The importance of purpose

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Last week I went to an event about finding purpose in your work. One of the speakers told us that the moment that she realized her job in advertising wasn’t for her, was when she was given a brief to double the chocolate consumption of UK children.
The moral defense was that they weren’t encouraging them to eat more junk-food, they were just aiming for them to switch from sweets to chocolate. The speaker pointed out that a very similar argument was used to justify cigarette advertising.

Now she runs a website called Buy Me Once, which sells products with lifetime guarantees and she’s infectiously passionate about it.

I’ve been very focused on the domain of Being for the last three years or so, but I’m increasingly interested in how that relates to Purpose, particularly in light of recent political events and global security, health and resource challenges. They surely beg the question “What are we actually trying to do? What kind of a future do we want?”

The way I see it as fitting together is like this:

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If you’re all doing and no being, you wear yourself out. If you’re all being and no doing, you’re basically a beach bum. Your purpose is your why. It’s your motivation. Without it, it’s very hard to sustain the morale to keep doing.

The speakers at this event were buzzing with energy and enthusiasm for what they do. It was also pointed out that there’s growing evidence that purpose is good for business. The Unilever brands that have purpose are growing at twice the rate of their other brands.

In meditation, it’s a great idea to ask yourself at the beginning why you’re doing it. I like to remind myself that the calmer, more focused, compassionate, accepting, grateful and aware I am, the happier I will be and the more I will be a positive influence on other people’s happiness.

In your work, you don’t have to run a charity in Africa to have purpose. I recently helped a client connect with the fact that if she does her job marketing the school she works for well, there will be more resources for the school, and therefore they can attract better teachers, make the children happier and improve their life opportunities, which will make the parents, staff and her colleagues happier. She’s basically resourcing happiness. Straight away she felt more motivated!

Finding your purpose might feel a bit heavy and difficult to know where to start. For me, purpose is about service. It’s about doing something that benefits rather than exploits people or planet.

It’s also not about self-sacrifice. It’s about following your passion and playing to your strengths, as this diagram shows:

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For me, teaching mindfulness hits the sweet spot. I get paid for it, I love it, the world could definitely benefit from some more awareness and compassion, and people tell me I’m good at it.

So start with where you are now. Who benefits from you doing a good job? Who does it help? What’s the result of that? What do you enjoy about what you do? What would happen if you didn’t do it?

Maybe you’ll be newly motivated to do what you do. Or maybe you’ll be inspired to follow a new direction…

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