Whether you’re talking about your business or your personal life, there’s one common ingredient to success most people miss. Everyone focuses on what they do – not on the why.
How many organizations have mission statements that are perfectly suited to put an insomniac to sleep? “We strive to be a world class provider of (insert business here) pursuing excellence and always putting our people and customers first” Yawn.
How many of you focus on goals or your next career move and have to work like crazy to motivate yourself and drive yourself to get everything done to accomplish that, burning out any passion or joy along the journey?
Both of those approaches, whether corporate or personal, are focused on what you do, not why. What you do has no passion, no drive, no motivation in and of itself. That’s why you have to motivate yourself or your team or your organization.
So how do you do anything differently? Well here’s a revolutionary thought. What if you started with your motivation, your raison d’etre, and then drawing your goals from there so your motivation, and the drive of your team in an organization are implicitly built in to whatever situation arises?
It sounds pretty radical, but if you look at the organizations that are most successful, they are the ones that focus on their purpose first, not on what they do. Same with people. The ones who consistently live fuller and more meaningful lives are those who live on-purpose.
Purpose is not just about you, whether you’re talking about yourself or your organization – it’s about how you make a difference in the world. That’s something that can set you on fire for your personal purpose. It’s also something that can set everyone in your organization alight when you’re talking about organizational purpose.
Purpose is not mission or vision. As detailed in this HBR article, purpose exists to inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organization’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.
The evolution of mission into more purpose-ful organizations is illustrated in this article, showing how organizations transformed their business by focusing on helping first, and selling second. Mission statements are usually very insular, looking inward, and have the motivational power of going for a root canal. Purpose statements are simple (in plain English, not vision-speak) and focus on why you do what you do.
In a similar way, personal purpose needs to be a simple statement that gets to the why of all of your life, not just your work.