In a previous post about resilience, I shared how living by a higher purpose can increase resilience and success in life.
Living by a higher purpose means having a foundational purpose for all areas of life that is beyond yourself. Ideally, a higher purpose connects us more strongly to others.
Shifting into Higher Purpose
I struggled for years to find my higher purpose. I’d completed different writing exercises like personal mission statements (Steven Covey wrote about this in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), reflections on childhood passions (prompt in HBR’s purpose-driven leadership article), and what I’d like a good friend to say about me at my funeral (another Covey exercise from 7 Habits). But, I was never fully satisfied with the results of my work. I kept feeling a desire for a purpose statement that was more succinct and that I could truly use as a source of energy.
I like to ride my bicycle every day for an hour or so. These rides provide an opportunity to connect with the outdoors, reflect, and process my thoughts. On a morning bicycle ride in early March 2020, I thought about my prior work on finding a higher purpose. Suddenly, everything clicked. There was a clear theme within and across my prior efforts.
I realized my higher purpose is to spread the joy of learning and making.
“Learning” is obviously clear, but “making” could probably use more context. I mean “making” in a very general sense. At Atomic, our designers, developers, and delivery leads are all called makers because they are involved in creating new software products. I believe you can find the joy of making in many other professions, hobbies, and creative endeavors.
In my experience, searching for and finding a higher purpose took a few cycles of work, time, dissatisfaction, and continued work. And then, it suddenly paid off during a time of reflection.
Activating Higher Purpose
I’m grateful I found clarity on my higher purpose that morning in March. The following week is when the covid-19 pandemic started and opened the door to a period of substantial change and a test of resilience.
Not only did I put Atomic’s purpose front and center, but I also activated my own higher purpose.
Whenever I found myself feeling a loss of energy in the face of challenges, I found energy by returning to my higher purpose and asking myself questions like:
- What learning opportunities are there for me and others in this challenge?
- What new processes, systems, or tools might we make to meet this challenge and come through it stronger?
And at the deepest level, I’d remind myself how Atomic is a rare and special organization with learning and making at its core. I’d then feel called and motivated to do everything I could to protect Atomic, help our people, and have us grow as an organization through the lessons learned along the way.
Keeping Higher Purpose in Mind
I’ve found it can be easy to lose sight of my higher purpose when I’m overly focused on my calendar and getting things done.
I developed the habit of physically writing a one-page journal entry several mornings every week. The entry consists of two lists:
- What I’m grateful for (from yesterday or what’s happening today).
- Key social and emotional focusing points for the day. (I simply label the list “Focus for today.”) This isn’t a task list.
My purpose statement, or related points, commonly make it into my “focus for today” list. That helps me prepare to come into conversations with positivity and energy related to the learning opportunities or potential to create new things.
This journaling practice helps me see my meetings and work as a get-to-do list instead of a have-to-do list.
Benefitting from a Higher Purpose
My lived experience matches the research findings in my previous post. I’ve been able to use my higher purpose to stay energized through difficult times and better find opportunities in the face of challenges.
I believe we all could benefit from hearing about more experiences of energizing, purpose-based living. I’d appreciate you sharing your experiences of developing — and living — your higher purpose in the comments here or in social media shares of this post.
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