By Tom Davidson
Why go to this much trouble to discover what you do? Isn’t it enough that you keep your organization out of trouble, keep your elected officials relatively happy, and get everyone home safely at the end of each day?
No, not if you want to:
- Leave your best legacy of leadership.
- Make better decisions and effective career choices.
- Cope with chaos with calm and clear priorities.
- Maintain a big-picture, long-term perspective when surrounded by weeds.
- Have more energy for the work and have more fun.
Discover Your Purpose
While it may be tempting to adopt Anthony Romanello’s answer to John’s question as your answer, you’ll be missing the experience and the meaning for yourself.
Here are three things to do with a common theme—archaeology—the painstaking process of looking for bits and pieces of data and then putting them together in the right pattern. Because it can be difficult to see your own data, you may wish to get the help of a qualified coach or trusted mentor.
1. Look at what you are already doing.
Write down everything you do for 30 days. Put it in any form you like, but include everything without filters or judgment.
At the end of 30 days, reorganize the data into a mind map that groups your activities by purpose, impact, and value to others.
What is the meta-purpose shown in your current activities?
2. Look at what you want to do.
Try visualization exercises like the one below that illuminate clues as to your unique purpose. Many more can be found online or through coaches. Close your eyes. Envision yourself as running a scanner machine like those at the airport, but yours is magic and represents your impact on others. As people move through your scanner, envision how they change.
What impact are you having on people as you envision people experiencing your leadership?
3. Look at what you have done.
In this exercise, your objective is to catalog the most significant accomplishments in your life thus far, “significant” in terms of how you think of their unique meaning and impact on others.
Have someone ask you for specific stories in answer to questions like these and help you listen to your answers. What are you most proud of? What has really made a difference? What kind of difference have you made? What have been the most productive times in your life?
With enough stories and events of this kind, what patterns emerge from your past that indicate the purpose you’ve already been on, but have not realized?
As Mark Twain pointed out, finding out why you were born—what you’re here to do, what your unique purpose is, what’s your personal mission—may be the most important discovery of your life and career. Without it, you are just marking time; with it, you are making your time count.