Why Worry About "Why?"
In 1997, five years before Rick Warren penned The Purpose Driven Life, career counselor and executive coach Richard Leider published The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work. Considered a classic in the field of personal development, this book and his eight others have sold over one million copies and have been translated into twenty languages.
As the founder of Inventure-The Purpose Company, Richard has championed the passionate pursuit of on-purpose living with over 100,000 leaders in world-class companies. His influence is about to increase exponentially; he was tapped by AARP to be the Chief Curator of content for the organization's Life Reimagined Institute, inspired by his book Life Reimagined, co-authored with Alan Webber.
It was an earlier Leider book, however, that forever endeared me to this gentle man and his purposeful work. Just reading the title, Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life, spoke solace to my heavy heart in 1994. I didn't then have the perspective, much less the languaging, for what I was experiencing, but this Leider guy got me. I was without purpose, in the "nowhere between two somewheres," as one life chapter was sputtering to a close and my "next" was not yet visible. I couldn't travel to exciting new vistas of possibility, he persuaded, if I didn't jettison worn-out ways of seeing, being and doing that my self and soul had outgrown.
I could not then have imagined that nine years later, I would be a coach, running my own business, and speaking at the same coaching conference for which Dick Leider was the keynote speaker! He taught our circle of coaches how to ask questions which would uncover, refine, or renew a client's purpose. We learned how to integrate their "why" (purpose) into a compelling "what" (vision) and a viable "how" (plan). Most importantly, we reviewed our own purpose statements, and held our lives up to those templates. Were our investments of time and attention an exemplary expression of our gifts, passions, and values? Were we modeling lives being lived "on purpose?"
In The Power of Purpose, Richard describes how he asks older adults this question:
"If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?"
The answers always theme around these three things:
* Be more reflective
* Be more courageous
* Be clear earlier about purpose
Leider states, "It's tempting to ignore the question of purpose in life, since the consequences of our neglect usually don't show up until crisis points or toward the very end of our lives. Thus, we unconsciously spend much of our energy staying busy, building a lifestyle and making a living. Yet, when we scratch under the surface of our drive for making a living, what's there?"
Coaching claims space for more reflection, more courage, and more clarity around purpose, no matter what goal or issue is identified at the outset. Because purpose is our reason for being, our "why," it's not a stretch to say that reaching most goals ultimately depends upon a strong connection to purpose.
A goal anchored in or pointing to purpose helps us push through our habitual patterns, inertia, and resistance to change. If there's a direct link between what we want to achieve and why we believe we are here, now, in this one wondrous, God-given precious life, we'll get there with less angst. If a case can't be made that reaching a particular goal will bring us more fully into our best selves and highest use, we'll run out of gas when fear and lethargy hijack our good intentions.
That said, I have deep respect for those sacred and mysterious times in each of our lives when passion fades, purpose feels elusive, and goals seem pointless. It is during those days (weeks, months, years) of waiting and wondering that the companionship of a coach can be most transformative.
If you want to pursue purpose in your own life, or support a coachee in that quest, the link below is a great starting point for productive dialogue:
I'll sign off by sharing my recently re-crafted purpose statement, and thanking you for allowing me to live my purpose through our coaching collaboration.
"The purpose of my life is to bring light, depth, and heart to my beloveds, my clients, and my community."