How can you discover your purpose?
With our program Leading from the Helm, Sicora Consulting has aided many organizations in maximizing human potential and driving organizational performance. One thing we discovered in the 30-plus years with that model is that individuals’ sense of purpose has a significant impact on engagement (thus, an organization’s success). This led us to the subject of the newly released book, "Grab the Helm."
In the book, we dive into maximizing the potential of individuals – your potential – by helping you discover your life’s purpose and align all aspects of your life in achieving it. We do this through the individual helm – a model focused on individual purpose. Each spoke of the helm is one of the critical attributes that contributes to an individual’s success.
Together, the spokes offer a holistic approach to the age-old question: What is my purpose?
Let’s take a look at the spokes of the individual helm and then focus more concretely on talent, opportunity and passion with an exercise that can get you started down the path of purpose.
The individual helm
There are eight spokes of the individual helm, each contributing to your individual path through life and aligning with the organizational helm to produce synergy within the groups you are a part of. Grab the Helm takes you through each spoke in its own chapter, with a reflection activity for each. Here is a brief overview:
- Purpose: How you live your life and why; what gives life meaning.
- Self-awareness: To know yourself. If you understand your personality and your communication and leadership styles, you can work through the obstacles that hold you back and become a better leader of yourself and others.
- Values: Our principles and ethical and moral guidelines that help us make decisions; what we think is important.
- Crew: Our inner circle, those we trust and surround ourselves with. We rely on them to both raise us up and challenge us, to give us feedback and support when we need it most.
- Passion: What drives us, what we feel most strongly about, what fuels our emotion and feeds our soul. Passion is what we love to do.
- Talent: Our knowledge, gifts, abilities, skills and even genius that give us the tools to act on each of the other spokes.
- Opportunity: The chance, the opening, to act on our purpose, to follow our passions and all the other spokes of the helm. We can passively wait for our opportunities, or we can create them with intention. (Hint: It’s better to create them with intention.)
- Impact: The difference we make in our lives, the lives of others and the world at large. Our legacy. We have the greatest impact when we serve others.
All of the spokes are important, but we found in our research that purpose is critical to being fully engaged in your work (in fact, it’s one of the 8 Factors of Engagement).
Finding your sweet spot
One way to discover or reaffirm your purpose is to find your “sweet spot.” This is when you have the opportunity to do work you are passionate about and have talent for. You can approach this through the TOPs model: talent, opportunity, passion.
First, list out your talents. What are you good at? This includes both the natural gifts you were born with and the skills you acquired through perseverance and hard work. List all of the skills, talents and expertise you can think of, not just those related to your job. Don’t hold back or sell yourself short.
Next, list your passions. What excites you? What could you talk about for hours without getting sick of it? What do you love to do?
Take a look at your lists. Do your passions and talents overlap at all? Do you have the opportunity to use your talents or pursue your passions?
Generally, the various overlaps of your lists break down into the following categories:
- Drudgery/duty. These are tasks you have a talent for and the opportunity to take on but about which you are not passionate. You may dread this kind of work but know it must be done. However, this might be someone else’s passion. This is why it can be beneficial to conduct this exercise with your full team. Realigning responsibilities to individuals’ passions and talents can improve engagement and, in turn, business results.
- Growth and stretch. These are tasks you are passionate about, but you need the opportunity to develop more talent. If you really want to pursue these passions, you can wait for an opportunity to develop the necessary skills or you can create the opportunity. If you aren’t mindful of opportunities in the moment or take charge to create your own opportunity, you might find yourself wondering what might have been.
- Missed opportunity. When you have both talent and passion for something but aren’t doing it, you’re missing an opportunity to fulfill your purpose. Again, you could wait for an opportunity to present itself and hope you recognize it when it comes. Or you can seek out the opportunity. The choice is yours.
- Sweet spot. When talent, passion and opportunity come together, you’ve found your sweet spot. Now it’s up to you to continue to cultivate your passion and purpose. Purpose isn’t a destination; you have to continue to work at it. But it’s worth the effort!
Finding your “sweet spot,” or your purpose, is an exciting thing. It puts wind in your sails and brings meaning and intention to your everyday life. But it needs to be nurtured and maintained. This can be done through regular reflection and through community interaction with others on their own paths to purpose. This is why we’ve developed an open cohort session – a live, virtual facilitated course – to bring individuals together to continue to learn and discuss these concepts on a deeper, more personal level.
However you decide to chart your course, I hope you have the courage to grab the helm of your own life by embarking on the daily quest to discover and cultivate your purpose.
Dr. Robert T. Sicora is the founder and CEO of Sicora Consulting and an expert in organization development. Sicora has helped organizations of all sizes build deeper levels of trust, leadership and employee engagement. He holds a doctorate of education in organization development. His book is "Grab The Helm" (Amplify Publishing, December 2020).