Purpose is a word I’ve heard a lot about recently. Usually in relation to finding more purpose and meaning in our work. It’s not surprising really. When our work has significant meaning for us, we’re more likely to bounce out of bed in the morning, excited about the day ahead, and generally feel more fulfilled.
Maybe you’ve experienced the opposite - that Monday morning feeling when your only reason to get out of bed and go to work is because you have to pay the bills.
Some years ago that became the norm for me. Despite a successful corporate career and co-founding a global consultancy business, I was unsatisfied and questioning my purpose.
I went on a year-long journey of self-exploration and personal development. One of the key things I learned about purpose is that we always have one. Every thing we do - however small or big - is driven by a purpose. The question is whether it’s a purpose chosen consciously or one driven by unconscious desires.
When my stated purpose is to eat healthily but I scoff that yummy chocolate cake loaded with sugar, my real purpose is to eat that cake and treat myself. Eating healthily was, therefore, just a fantasy! When I say I want to get out and about but end up on the sofa watching TV, I’m ‘off-purpose’ in terms of what I said I wanted to do. The reality is that I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do at some unconscious level - which was to watch TV.
I now realise that purpose has a part to play in every area of our lives, not just in relation to our work, and, when you learn to harness its power, almost anything is possible.
A year ago, I ended up in hospital for four days. Excruciating pain in my hips had rendered me immobile. The diagnosis was osteo-arthritis. The consultant advised that, apart from pain killers, nothing could be done about it. I was “too young and too active for a new hip” and would “just have to put up with it”! Pain in my hips had been a problem for three years; upper back pain had been an ongoing challenge for twenty years. Over the years, I’d spent thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours with chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, pilates teachers etc. in my effort to be rid of life-limiting pain.
I couldn’t believe that nothing could be done. Research led me to an exercise system that restores good posture and relieves painful joints. Now, a year on, I am pain-free. I walk my dog every day, dance often and have even scrambled up a climbing wall. I’m more active now than for many years.
All of this is because I’ve learned how to harness my power of purpose. It’s taken an hour of exercise six days a week over a year to achieve this result.
There were set backs and times when I questioned if it would work and my commitment wavered. However, each time, I’ve re-engaged with my purpose to live life free of pain and found the motivation to keep going. There was a time when I didn’t know how to keep to such a commitment. I have a filing cabinet drawer full of exercises prescribed by various therapists who’ve tried to help me.
I never followed through on their advice; I wanted them to fix me so never did my part.
Learning how to overcome the, often, self-imposed obstacles and motivate myself to create this result is a gift I treasure. And, one that keeps on giving, as I harness my power of purpose to achieve other goals important to me. I now have a thriving business doing meaningful work that I love. My dog - whose primary purpose in life is food! - now comes when I call rather than running off to raid picnics. Where there once was a scruffy lawn and some trees, there is now a garden full of plants and colour. I’ve traded watching travel adventures on TV for jumping into trains, planes and automobiles to create my own. And - most of the time! - I walk past the chocolate cake.
Do you have unfulfilled dreams, find other priorities getting in your way, tend to procrastinate when the going gets tough and/or are at a crossroads wondering what next or wanting more for yourself but not quite sure what?
Caroline Holt is Attitude Coach. She runs a CPD-accredited six-week 'The Power Of Purpose' programme, starting 26th October in London.