What is purpose?
What is the definition of purpose and how can it help entrepreneurs build meaningful, impactful businesses (and lives)? Here's my story...
What is purpose, really?
Does it actually matter or is it just another sexy self-development trend?
Let’s find out…
The motorcycle yogi and a worksheet
The best way that I’ve ever heard purpose defined came from my former yoga teacher. And before you put up the oh-no-she’s-about-to-get-woo-woo-up-in-here blinders, hold up!
My yoga teacher was named Eric, he drove a motorcycle, was an Army vet, and had a chihuahua named Hanuman.
In other words, he wasn’t your typical peace-and-love yoga teacher, and he made sure to knock sense into us whenever we got a little too “woo.”
But back to my point – how he defined purpose… He actually didn’t even use the word ‘purpose.’
Instead, he called it “A GUIDING INTENTION.”
Such a simple, yet powerful phrase. We have an intention for what we want in our lives and we use it to guide us forward.
He challenged us to think of a statement that could encapsulate our drive and mission in life, and of course – as all good teachers do – he opened up to us and shared his…
I empower people.
Three words. Simple, powerful, and resonant.
He shared with us how he saw this guiding intention – this purpose – play out in his entire life, even in the past when he hadn’t been clear on it.
In almost everything he did, from serving in the army, to working in the tech world, to helping veterans recover from PTSD, to opening a yoga studio, to creating the teacher training I was enrolled in at the time I met him – it all was guided by the intention to empower people, to help them live more fully alive.
I remember sitting there stunned.
Such a simple, powerful three words that – once decided upon – motivated every single thing he did in his professional and personal life. I even saw that purpose buzzing and alive in the room; 30 humans sitting there empowered by what he was teaching us each and every week for a full year.
I also sat there dubious.
Skeptical that I could ever possess my own such simple and powerful phrase that connected all the dots of my past and led me forward – with intention – into my future.
Unbelieving that the sick, tired, depressed Quinn I was at the time could ever live life with such deep meaning. Doubtful that I could ever make an impact when I felt so un-clear about what impact I even want to make.
Connecting the dots
To help us uncover our guiding intention, he gave us a reflection worksheet, prompting us to answer all kinds of questions…
- What are the values you respect in other people?
- Who do you admire and why?
- What past key experiences (good or bad) in your life stand out?
- What are your talents?
To be honest, I experienced a lot of resistance to doing this.
It was the first time I ever reflected back on my life like this and I didn’t feel like there were any gems in my past to uncover, much less turn into something meaningful.
But I did it anyway, and like in any creative exercise, started to sink into it the more time passed and I let my cranky thoughts fade to the background.
Dots began to arise and the thread connecting them became clear as I scribbled a little note up in the corner of my workbook:
“I make the invisible visible.”
It was a start – at least – and I left it at that.
I kept it loosely in the back of my mind for months, wondering if that could possibly become a guiding intention, but not sure how.
My purpose in action
During this same time, I started my business. I was helping entrepreneurs and small business owners take their ‘invisible’ visions and turn them into something visible and real.
As time wore on, it began to feel like a deeper kind of service.
I wasn’t just designing a logo or a website; I was empowering people who had a mission and a vision, transforming something that started off as a tiny little thought in their mind into reality. A reality that was more empowering, purposeful, and fulfilling.
It was empowering to help people in this way, and after a year or so in my business, my guiding intention started to crystallize:
I help people bring their ideas to life.
That was my statement. Longer than 3 words, but it was mine and it felt right.
I began to see how this purpose had played out all throughout my life in the past…
Taking a large retainer client taught me everything I needed to know about bringing ideas to life in the digital realm.
Volunteering at a homeless shelter where I helped children learn how to express themselves creatively through art therapy techniques.
Co-founding an organization in Downtown Phoenix to help the community envision the future they wanted to realize.
The dots were there and my purpose was the through-line.
My future – which once felt hopeless and constraining – was now full of possibilities.
I saw clearly that purpose could be expressed in a multitude of ways, and I now had the clarity to let it be the intention that guided me forward.
So, what is purpose?
Purpose is like a soundtrack – one that has been playing in the background of your life all along, just waiting for you to turn up the volume and sway to its melodies.
There is no right or wrong purpose, just one that feels most resonant to you, one that will guide you in the direction you want to go.
What is purpose really?
Purpose is a guiding intention.
It is an organizing principle that helps you realize your ideas and moves you to act.
Purpose gives your work and life meaning and helps you define the impact you want to make.
Here are some characteristics of purpose:
- Purpose is up to you to decide.
- There is no right or wrong purpose.
- Purpose is a choice you make to define what matters most.
- Purpose is a connecting thread through all areas of your life.
- Purpose helps you focus your energy and attention.
By deciding what your purpose is and aligning it with everything you do, you can make more an impact through your business and feel more fulfilled and empowered in your entire life.
You move from reaction to intentional creation.
From responding to what life throws at you to leading your life and business where you want it to go.
THAT is the power of uncovering your purpose.
What purpose is NOT
There is one more characteristic I left out of the list above becuase it’s so important it deserves its own section.
To show you why, let me tell you about an email I got recently from someone who had taken my Purpose Quiz.
She said this:
“I run my own business but I have a passion for writing novels. It’s not my money-maker, nor do I want it to be. If that’s my purpose, how does it connect to other parts of my life?”
This was my answer to her:
Purpose is not your WHAT. Purpose is your WHY that drives many whats.
Purpose is an intention that can be expressed in a multitude of ways and once you decide your purpose (remember: it’s a choice!), you can let it inform what you do in your life and business NOW and IN THE FUTURE.
Will your life right now be 100% aligned with your purpose? Probably not. Maybe it never will be. Maybe it will. IT’S ALL OKAY.
What really matters is this: uncovering your purpose is the beginning of a journey toward a deeper understanding of what drives you and what kind of impact you want to make on the world.
When you gain this clarity, you can then use your purpose as a “guiding intention” that moves you toward your vision for business and for your entire live, step by step by step.
This is Purpose
Purpose is an internal motor that drives you to act. That inspires you to create. That starts where are and grows with you as you evolve. Purpose makes everything feel a little less lonely because it is Life itself, moving you forward through time.
Purpose is action. Purpose is a constant state of becoming.
You and me, we’re the fools that choose to direct the current. Foolish dreamers and creators, we are.
The only capital ’t’ Truth I care to know is this:
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yours in purpose,
P.S. Want help uncovering your purpose in the first place? Take my free 12-question purpose quiz. You’ll get a personalized result and follow-up resources to help you reflect on your inner drive.