The idea of ‘purpose’ fascinates me. I read about it, talk about it, write about it, and even created a quiz about it. I’m a student of purpose. It consumes my thoughts and conversations as I grapple with what it is and how it can positively affect my life and the lives of others.
It’s also pops up in our cultural conversation quite regularly, although going by different names. Between finding your why, stepping into your own badassery, and washing your face, it’s not hard to see that purpose – the act of living from a deeper, truer place – is HOT right now.
It’s really no wonder why.
Our world can often feel topsy-turvy, shifting quickly from one day to the next. We’re also increasingly connected to everyone else through the interwebs and being pummeled with information constantly; information that can inspire as well as information that can overwhelm. There is this philosophy and that self-care tip and this meditation technique and that online business course and this lifestyle guru… Are you dizzy yet? I am!
With more opportunities available to us than ever before and more of other people’s perspectives flashing us in the face on a daily basis, no wonder so many of us are yearning to ask deeper questions, questions about how we want to lead our lives and create meaning out of the chaos:
Who am I?
What kind of life do I envision for myself?
How can my life have meaning?
How am I holding myself back?
What kind of impact can I make?
How can I make that impact?
Purpose, then, can be the lighthouse amidst the fog and the noise. Purpose can root us back into ourselves and force us to look within for answers instead of without; to collect our experiences, our pain, and our joy and decide if we’re going to let them sit there idly or if we’re going to use the lessons we’ve learned to create something meaningful on our own terms.
The Power of Purpose for Entrepreneurs
This need for meaning and impact is most apparent in the inner lives of entrepreneurs, especially entrepreneurs who believe their work is more than just a job. If you’re reading this blog post, I’m guessing that is you. So if you’ll oblige me, let me assume some of the desires you likely have right now:
You want meaning, you want passion, and you want balance. You want to build your life around the things that light you up, and that uniquely express all those little truths that make up who you are at your core. You want to make an impact AND you want to do it through your business. You want to buck the status quo and forge a path that is uniquely your own.
Uncovering your purpose and aligning it with the core mission of your business can make all the difference in building a life that is impactful and meaningful.
Along the way, you’ll likely learn a lot about yourself – your habits, your passions, the ways you hold yourself back and the ways you can make a difference. Ultimately, taking a purpose-filled snorkel into the depths of who you are at your core is the most empowering journey you could undertake. Dolly Parton sure got it right when she said: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
That leads us to a very important question:
What is heck purpose, anyway?
Growing up, I thought of purpose as a thing that would suddenly bonk me on the head one day. Just like the posters, memes, and coffee cups always told me, I figured I would “FIND” my purpose someday in a magical, transcendent moment if I was only still, quiet, and earnest enough. It would come to me fully formed as a glowing, magical mantra that would guide my life forward with ease.
Welp – that didn’t happen?
In fact, it was just the opposite. I discovered that I didn’t, and you don’t, and we need not find our purpose. We must CREATE it. We must do the work ourselves, ask the hard questions, and become the leader of our own life instead of waiting for a magical revelation. We can DECIDE a purpose that is right for us. We can CHOOSE which “why” will help us make an impact in the way we uniquely can.
Purpose Starts as a Thread
My journey towards creating my own purpose started with a simple journal exercise one day during my year-long yoga teacher training in 2011. My teacher had given us a few questions to muse on, things like:
- What are past key experiences in your life that have impacted you?
- What are the qualities you admire in people and why?
- What have you always been talented at?
Within the span of one page of my journal, I clearly saw a thread that had weaved its way through my life. From sewing to graphic design, acting to writing, creative expression had always been an integral part of my life.
I wrote a note in the top corner of my page that said “I make the invisible visible.”
And that was it for awhile. No fireworks, no magical booming voice, just an idea in a notebook that I kept it in the back of my mind but didn’t do much with. I had understood the thread I identified, but I didn’t know how it could become a guiding intention for my life, much less my work. So I soldiered on, starting my own graphic design and marketing business and becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur.
What I discovered along my journey was that the thread kept stitching away without me even picking up the needle. I saw it most clearly in my business when I would take a design client’s seedling of an idea and turn it into a website, a logo, an entire brand. I realized I was doing way more than just design – I was helping them realize a vision they held for themselves – both their lives and their business.
Suddenly, I knew that bringing ideas to life – taking the invisible and making it visible – was a deeper kind of service. It wasn’t just designing a logo or a website; it was empowering people who had a mission and a vision, transforming something that started off as a tiny little thought in their mind to reality. A reality that was more empowering, purposeful, and fulfilling.
Over time, those scribbles I had written in a notebook years back had evolved into a deep sense of purpose and meaning in my business. My life. I refined it to a simple mantra-like statement that runs through my thoughts all the time and serves as the purpose I created for myself:
I help people bring their ideas to life.
Purpose Becomes a Guide
In gaining clarity, I wanted to find more people who wanted to make a meaningful impact and help them do just that. I wanted more people to be empowered – to get out of their own way, to bring their vision to life. Getting clear on my purpose – in business and life – guided me every step of the way…
It guided my decision to take on a large retainer client, where I learned everything about digital marketing and how ideas could be communicated online.
It guided my decision to volunteer for 5 years at a homeless shelter where I helped children learn how to express themselves creatively through art therapy techniques designed to help heal trauma. Maybe one day, I thought, the work we did together would help them move past their struggles and bring their ideas to life.
It guided my decision to start a community organization in my hometown, aimed at gathering people’s ideas on what they wanted our Downtown to become.
It guided my decision to pivot my business in 2017 to help more entrepreneurs uncover THEIR unique purpose and align it with their business.
It guided me to write this very blog post you’re reading.
So, now you’re probably wondering when I’m going to tell you what purpose is?! Without further ado, here is my definition:
The Definition of Purpose
Purpose is a guiding intention for your life. It is an organizing principle that helps you realize your ideas and make an impact. Purpose gives your life meaning.
Purpose is like a compass, gently nudging you closer and closer towards the true core of who you are and how that truth can make an impact in the world.
Does knowing your purpose mean you know exactly what to do and how to do it all the time? No.
Purpose isn’t some kind of spiritual 8-Ball that gives you perfect answers with every shake. Purpose is not magic, but it can be magical. Purpose is not fixed, but it can give you stability. Purpose is simply an intention. One you can hold up against the landscape of your life and ask: “Does my life align with my purpose, and if not, why? Where have I wandered away from my core truth, where have I squandered my energy?”
Creating your purpose is the act of taking control of the direction of your existence, keeping you honest in the pursuit of what you want to realize during your lifetime.
What is a Purpose-Driven Entrepreneur?
That leads us to what I promised you with the headline of this blog: a definition of a purpose-driven entrepreneur:
A purpose-driven entrepreneur reflects on their unique experiences in life, and channels that into a business that makes an impact in a way they uniquely can. They are clear on who they want to serve and align everything in their business to affect change.
Another scribble in my yoga notebook of years past goes like this: “What more is a business than giving your gift to the world and being fed by it?” Purpose-driven entrepreneurs uncover their gifts and build a business to give it to the world. They are fed by the change they are able to ignite and empowered by the purposeful pursuit of their own meaning.
Oftentimes, these kind of entrepreneurs have built their purpose and their business around their own personal experiences. Here are two examples of women I’ve been lucky enough to work with in the past on their brand strategy who have done just that…
Two Examples of Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurs
Meet Connie. She is the founder of Dirty Footprints Studio. Connie is an artist, teacher, and workshop leader who deeply cares about women tapping into their creativity. Connie herself has seen the transformative effects painting has on her own life and has aligned her business with that purpose.
Everything she creates in her business – from creativity retreats to art journaling workshops to a process she even trademarked called FEARLESS Painting – all those things are dedicated to helping these women step into their creativity and own their full expression in life.
Meet Anastasia. She may be the only person I know with the job title “Inspired Adventure Coach.” She helps people regain their passion and curiosity for life using the wilderness as their guide. Her own experiences as a park ranger, backpacking coach, and avid hiker has created a very unique purpose that helps people find the same empowerment she did through the outdoors after feeling less than fulfilled for so long.
She now offers mindset coaching, guided retreats, she invented hiking gear for women called Kula Cloth, and you can often find her climbing mountains with her violin to play sunrise concerts with The Musical Mountaineers.
In both these examples, you can clearly see Connie and Anastasia’s purpose at play. They have taken their personal experiences, passions, and curiosities and turned them into a thriving business. Their purpose helps them create an impact that profound, meaningful, and personally fulfilling.
So, you want to be a purpose-driven entrepreneur?
If you don’t have a clear idea of what your purpose is yet, that’s okay.
The time it took for me to scribble some notes in my journal until I clearly defined my guiding intention was a few years. It all starts with being curious and open to the thread that is weaving its way through your life right now. Remember, clarity comes through action.
If you feel stuck, try something new, read a book you’ve been interested in, talk to a friend you trust. Just keep moving forward and see what opportunities arise along the way. See what is being stitched whether you’re trying or not. The true magic happens when you pick up the needle and start to sew.