Let’s talk about purpose.
When you take a bus, train, plane, car, or any other means of transport, you invariably know where you want to go. You know your destination before you embark on your journey.
But how many people go through life not knowing the destination they’re heading to? You wouldn’t spend 70-80 minutes sitting on a bus not knowing where the bus is taking you, so why would you spend 70-80 years travelling through life not knowing where you are going?
Steve L. is a married father with a young family. He graduated from university five years ago but is not working in the field in which he studied. He claims there are no jobs for what he wants to do, so really what’s the point in trying?
When pressed to explain what he actually does want to do, he says, ‘I don’t know.’ When asked why he studied that particular degree, he says, ‘I thought it’d be good. It’s better to have a degree than not have one.’ He also can’t tell you where he sees himself, or where he would like to be, in five years’ time.
Vickie T., on the other hand, never went to university and probably dropped out of high school. She married young, had kids in her late teens and early twenties, worked multiple jobs in retail and hospitality, then divorced her husband soon after the birth of her third child.
But something happened around the time she turned thirty. She found a cause to which she fully committed herself and it changed her life.
She discovered a passion for helping autistic kids to read and write and to understand and cope with their emotions, which, as any parent of autistic children will tell you, is extremely difficult and challenging. She has even written a series of books to help autistic children and their parents, and she has created online courses and workshops based on those books. Her energy and vitality seem endless.
Where Steve L. appears lost and lacks ambition, Vickie T. is focussed and driven to succeed. In fact, her focus is so laser sharp it seems to cut through any obstacle or challenge. But why is Steve floundering and Vickie flourishing? Why can’t Steve see the woods from the trees, whereas Vickie makes her own path through the forest?
Vickie has it and Steve doesn’t. Life Leaders like Vickie have a clear direction as to where they want to go and who they want to be. They might not yet have arrived at their destination, but they know where they’re going. In fact, they have arrived at their destination in their mind before they have arrived physically.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger once told an interviewer:
Create a vision of who you want to be, and then live into that picture as if it were already there.
This is the vital point: successful people know where they’re going.
They’re not lost. Madness still happens around them. Difficulties still arise. Yet even in the stress and challenges of everyday living, they have orientated themselves in the direction they want to go. They know who they are and where they want to arrive at.
They also know how they want to get there and when they want to be there.
Their vision lifts the fog of uncertainty, giving them a clear sight ahead.
They have clarity. They have developed the long-sighted, 20/20 vision of Life Leadership and can see beyond the horizon.
Below is a comparison of meaningless and purposeful vision:
|Joyless & Noncommittal||Passionate & Committed|
|Vague & Directionless||Unidirectional & Focussed|
|Defeatist & Procrastinating||Resilient & Enduring|
|Anxious & Stressed||Peace of Mind & Composure|
|Pessimistic & Doubtful||Optimistic & Hopeful|
|Uncertain & Desponding||Self-Belief & Confidence|
|Indifferent & Uncaring||Enthusiastic & Driven|
Vision and purpose empower Vickie to strive forward, to move in the direction she knows is the right path for her. The lack of vision disempowers Steve. He feels incapable of moving his life forward, seemingly going around and around in circles.
For here is the truth of Steve’s situation:
A lack of purpose makes you blind to your own inner power.
Disappointments and failures visit both Steve and Vickie. But whereas Steve gets bogged down in the futility of life and gives up easily, Vickie keeps moving forward, one step at a time, in the direction of her vision.
Purpose makes her suffering bearable, and gives her resilience and durability. The lack of purpose makes his suffering unbearable, and he becomes defeatist and pessimistic.
This is backed up by research. People without purpose are vulnerable to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and boredom. People with life purpose, however, fare better.
They have better health outcomes. They sleep better, they have healthier behaviours, they have a lower risk of heart problems, and they have better functioning and independence with ageing. What’s more, they also have a 20% lower risk of death.
These health benefits follow the Second Tenet of Success, that success is a side-effect of your dedication to your life purpose. They are an unintended measure of success in themselves.
If only for that, that’s why you need a Why?