You’re going to make a difference. The question is… what kind of difference are you going to make?
That’s right. You will make a difference… of some sort… on the job… and at home. You will make your organization a better or poorer place to work. And you will make your home a better or poorer place to live.
Fortunately, most people WANT to make a positive difference. They DON’T WANT to give a first-class allegiance to a second-class cause. But lots of people make that mistake nonetheless. They spend most of their time and energy on things that have no lasting significance.
The reason for such foolishness is quite simple. Most people have never figured out their purpose in life. They just wander through life — never thinking about the specific difference they want to make.
What about you? Have you figured out your purpose in life… at home… and on the job? It is one of the most important discoveries you’ll ever make. And once you nail down your purpose, you’ll be a great deal more focused, motivated, and effective. You’ll live your life on purpose instead of by accident.
Of course, a lot of people tell me they’ve heard about “purpose” before. They may have read some books on the subject… but they’re still wondering about this “purpose thing.”
But let me give you three tips that will get you started on the process of defining your purpose.
=> 1. Look At Your Work Desires.
Look at what you really like to do. Look at what you like to talk about… and think about. They’ll give you a clue as to what your purpose is.
In fact, you might try “The money-makes-no-difference game.” Imagine that every person on earth is paid $20 an hour for work, regardless of the job they perform. That being the case, what job would you choose to do? If you choose to be a tree cutter in the forest, you would be paid $20 an hour. If you decide to be a brain surgeon, you would still receive $20 an hour. What would you love to do if money was not involved?
It’s an important question. As jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald said, “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” In other words, you’ll find your purpose buried in the work you’d love to do.
=> 2. Look At Your Personal Loves.
But you’ll also find your purpose in the lives you’d like to touch. That’s why I tell people in my JOURNEY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY program that “Having something to live on is the GOOD life, but having something to live for is the BETTER life.”
Tom Bloch, the CEO of H & R Block, discovered that when he resigned his position in 1995. He gave up the running of a 1.7 billion tax preparation firm to become a teacher at St. Francis Xavier Middle School in Kansas City, Missouri. His annual salary dropped to less that 30% of his old salary, earning only $15,000 a year. But Block knew that his hectic schedule as CEO had been interfering with his top priority — his wife and 2 children.
Tom said, “The hardest part was telling my father (Henry Bloch, who co-founded the company in 1955). But I didn’t want to look back on my life and say, ‘Gee, you had an opportunity to play a bigger role in your children’s lives and didn’t take it’.”
Tom got very clear about the lives he’d like to touch. He figured out his “personal loves” and thereby his purpose. Have you done that?
Of course it doesn’t sound very corporate when I tell you to “look at your personal loves.” And much of my work is speaking to people in corporations.
But don’t be too hasty in dismissing my point about “personal loves.” When you get right down to it, any good customer service program boils down to caring about your customers and making a positive difference in their lives. And leaders who inspire followership in others demonstrate their caring toward them.
Knowing your personal loves not only guides you toward your purpose, it’s also a great way to live. As scientist, evangelist and author Henry Drummond said in the 1800’s, “You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”
And corporate executive Bob Burford says in his book, “Half Time,” “The first half of life has to do with getting and gaining, learning and earning… The second half… involves investing our gifts in service to others — and receiving the personal joy that comes as a result of that spending.”
So look at your work desires. Figure out your personal loves or the lives you want to touch.
And then remember…
=> 3. You Can Live Out A Big Purpose In A Small Way.
In other words, everything you do… counts. No matter what job you hold or role you play, you can do all of it “on purpose.”
No one said that better than Paul Villiard, who wrote this story years ago.
“When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well, the polished, old case fastened to the wall and shiny receiver on the side of the box.
“I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk to it. Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person and her name was ‘Information Please,’ and there was nothing she did not know.
“‘Information Please’ could supply anybody’s number and the correct time. My first personal experience with this genie-in-the-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.
“The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear. ‘Information Please,’ I said into the mouthpiece just above my head. A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear. ‘Information’ ‘I hurt my finger’ I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience. ‘Isn’t your mother home?’ came the question.
“‘Nobody’s home but me,’ I blubbered. ‘Are you bleeding?’ the voice asked.
“‘No,’ I replied. ‘I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.’ ‘Can you open your icebox?’ she asked. I said I could. ‘Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger,’ said the voice.
“After that I called ‘Information Please’ for everything. I would ask her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was.
“She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk, that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts. Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called ‘Information Please’ and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child.
“But I was inconsolable. I asked her, ‘Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?’ She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, ‘Paul, remember that there are other worlds to sing in.’ Somehow I felt better.
“Another day I was on the telephone. ‘Information Please.’ ‘Information,’ said the now familiar voice. ‘How do you spell fix?’ I asked.
“All this took place in a small town in the Pacific northwest. When I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. ‘Information Please’ belonged in that old wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.
“As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.
“A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half-an-hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, ‘Information, please,’
“Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well. ‘Information,’ I hadn’t planned this, but I heard myself saying, ‘Could you please tell me how to spell fix?’
“There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, ‘I guess our finger must have healed by now,’ I laughed. ‘So it’s really still you,’ I said. ‘I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.’
“‘I wonder,’ she said, ‘if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls,’ I told her how often I had thought of her over the years, and I asked if I could call her again when I cam back to visit my sister.
“‘Please do,’ she said, ‘Just ask for Sally.’
“Three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered ‘Information,’ when I asked for Sally. ‘Are you a friend?’ she said. ‘Yes, a very old friend.’ I answered.
“‘I’m sorry to have to tell you this,’ she said. ‘Sally had been working part time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.’ Before I could hang up she said, ‘Wait a minute. Are you Paul?’
“‘Yes…’ ‘Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.’
“The note said, ‘Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.’ I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.”
Never underestimate the impression you may make on others. Whose life have you touched today?
Pastor Russell Winn says, “The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will outlast it.” I agree. And you will be doing exactly that when you figure out your purpose.
Action: Take five minutes each day for five days to “look at your work desires.” Focus on the question of what you would love to do if money wasn’t an issue.