Recalibrating your life and work: What’s your purpose?

It seems like many people today are numbing themselves from life, but few people are talking about it. In parts of the western world, we have created a fast food culture that celebrates busyness and efficiency. ‘Doing more with less’ is the presumed goal to be achieved, before we even ask the fundamental question of why we need to do more or less in the first place. The questions “what is our foundational purpose” gets lost in the race to the top. And what happens when we reach the coveted top?

I recently talked to a woman who was changing careers and pursuing her dream of becoming a writer. She published her book, after many years, and became a New York Times best-selling author. Everyone around her congratulated her on achieving her dream. But inside, she felt nothing. She asked herself, “now what?” and realized that she was more focused on the end goal than on her purpose of wanting people to experience her storytelling. It was only when she held public book readings that she managed to have deeper conversations about the messages in her book, and then she had a better understanding of what resonated with her community.

In our pursuit of success, we have lost pieces of ourselves. We may have checked items off our societal list of accomplishments, such as education, marriage, and kids, but deep inside we may still wrestle with our foundational purpose of why we are here. And the work to become whole again and integrate our own pieces is where some people numb themselves, because it is really hard work. In fact, this type of work is much harder than making a living by having a job or a career. It is the work of being true to ourselves and continuing to explore our deeper purpose. It is treating life with the deepest respect.

The opportunity in front of each of us is to become whole — not separate ourselves into a professional self and a personal self, and then try to reach a mythical work-life balance. What is possible is not only to see life as an adventure but also find ways to practice this integration. This is especially true on the edges of business as well.

Imagine what our world would look like if more organizations had a very clear purpose. If your organization has a very clear purpose, then every person interacting with your organization — whether an employee, customer, partner, vendor, or community member — could tie their purpose to yours. Then you wouldn’t need an elevator pitch or any complex marketing strategy. You would just need to have clarity of purpose and be able to convey why your products, services and/or experiences would delight the people who engage with your organization. As Seth Godin writes, no one ever bought anything in an elevator.

We can bring human-centered design and implementation into daily life

Ask yourself, what if life is one big adventure, and work is just part of this whole big trek? What then? Would you try something else that fulfills your purpose, or would you wait to retire from an unfulfilling job or career? It’s a choice.

It takes a 21st century leadership mindset to thrive in the coming decades, where more people will be choosing themselves when they awaken to their bold voice in a world that tries to make us like everyone else. What do you choose to create for yourself, your business, your community, and our planet? What’s your purpose? What are you longing for?

There is something remarkable happening on this journey called life.

Ayelet Baron is an author, entrepreneur, coach, and speaker. Along with her unlikely partners, she is creating a new way forward for business and offering a bridge to 21st century leadership. Her recent book, Our Journey to Corporate Sanity, is not just another business book — it brings together 33 visionary leaders whose transformational stories can help us recognize that we are in the human-to-human era where purpose and experiences matter more than mere transactions. It was recently reviewed on Actionable Books.

It is time for conscious 21st century leaders to drive shared purpose in becoming whole, integrate our teams around new ways of being, and co-create in trusted communities and unlikely partnerships.

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