The real issue is not the duration of your life but the donation of your life.
Can you imagine what it would feel like if you were herded like cattle and shipped like cargo … along with your whole family and hoards of other people … to an unknown place … whose only purpose was to kill people? Well, that’s exactly what millions of people experienced during the Holocaust of World War II.
And can you imagine struggling to stay alive physically and spiritually in that setting, not knowing what has happened to the rest of your family, but believing that they were exterminated in gas chambers or ovens? That’s exactly what happened to millions of Jews and other “undesirables” during the holocaust.
In the midst of all of that, one young Jewish prisoner and physician, Dr. Vicktor Frankl noted, “Every prisoner had a moral choice to make … to surrender one’s self to the Nazis or to find meaning in one’s life that would give one the strength to go on.” And he continued, those prisoners who found “meaning” or discovered their “purpose” in the midst of their horrific surroundings were the ones who tended to survive.
From Frankl’s writings and the experiences of thousands of holocaust survivors, the lesson should be clear to all of us, and the lesson is POWERFUL. No matter how bad your troubles might be, you can survive if you choose to survive. Just look at the recent story of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight who were kidnapped and held as slaves for ten years in the basement of a Cleveland home.
But just in case you’re doubting the power and importance of purpose, take a look at what the experts have to say.
1. Purpose gives you motivational power.
W. Clement Stone, the founder of one of the greatest insurance companies in America, declared, “Whenever you discover your mission (purpose), you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.”
And author Kenneth Hildebrad wrote, “Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes.” In other words, when you discover or clarify your purpose, you will be motivated and you will be strong.
I suspect that is a part of what helped Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight survive their decade of terror. The research tells us the best way to survive is to find purpose in every moment of your present, to find purpose in every memory of your past, and to find purpose in every possibility for your future.
2. Purpose drives engagement.
The global consultancy firm known as Calling Brands surveyed 4202 HR Executives and Communications Chiefs from multinational organizations in the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. The consensus among the interviewees was that employees now seek greater and deeper fulfillment (purpose) from their working lives. To be specific, on average, 57% of the respondents said they would favor joining an organization that has a clearly defined purpose. Moreover, an average of 65% of the respondents said that purpose would motivate them to go the “extra mile” in their jobs and 64% claimed it would engender a greater sense of loyalty towards the organization they work for.
In their report called “Crunch Time: The Power of Purpose”, Calling Brands went on to say that working for an organization with an underlying spirit and clear sense of purpose that goes beyond commercial and operational goals — ranks ahead of many other factors such as “level of responsibility in a job” and even “career progression.” Bottom line: employees are willing to work harder and stick with a business longer — if they see purpose in action.
Purpose is emerging as a powerful new driver of attraction, retention, and productivity. Unfortunately, very few organizations and very few leaders give much attention to purpose. And yet they’re desperately looking for new and better ways to engage their employees. Well, here it is.
3. Purpose gives meaning.
To some extent, everyone wonders why on earth they are here. And everyone has days when they wonder why they should even get out of bed in the morning. In each case, the person is suffering from a lack of purpose or an undefined purpose … all of which make life and work seem somewhat meaningless.
You have a purpose, and there is a reason you were created. Oh, you might not know what it is, but it’s there. And once you discover it, not only do you unlock your greatest potential but you also find meaning in who you are and what you do. And that feels really, really good.
Of course, I don’t know what your purpose is. That’s for you to figure out. Maybe your purpose is to help people in some way. Philanthropist Donda C. West said, “Even in a world fraught with war and blatant injustice, individuals must still find ways to lessen human suffering and change humanity for the better.”
It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others. That can be critically important. In fact, the Bible is filled with characters such as Isaiah and Jeremiah who did exactly that.
Maybe your purpose is to shift the focus off of yourself and onto someone or something else … and making some kind of difference. In fact, one of the most common characteristics of a person who is nearing the end of the first half of his/her life is an unquenchable desire to move from success to significance. After spending the first half of our lives, doing what we were supposed to do … like getting ahead in our careers … we often feel the pull to do something in the second half of our lives that has a bigger and broader impact.
And the good news is … clarifying your purpose is not like a treasure hunt, where you look, and look, and look, and eventually hope to find your treasure or your purpose. Often times it is simply a matter of choosing your purpose. Alan Stedall, one of my “Tuesday Tip” subscribers from Birmingham, England told me, “One of the major milestones in the gaining of wisdom is finally realizing that meaning is not something to be found in life, but rather it is something we choose to give to our lives.”
4. Purpose helps you achieve your goals.
Purpose and goals are inextricably connected, or at least they should be. The clearer your purpose, the more easily you will achieve your goals.
In fact, let me give you a specific exercise. Take out a piece of paper and write down 10 goals you want to achieve in the next 12 months. It will take you about five minutes, but I promise you … if you do this your next year will be different and better. I’ve given this assignment to many people and everyone has reported that their results were profound. I’ve had them come back and say they achieved five of their goals in the very first week. Others have said their lives were transformed in 90 days.
To experience even greater success, get more specific. Write down the 10 goals that would have the biggest impact on your life? Your career? Your relationships? What would you have to “be” to be absolutely excellent in the achievement of your goals? What one skill … if you implemented it in excellent fashion … would have the greatest impact on your career? Your life? And your relationships?
There you have it … the power of purpose. Please, please, please … don’t try to live without it. And just in case you’re a cynic, if you’re wondering if your purpose in life is over … and you’re still alive … it isn’t!
ACTION: What steps are you taking to clarify your purpose and then live your life “on” purpose instead of “by” accident?