How 3 letters can transform a purpose statement

Purpose is the raison d’etre for you as an individual, or for your organization.  It needs to be stated in simple, plain English in a way that people can connect to and be excited about.  And there are 3 letters that can elevate them to even greater power.

Let’s start with organizational shared purpose.  In yesterday’s post, I quoted this HBR article that said that corporate shared 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.”

So what are some actual examples?

Here is Nintendo’s purpose:







And Coca-Cola’s:






And Starbucks:








The only modifications I’d make to these is to start with a gerund (ending in ‘ing’) rather than ‘to do something’.  For example, if I’d worked with Starbucks in crafting their purpose it would have been ‘Inspiring and nurturing the human spirit…’ instead of ‘to inspire and nurture’.


Well, our brains work in pictures, not words.  For example, if I asked you how many windows are in your home, how would you get your answer?  You’d visualize it and walk through your home.

Well, if you say ‘to inspire and nurture’, your brain makes a still picture to represent the words.  If you say ‘inspiring and nurturing’, you create a movie in your mind’s eye, and a movie is far more compelling than a simple picture.

Similarly, when I work with my clients on connecting with their inner core purpose on a personal level, I it usually comes down to a couple of words, and I challenge my clients to transform the first word into a gerund.  This, instead of saying that their purpose is ‘to help others’ or ‘to make connections’ or ‘to heal conflict’, I challenge them to play with ‘helping others’, ‘making connections’ or ‘healing conflict’.  In a quarter of a century of doing this work, every single person has found the gerund version much more compelling.  And at its heart, it’s not the words that are important – it’s the connection to the inner feeling of purpose. The words are simply the label – or the key to unlock all of that.

About the Author Ravi Tangri

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