Knowing Purpose Anchors Action

There is much material relating to knowing one’s purpose. Most of what I have encountered relating to purpose addresses the kind of long-range, wide-angle view of a life purpose. These materials generally have some approach designed to prompt individuals to discover the answer to over-arching questions like:

  • Why am I here?
  • What am I to accomplish in life?
  • What’s my legacy going to be?

I find these types of questions useful, to a degree. The usefulness is that they have the potential, for me, to produce an inspiring sense of what I want or what I find meaningful. Pondering my legacy can provide a directional sign-post, pointing me in a general direction.

I define my over-arching purpose as promoting the highest level of functioning possible. That has implications for how I manage myself and how I interact with others. But left at that high level statement, it is too ambiguous to serve as an anchor for my moment to moment interactions. For me, something more clearly actionable is helpful in maintaining a focused discipline of thought and action.

To that end, knowing my specific purpose in any given interaction provides the anchor for managing self. While my over-arching purpose doesn’t change, the application of it is different when interacting with my wife than when coaching a leader in an organization.

I work to clarify my purpose, moment to moment, interaction to interaction. This level of specificity provides a clearer picture of what actions on my part would line up with what I am trying to promote.

Here a few examples:

  • When coaching a leader, I view my highest priority as helping the leader become clearer about his/her part in what is going on, more responsible for his/her own part and have the emotional fortitude to do something about his/her own part
  • When interacting with my wife, I view my highest priority as honestly and accurately representing myself in the relationship, and allowing her the space and freedom to do the same
  • When interacting with a friend who is battling some sort of life struggle, I view my purpose as holding a respectful degree of empathy for the difficulty while challenging anything that sounds like victim thinking

The next time you find yourself moving into a challenging interaction, try asking yourself in the moment, “What is my highest purpose right now?” Then, put most of your energy into managing your own responses to align with that purpose.

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