Welcome back to Experimenting on Purpose

6. When your purpose changes

How to know if your purpose in life and work has changed, and what to do about it

Kim Soko Schaefer
May 30 · 9 min read

Well hello again and welcome back to our little chat: Experimenting on Purpose!

I began this series back in 2015 with an introduction of what purpose is and what it means to me, a look at how it can both affect and help solve many of the problems we face as a society in terms of the economy, how it affects our decision making abilities and works as our best motivator, how it can be used to help companies navigate a better future, and why it’s at the very heart of every design problem we’ve ever faced. And then I left you. Hanging. For 3.5 years with nothing to say. My only words now are that I’m sorry, I’m truly sorry. I’m human. I got sidetracked by other priorities…which brings me to today…

Change is a constant in life, even purpose changes

…Let’s talk about what happens when your purpose changes. Change is one of the few constants in our world. It’s inevitable. No one can stop it. Technology changes, politics change, culture changes, the planet changes, animals evolve, people change. And because of that, you’ll find that purpose will change as well.

When organizational purpose changes

Remember our example from Tesla, back in episode 1 of this little experiment? Well since then even Tesla’s had to adjust their purpose from ‘sustainable transport’ to ‘sustainable energy’ because of course they’ve expanded beyond cars…they’ve increased their scope.

www.tesla.com/about accessed in 2015
www.tesla.com/about accessed in 2019

When personal purpose changes

As far as a personal purpose goes, I think it’s safe to say that it changes with all of the major transitions in life: childhood, 20s, mid-30s, family, marriage, mid life crisis, retirement, health scares, someone close to you dying, etc.

I pursue happiness. It is the profit I aim to maximize for myself, my family and my community.

To:

I promote the wellbeing of my family, myself, and the entrepreneurs I’m lucky to support.

Wellbeing in this instance includes spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health as well as my overall sense of meaning and quality of life. I recently took a free online course on the Science of Happiness, which taught me that meaning + happiness = wellbeing and that’s really what I’m after. It doesn’t seem that different, but the subtleties are meaningful to me, and that’s what’s important.

“meaning + happiness = wellbeing”

I’ve also changed the order and description of the beneficiaries of my purpose. I had a kid (and I have another on the way!) and although I am still the most important person in my life, that is only so that I can best nurture, teach and support my children. My new family is my #1 priority in life. My purpose is to ensure that they can become the best, most true versions of themselves so that they are best suited to live out their own purpose, whatever that may be.

My purpose changer, last summer

Purpose changes with phases in life or business

I recommend every business and/or individual review their purpose at least annually…not with the explicit intention to change it, more so just as a check-in to make sure you’re still on the right path.

  • Does my purpose still feel relevant?
  • Is anything that is truly important in my life/business, missing from this purpose?
  • Is there anything represented in your purpose that no longer feels important?
  • What does your gut say?

Re-align your work to your new purpose

As a small business owner, I have the luxury of directly aligning my personal purpose with my professional purpose. I’m working on a whole process right now for how to show you guys how to do that, because it’s not exactly easy, but it also doesn’t have to be that complicated.

My purpose changed, and as a result, so did my actions.

So now I have a new purpose, and a new business, but I’ve also picked up some new habits and re-discovered some old ones I’d forgotten.

The path to purpose

I keep a google doc of ideas that I write in…sometimes every week…sometimes every month…sometimes once a year or so. And I recently read through the past 10 years (and 40+ pages!) of notes. What I learned is that I’ve really always been on the same path, but now it just makes more sense.

Next time, let’s talk about designing a life with purpose

As you can tell, I’m starting to evolve this conversation. From talking about Type I organizational purpose, to talking more about type II personal purpose and how entrepreneurs specifically benefit from the privilege of aligning personal and work purposes.


Hello, I’m Kim Soko Schaefer, the founder of Ways & Meaning, a curated collection of resources for mindful entrepreneurs.

Your reading list

PREVIOUSLY 5. Designing with Purpose

Experimenting on Purpose

Definitions, perspectives, case studies and research on Purpose. Click here [https://pages.convertkit.com/1abd5d2895/e039fddc2d] to get all the updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Kim Soko Schaefer

Written by

Founder, Ways & Meaning

Experimenting on Purpose

Definitions, perspectives, case studies and research on Purpose. Click here [https://pages.convertkit.com/1abd5d2895/e039fddc2d] to get all the updates delivered straight to your inbox.

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