Want to know the hardest question you’ll have to answer in order to achieve your goals?
Here’s the question:
What's the big, juicy, emotional, hot-button purpose behind that goal?
Ugh. Seriously? Let me guess, you’re probably thinking something like “Come on! There has to be a better question than that one.”
It’s a zinger, right?
If you’re like most people, you didn’t immediately have an answer for that one, did you? How do I know? Because having been a coach for almost 14 years now I’ve asked a lot of people some version of that question, and most people just pause and say… “I don’t know.”
HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN ACTUALLY ANSWER THAT?
Napoleon Hill (author of Think and Grow Rich) asked over 25,000 people that question and found only 2% of people could give him an answer. Wow!
What’s more, he also found the people who went on to accomplish great things (some of the most successful people in the 20 century), were the 2% who could answer it. Fascinating.
He called the trait of the 2% “Definiteness of Purpose.”
It makes sense if you think about it. If you know exactly what you want, it’s a lot easier for the brain to go to work figuring out how to make that happen than if you can’t answer the question.
So then, if a sense of purpose is so integral to success, why is it answering the question so hard? Where do we start? And is it really that important to have a purpose? Let’s back up.
THE CRITICAL MISTAKE
Here’s what makes the question so hard to answer: When we hear the word “purpose” for some reason our default setting tends to jump to the end of life, to the idea of a lofty mission, a rallying cry, some grand cause that can quantifiably make the world a better place for large numbers of people.
Let’s not start there.
While I believe we all have the potential inside us to make such differences (and I think most people are living beneath their potential), I also think aiming at denting the universe with our life’s mission statement might make the whole exercise of finding our purpose feel a bit out of reach.
You with me so far?
A BETTER WAY TO FIND YOUR PURPOSE
Let’s start here: What’s the life you daydream about? You know the one I’m talking about; it’s that future you think about when you’re driving, or in the shower, or letting your thoughts wander to brighter days?
Where do you go? Who are you with? What are you doing? Pause and think…
Why am I asking? Well, because how you answer those questions leaves clues to what makes you tick. It offers insight into what’s really important to you…it points toward what can give your life a feeling of purpose.
SO WHAT DO YOU DAYDREAM ABOUT?
I’m guessing a large part of how you answered those questions had more to do with an emotional hot-button--rich experiences of romance, adventure, and family--than it did saving the world. Am I right?
Are you starting to see where this is going? To have a purpose doesn’t mean you need to inspire the masses. You may indeed do that someday, but first you need to feel inspired.
Let me give you a few examples of how a feeling of purpose grows and grows.
ARE YOU INSPIRED BY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING IDEAS?
Feeling in control of your own life
Having great sex
Traveling to new places
Throwing awesome parties
Raising kids who are excited to visit after they grow up
Getting accolades for a job well done
Giving generously to others
Ah…that feels more like it, doesn’t it? Are there steps you could take to make those things happen? Sure there are! See, you’re not purposeless. You were just over thinking it.
LET’S DRIVE THIS HOME
Here are two ways to start feeling inspired again:
Take any inspiring idea above, and think of one thing you could do to move toward that end. Do you see how that gives your actions some sense of purpose? If you do X action, you’ll be closer to Y result. Suddenly, you and X have purpose. Humble purpose perhaps, but purpose nonetheless.
Take any inspiring idea above and think of one thing that stands in the way of making it happen. Next, think of one (small is fine/preferred) thing you can do to start removing that obstacle. There’s always something.
Is this starting to make sense?
Can you see how developing a sense of life’s purpose is simply about scaling the above train of thought as you accomplish small wins.
As your wins grow, so will your sense of purpose, and a life lived on purpose is how you join the 2% who accomplish inspiring things.
BUT IS PURPOSE REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?
Here’s the deal: Without purpose, we humans flounder. We can’t help it. We are wired for purpose. Think about it, when your work feels menial or meaningless, are you inspired?
Why would we expect changing our health (or accomplishing anything else for that matter) to be any different?
If you can’t see why an important behavior matters, your motivation will never be strong enough to keep you on track.
BUT, if for example you can see how your health habits are disciplines that make your purpose possible, now those habits have meaning too.
HERE’S THE SECOND GREAT SECRET OF THIS ARTICLE
Just like the size of a fire determines the amount of heat it generates, a strong desire produces strong results. Weak desire produces weak results.
Here’s the key question. Is your desire for transformation commensurate with the size of the result you want? If it is, you’ll be unstoppable. If it isn’t, the inevitable friction of change, will burn you out?
If you’re not there yet, not to worry. This level of thinking takes a while to get used to. Keep reading. There are all sorts of other articles on this blog to help you find what’s really blocking you, and simultaneously strengthen your thinking and purpose muscles.
YOU GOT THIS
Here’s to you living life with purpose!
PS. If you want to speed up the process of your own transformation, check out Whole Human Coaching. I do this stuff all day, every day (well I do take a day off).
If you have a burning desire to change, we should chat. I may be just the secret weapon you need to put all the pieces together…and get you closer to that life you’ve been daydreaming about.
Have a question you'd like me to blog about? Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org