experiences (both good and bad) that have shaped you overtime. I encourage you to map out your skills & abilities, understand your personality & behavior, and cultivate your passions & desires — then bring this all back to God and ask Him what He wants you to do with it.
The bible tells us in 1 John 5:14-15 that if we have confidence to ask in His name and in His will, our Lord will answer us.
I encourage you to begin the journey to understand purpose, you need to start to mediate and “unpack” these areas about yourself.
It’s time to go shoe shopping!
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