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Find Your Purpose: Upgrade your inner Google

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Welcome to another Wednesday Wisdom. Every week, I share with you what I'm thinking about life, work, and leadership. This week we're talking about purpose.

It feels like our experiences are factual, because they’re tangible. If you can see, smell, hear or taste something, it must be real… right? Wrong. Our external world isn’t as objective as it seems. In short, most of what we experience is just a projection of our own sh*t.

Like Google, our mind runs on a series of filters, helpfully sorting through the metric tonne of sensory information available at any given time to present us with relevant results. It's why you've never seen a Skoda Kodiaq in your life, until you buy one, and then everyone on the motorway is driving one. You've changed the criteria about what's relevant to you, and your brain is serving you different results to match.

This is great, if you’re a good Googler and you’re using the right search criteria. 

But if your criteria are unhelpful - or worse, if they’re unclear, the sorting function doesn’t really work. Some things seem more important than they really are, while the most critical stuff falls by the wayside.

It’s why you get to the end of a busy day, exhausted but wondering what you achieved. In Essentialism (my most-gifted client book) Greg McKeown calls this the ‘paradox of leadership’ - feeling overwhelmed and underutilised at the same time.

The thing is, perspective doesn’t work without purpose.

It’s hard to see things for what they really are, if you don’t know who you are or what you care about.

McKeown calls this your ‘highest point of contribution.’ Simon Sinek calls it your ‘why.’ Woke mindfulness teachers talk about your ‘calling.’ Call it what you like. The guts of it is: when you’ve got your eye on something bigger and more meaningful, the minutiae doesn’t seem so relevant.

Who cares if someone cut you off on the motorway, or if Ben in Accounting took the wrong tone in his email, when you’re focused on building something important?

I don’t know what your bigger purpose is – maybe it’s saving dolphins with self-esteem issues. Maybe it’s bringing sustainability into the workplace. Maybe it’s being a present parent.

It kind of doesn’t matter what it is. It just matters that you have one. People with a clear sense of purpose live more meaningful lives, do better work and feel better about themselves at the end of a long and challenging day.

Purpose isn’t about changing the world. It’s about using our limited time doing stuff we care about. Discovering your purpose is about finding the things you care about that are bigger than you, so you can do more of that.

To cultivate a stronger sense of purpose in your life, try asking some useful questions, like:

  • What do you value most?

  • What really pisses you off? (the reverse is usually a core value for you)

  • What change do you most want to see in the world?

  • What would you do if you won Lotto? (hint: you can probably do something about that now.)


For more help on finding your purpose, check out this free resource pack.