Personal Leadership: How to Regain a Sense of Purpose, I/II
9 Jan 2019 | Organizations & Leadership
Working with leaders, one expects they are the ones who have it all sorted out. A leader is the person who defines vision, who gives clarity, who provides purpose to an organization. He or she is the one to lead the way and inspire others into action. But what happens if a leader gets stuck and gets lost somewhere along the way? Leader or not, this happens to each of us at different times of our lives. Somewhere along life’s journey, we question our own purpose and meaning of life.
To question or not to question
We question purpose at different stages in life: when we are setting off on our life journey, when we find our reality doesn’t match our dreams, and sometimes when we have a life-changing experience, whether professional, health, relationship or family related. For those who are setting off on their life journey, I would like to invite you to Part II (coming soon), which is written specifically for millennials and generation Z. However, this article will also be relevant to you, so read on.
Yes, you might tell me, you have purpose and meaning all sorted out. You knew exactly what you wanted to be from a young age, and you have lived that life, got the dream job, the dream family, the dream home. Things can always be a little bit better, but life at present is good and you are content and fulfilled. If you are one of these people, you are blessed and this is a good place to be. But please read on, there is a bit in this article for you as well.
How to lead yourself when life changes
Sometimes, we reach a certain age and think, “Hey, this is not the life I planned, I was supposed to be a …, have a …, drive a …, make …$ and ….,” which for many is that mid-life crisis or wake up call. Sometimes, the decisions we take following this realization are rational, many times they are irrational, shocking ourselves and people around us.
And then sometimes, we question our purpose after we experience a life-changing event: surviving an accident, losing someone we love, having our heart broken, becoming stateless, losing our job, breaking our family unit. The experiences have different levels of intensity: the accountant who loses his dull job is devastated for a time but then realizes he hated that job and finds his passion in gardening, or the political scientist who quits her job and opens her dream café, etc. (Yes, true stories, you know who you are!)
The more intense life-changing experiences, however – like losing someone we love, being taken ill – this, of course, is much harder.
It takes time, patience, love, kindness and resilience to fight back. Do we ever recover? I am not sure.
There will always be a hole, a bit of black on a white canvas. But gradually, in time, other colors appear, maybe the canvas grows larger. We learn to build a life around that hole, so the hole becomes smaller and things around it larger and more present.
There comes a time, however, after the stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression, when we reach acceptance and we begin to feel comfortable with the unknown, when we open our minds and hearts and that is when the learning begins. The hole does not disappear, but we learn to accept, live and love. And we wonder, Why? What was it for? What life do I want to lead? If you are here, at the point of acceptance and you are asking these questions, my experience has shown that most people come out stronger, more focused, more aware, more alive. We experience survival and revival. But for this to happen, one needs to build awareness, and to question and reflect deeply.
Wherever you are on your journey, whether you question your purpose or whether you are blessed and grateful, I find it is always a good exercise to come back to our core from time to time and question our values. What grounds you? What are your principles? Where do you get energy, inspiration and passion? What is your number one priority?
There are many tools to explore purpose. Here are some I like to work with:
Part 1: Reflect, re-align and refine your values and vision
Make some quiet reflection time for you, take a journal, one page per topic and start filling the pages:
● Remember times when you were at your highest and best
● What did you play, do, bring, share, learn, discover, enjoy?
● Who are key influencers in your life? Why? What qualities do they have
● Create your vision board. There are loads of resources, check out: https://blog.mindvalley.com/vision-board/
● Get feedback from several key people on what they would consider are your top skills and strengths. Where and how have you exhibited this skill / strength?
What are your key take-aways? Review this information. This exercise helps you reflect, re-align and refine your strengths, passion, and joy, but it also allows you to explore your vision of the future; the life you want to lead, your dreams and aspirations.
Part 2: Plan next steps for more fulfillment
They say fulfillment is reached through:
● Experiences I want to have
● How I want to grow and develop
● How I give back to the world
The below are some tips, tools and strategies to bring more fulfillment into your life.
● Identify and do something regularly that brings you joy
● Find a little “me” time each day, walk to work, drive and sing out loud to your favorite music, meet friends, spend a Sunday morning reading in a café, on a beach, in a park
● Push yourself just a little out of your comfort zone, learn something new, pick up a language, travel somewhere alone, go zip-lining
● Do some form of meditation, mindfulness or daily exercise routine
● Keep a gratitude journal or find your personal mantra that inspires you to action
● Go out of your way to do an act of kindness for someone
Work on these things: make them a habit, plan them into your day and week, and review your progress on a regular basis.
What has changed? What has improved? What can you still improve?
Bear this in mind as you continue your journey. As you write all this down and make a plan, come back in a year and review. Do this annually. Ask yourself, are you more fulfilled? Are you living a life with more purpose and alignment?
In Mo Gawdat’s words, ask yourself, “What’s the best that can happen?” and live your life with intention.
And as a final note, some of my favorite resources on the topic of purpose are:
Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything by Victor J Strecher
Finding your Own North Star by Martha Beck
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat
And of course, if all else fails, listen to Baz Luhrmann’s song: Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI)
Organizations & Leadership
Leading organizations understand that it takes the right people with the right capabilities to execute, sustain and optimize change.
Dr. Pari Namazie | Managing Partner
Pari is a coach, consultant and facilitator and has over 25 years of experience as an intercultural, HR and organizational improvement consultant to multinational and international companies.
Dr. Pari Namazie
Pari is a coach, consultant and facilitator and has over 25 years of experience as an intercultural, HR and organizational improvement consultant to multinational and international companies. Read more
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