When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, how often do you hear IRS Auditor or factory worker? More likely they dream big or chase adventure and hope to become our future firemen, sports stars, ballerinas, or zoologist (my personal favorite). Childhood is a time of innocence where any dream is a possible dream and there are no preconceptions, practical notions and pressures creeping in to cause doubt. If a person could approach their entire life with this mentality, it would help to free them from both the real and imaginary constraints that guide their paths and allow them to experience the wonder of what might be. However, more often as we age and learn life’s lessons the pure pursuit of purpose and passion get lost amidst expectations and responsibility.
Blue Zones researchers have found that people who have a clear sense of purpose in life tend to live about seven years longer than those who do not. Yet 46% of men and 40% of women say they’re still trying to figure out the meaning and purpose of their life. Another survey found that 50% of Americans say they’d make a different choice today then they did when they first entered the job market. Perhaps pressures or expectations on them caused them to settle for something they knew they were good at rather than discovering and pursuing how they could be great.
While his life was tragically cut short by cancer, Steve Jobs understood the power of individual purpose. He stood tall in the face of adversity and settled for nothing -- always asking ‘What’s next’. This simple question is what led him to become a cultural icon that shaped the lives of millions. While he stood apart from others in so many ways, his desire to ‘put a dent in the universe’ is innate within us all. He had a firm grasp on his gifts and let them guide his passions and curiosities. And in doing so he uncovered his unique purpose and he had the courage to own it. The way he lived and experienced his life is a wonderful example to us all.
So how can this apply to your organization? Think about the engagement level you’d see if all of your employees understood their purpose and felt that they were working towards it when they stepped through your doors each day. Lincoln Industries is attempting to bridge the gap through helping their people discover their strengths and cultivate energy around individual and collective purpose. They offer life planning classes to their people which helps them develop a personalized, living, evolving plan that guides thoughts behaviors and actions toward their defined purpose.
I’ll leave you with this advice from the late Steve Jobs, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”