About five years ago I got really serious about articulating my professional purpose. At the time I was moving through a lot of life changes. I was spread thin across too many projects. The work was interesting but I felt like I was not having much of an impact. I remember telling a colleague, “If there’s really something called a ‘sweet spot’ – the intersection of my superpowers and the difference I want to make in the world – I am NOT living it right now.”
That conversation got me asking myself two questions:
- What is my unique gift or superpower – the thing I seem to do with ease, mastery, and joy?
- What is the difference I’m trying to make in the deployment of that gift?
I journaled about these questions, talked with close friends, and even with a few clients. I tried to put my finger on my “big why”. Finally, I used a simple, but powerful, sentence structure to articulate a purpose: I… (verb describing my core gift) so that… (impact I want to have). Over time and thanks to some thoughtful coaching, I landed on the following:
I create openings for breakthrough conversations so that the world gets nudged in the direction of more love, justice, and sustainability.
You may find it hard to believe, but this simple sentence guides me in making decisions about how I am going to invest my time, energy, and talent. If a project or client doesn’t fall clearly into this purpose it’s no longer right for me. My purpose enables me to navigate the world with greater clarity, integrity, and agility. It is a source of both motivation and self-accountability.
As I sat with my purpose, a third question came into focus:
3. What changes do I need to make in order to live this purpose as fully as possible?
Again, I pondered alone and with wise colleagues, finally defining three shifts I needed to make. While I won’t go into too much detail about these shifts, they illustrate how a limited number of changes can bring our work and lives into greater alignment with our purpose.
Shift from ego-driven to impact-driven: I’ve enjoyed high-status clients and the thrill of beating out larger competitors for the work. Now I prioritize : whether I can make a real difference.
Shift from working hard to embracing ease: I used to shoot for perfection. Now I leverage my unique gifts so, even when the work is hard, there’s a sense of calm and flow.
Shift from doing to being: This change involved the realization that saying smart things or using an impressive facilitation method adds little value if I’m not showing up with an authentic, grounded, encouraging presence.
The work of discovering your sweet spot isn’t always linear or straightforward. The answer to your “big why” may surprise you or feel like encountering a long-lost friend. I encourage you to begin with exploring the questions presented in this blog and journaling about them. Then…share your thoughts with trusted advisors, and hone your answers to identify your sweet spot and define your own statement of purpose.
Image Credit: Patrick Fore on Unsplash