Entire books have been written on the importance of understanding your why (and I recommend that one!). I’m not going to rehash all of them, but I will agree with the fact your why, aka being On Purpose, is a key element of the ACTION plan. It’s such an important element, that I’ve already talked about it here on this blog. 

Until you have a compelling why driving you to achieve an Aspiration, you’re unlikely to take meaningful steps to get there. This is the reason so many new year’s resolutions fail. Without a why, we lose interest. We can’t stick with the change. The why is our motivation to be Consistent and keep taking positive action. 

Even if you and I have the same Aspiration, it’s highly unlikely that we would share the same why. When I’m taking positive action On Purpose, it reflects my unique experiences and interests; yours will too. My why would likely not motivate you because our experiences are different.

Let’s take exercise as an example. The reason why I exercise is because I want to walk unassisted when I’m in my 90’s, just like my great uncle. For another person I know, their why is because many of their relatives died at younger ages and they exercise to hopefully not have the same happen. For another, it’s that they want to continue to fit into their current clothes so they don’t have to buy new ones. There are endless why’s for something as simple as choosing to exercise. The key is to find the why that is true for you.

Another way to think about your why if you’re struggling is to determine what you stand for or against. This is often a meaningful reason that leads into a compelling why. My family has been significantly impacted by cancer, so I support causes and engage in activities around finding a cure. I also have a love of the natural world and the environment, so again this helps me direct my energy toward volunteer efforts

In a world where we have unlimited choice and access to information, being On Purpose also helps to narrow your focus and stay Targeted. You can easily filter out those positive actions that are good, but not necessarily aligned either with your Identity or your why and what you stand for (On Purpose).

#PositiveAction Struggling with your resolutions? It’s time to revisit your why and get clear about how you can approach them On Purpose this time!

On Purpose is the fifth element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. If you’re new here, welcome! You may want to start at the very beginning with positive action

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay, edited by me, which is maybe why the sizing seems off!

One of my favorite holiday movies, Elf, stars Will Farrell as Buddy the Elf. Buddy is adopted as a baby and raised by an elf at the North Pole. Through a series of events focused on identifying people’s strengths (which as a career coach, I love!), he is shocked to discover that he’s actually a human, rather than an elf, and sets out to find his birth father in New York City.

There are lots of delightful scenes and quotable lines in this movie, but the one I want to talk about today happens when Buddy is at work for the first time with his birth father. The office phone rings and Buddy dives over his father to answer it by saying, “Buddy the Elf. What’s your favorite color?” The business person on the other end of the phone line immediately hangs up, maybe because it seems like such a ridiculous question.

Watching the movie this year, it occurred to me that “What’s your favorite color?” isn’t a silly, unimportant question. It’s actually a critical way to get to know someone on a deeper level and it’s a question that my children ask almost everyone they meet. 

“What’s your favorite color?” is way to understand something that is important to another person. My kids use it to inform the art that they make when they create a drawing or a card for someone else. They use it when they are selecting a gift for a friend or family member. The favorite color becomes a way for them to show they care about something that is important to someone else.

When’s the last time you asked a meaningful question to someone at work? Are you using that information to show them that you care about whatever it is that’s important to them? One of the 12 questions in the Gallup survey used to assess global employee engagement is “Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?” If you’re not confident that your co-workers would respond yes, maybe you need to find out what their favorite color is!

In case you’re not sure where to start, here’s 25 questions to get the ball rolling. Not enough? Here’s 70 more questions! And you are welcome to read what engaged employees do differently and how you can help (spoiler alert, it’s asking good questions!).

#PositiveAction Ask a co-worker a meaningful question to get to know them better, listen to the answer, and then find a way to demonstrate you heard them. This type of small, kind gesture can be transformational in the workplace!

 

Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay

Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Yellowstone National Park as part of an epic family road trip. *Side note: if you’re heading there anytime soon, check out this awesome guide! Yes, I also have a 3-ring binder filled with travel details if you want to know more. Are you at all surprised?!? End side note!*

Yellowstone is a huge swath of wilderness known for its unusual geothermal activity. The picture above is of a mudpot – a place where the ground is literally bubbling due to the hot water just under the surface. Not particularly exciting or aesthetically pleasing in photo format, but very cool to see in person.

I was going through my pictures of that trip recently and when I saw the mudpots, my brain immediately went to how similar mudpots are to humans. Not in a Creature From the Black Lagoon or Scooby Doo mud monster kind of way. Rather in how we all have things (good and bad usually) bubbling just below the surface. Unlike the mudpots where you can see the mud bubbling in real time, we try to keep those thoughts, ideas, and feelings hidden.

The mud is hidden, but it’s there. At Yellowstone, they put up boardwalks and railings to keep us a safe distance from the boiling mud. Too bad people don’t come with those!

Right now, I have several big projects coming to critical points at the same time, so although it’s good mud that’s bubbling within me, I need to find a way to bring it back down from a boil to a simmer so it doesn’t steal my focus from the people, discussions, and projects that are important to me. 

One of the ways I do that is to write down the muddy ideas. When I get them out of my head and onto paper, my brain stops churning on them. Another way is to keep reminding myself how it all aligns to my purpose, which smooths out the mud and serves to calm me down.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is recognize when someone else is experiencing a fit of bubbling mud. At work, we can get so focused on our daily tasks that we forget to check in with people on how they’re feeling. You’d be surprised what a difference it will make in a co-worker’s day if you make time to ask them how they’re feeling and really listen to the answer.

#PositiveAction What thoughts, ideas, and feelings are bubbling up right now? Do one thing to help yourself or better yet, someone else, smooth out the mud!

 

Photo by me, in Yellowstone National Park.

I’ve been thinking about purpose a lot lately, maybe because I was able to witness an example of a life well-lived during the Honor Flight. Or maybe because I’ve been working on manifesting (making real) some big dreams, like writing a book! I’ve had several reminders lately to keep my focus on my purpose that were worth sharing.

My purpose is to educate and empower others to take positive action. I get to do that through my career coaching, where I help clients get unstuck, move forward, tell their best story, and find meaningful work. I get to do that when I’m speaking to a group. I also get to do that through my volunteer work with the Climate Reality Project. Interestingly, I also get to do that as a parent, friend, child, co-worker… really any relationship I have with another human is a chance to live into my purpose.

The challenge comes when life starts to happen all around. It’s easy to focus on all the tasks that need doing, without remembering the why (purpose) behind those tasks. Lately, I’ve been struggling with a few administrative-type tasks and finding ways to get them done sooner and better. When I think about the task itself, it makes me want to cringe or run away! But when I think about how it enables me to live out my purpose, the burdensome administrative task becomes easier. 

As another example, I have been enjoying a period of growth in my business and it’s been awesome, but it’s also made everything feel a lot more busy. That rushed, overwhelmed feeling likes to sneak in at times like that. I had mentioned how busy I was to a good friend and he immediately asked me, “Are you so busy that you can’t help one more person this month who is struggling in their job?” Hmm. Good question. When I listen to the busy, my brain wants to freak out and turn down opportunities. When I listen to my purpose, I can say with confidence, “Yes! I can help.”

I made a deliberate choice to start living life on purpose and it’s a change that’s been transformational for me. However, making the choice once doesn’t make it real. I have to consistently choose to be on purpose in order to live into it. I’m grateful for the reminders that keep bringing me back to that fact.

#PositiveAction Do one thing that brings you closer to working on purpose today. It could be defining your purpose, course correcting, or saying yes to an opportunity.  

 

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay