Purpose, a carrot or a stick!? #51 #cong22

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About Paddy Delaney:

I am a reformed Financial Advisor! Now spend my time trying to make a difference to both the Financial Services industry and also to individuals’ financial wellbeing. Do this through coaching, training and the (award winning!) Informed Decisions Blog & Podcast.

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You can follow Paddy on Twitter or sign up for his blog/podcast.

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By Paddy Delaney

Through my work, I get to know some professionally successful individuals. Many of them will admit that their sense of purpose is firmly aligned to their professional accomplishments. They get respect and social status from their profession.

When they are asked ‘What do you do?’, they might proudly state that they are a pharmacist, engineer, executive manager, or ‘business owner’. Their role and successes from it quite often gives them purpose, and understandably so.

However, when they retire, they leave those roles. When they are now asked ‘What do you do?’, for some of them, it is a big adjustment and admission to reply that they are ‘retired’. They admit to feeling their sense of self has evaporated somewhat.

For many humans, our sense of purpose is closely linked to our chosen profession. I am no different. If I retired today, I’m not sure I’d be delighted to confess that I ‘used to run a business helping people to make better financial decisions, but now I look after the kids!’. It’s a painful admission, but it’s the truth for me right now.

In the 190,000 years that us humans have graced this fine planet, it is said that approximately 110 billion people have lived and died. Did every single one of those individuals live a life of purpose and meaning?

Perhaps they did! But I guess, it depends on what you mean by purpose! Does purpose mean that we live, survive, perhaps have some relationships, and then died? Is that a life lived with purpose?

Or does purpose mean that throughout our lives, we not only survived, but we thrived, and bettered the lives of others and the planet we live on?

I guess, that is the thing about ‘purpose’ – many of us (including yours truly) have been conditioned about what living a life of purpose should mean. It seems that it is no longer OK to just ‘be’. It has become the expectation to strive for a greater purpose.

When we are on our death-bed, will have deep regret if we can’t say that our lives were purposeful, and that we had a meaningful and positive impact on the world?! That is a high standard to meet, if so!

But perhaps having such a high bar is beneficial to us as individuals, our communities and society in general. If we have a defined and clear purpose of improving something within our control, surely that will be helpful?

Personally speaking, I tap-into purpose when I want to make a change or take on a large project. Striving to achieve that purpose is a fantastic carrot to pursue. Focusing on our purpose or our ‘why’, as Simon Sinek has made famous in the past decade, can be a great motivator.

My only reservation is that we don’t get so wrapped-up in that purpose that it creates a stick for our own backs! Life would be pretty tiring if we had to be purposeful in everything that we do, and always thinking about whether we are striving for ‘better’ all of the time.

Some of the greatest characters we meet in life are those that seem not too distracted by purpose or living a life of challenge and achievement. They seem content in simply ‘being’. Are they ‘free’ of purpose. Or perhaps their dedicated purpose is to live a life of fun, and put a smile on the faces of others! That too can be a tough act to maintain. Ultimately, like all things in life, purpose can be great, but lets do so in moderation!

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