|Several years ago, I was eight months pregnant, marooned on the living room floor, surrounded by half-open boxes, book towers and the entire contents of my closet. What had started as a simple decluttering exercise in preparation for our baby had turned into an existential crisis. I had no idea who I was going to become in this next phase of life, and my inability to decide whether to keep or chuck a notebook from 2011 underlined my inner wobbliness. I was muscling to find clarity and a sense of grounding, getting more lost in the process.|
Sometimes the bigness of “purpose work” can feel a little like being marooned on the living room floor. The more we search, the more we uncover, the more confused we get, the harder we push, the more confused we get (again).
We know purpose is synonymous with intention, aim, goals. But I recently came across another definition, from Anglo-French purpus, meaning “object to be kept in view.”I thought this offered a slightly different perspective on finding and articulating your personal purpose. Rather than asking, “Who am I at my core?” and “What do I believe about the world and how I want to contribute?” This definition asks: “What do I need to keep close to me to remind myself of who I am?”
I like the different lens this question places on considering one’s personal purpose. I also like what’s assumed in the definition: That we already know what we’re doing here, and sometimes just need to be reminded of it.
How I ultimately crawled out from behind those boxes was not to whiteboard my values or my driving beliefs about the world. (All that came later.) Instead, I scanned the room for the few things that, without question, reminded me of me. An old New York Times article on storytelling. Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. The first assessment I did at an old corporate job where I discovered the link between performance and soft skills, which became the seed for Human at the Helm.
I collected a few more things, put them in a pile, and started to feel solid again. They were my “objects to keep in view.” I wouldn’t have been able to articulate my personal purpose in the moment, but it was the first building block to reestablishing what mattered, what I valued and identifying the throughline. (For me, it’s always about connection—to oneself and to others).
I recently read consultant Lolly Daskal describe leadership work like this: “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It’s precisely that simple, and it’s also that complicated.”
If you find yourself grappling with personal purpose, I hope this offers another doorway to step through to get you closer to what matters to you.
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