Having a sense of meaning in life has a powerful impact on the quality of our lives, and a significant positive impact on others. Richard Leider, founder of Inventure – "The Purpose Company" says, “Purpose is our aim to live a life that is meaningful and makes a positive contribution to the world,” and “it’s living a life of our own choosing,” versus a “default life” that was chosen for us. Leider and his co-author David Shapiro, propose that “everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put into every heart.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about meaning and purpose lately. One reason is the impending death of my 99-year-old father, who has always had a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life. From a very early age (according to my grandmother), my father wanted to be a doctor. He says his desire to become a surgeon was born out of a significant loss he experienced early in his life when a close school friend died at the age of seven. From the time he went to medical school at age 19, until he retired from surgery and teaching at age 87, my father’s life revolved around this core desire to save people’s lives and to make them well again.
This unique ability to listen to his heart, understand what motivated him, and sculpt the values he wanted to live by, created a light and energy that was undeniable. He has always been growing and giving, which became synonymous with happiness, not only for himself, but for tens of thousands of others.
As we say our goodbyes to him over the next several days, I feel appreciative of his singular focus and commitment to serve others. Now, just three months shy of his 100th birthday, he is surrounded by a community of people, friends, former students, and patients who have all received from him in some way. Quite simply, he is surrounded by love, because he loved so fiercely.
How does one find Meaning in life?
It takes some (most of us) much longer to figure out our purpose for being in this world. What gives us meaning comes from a collective of influences in our lives, such as our experiences from the past and our present moment experiences. A sense of purpose can evolve from our own gifts and talents, the ones we were born with, or those gifts nurtured in us by the adults in our lives when we were just children. The ingredients are latent in us all - a compilation of our beliefs, values, and the unique patterns in our lives. To know what has meaning to us requires us to be present and intentional in our lives, and nothing short of clear-eyed and focused.
What’s Purpose got to do with Leadership?
Leaders with a sense of purpose demonstrate a passion for what they do every day. They lead from a place of an internal values alignment, that fuels their mindsets, behaviors, words, actions and decisions. Employees like to be around leaders with a sense of purpose, as their actions and words create greater clarity for all. They are what they practice, as it is not about a goal or role for them. As such, they are free to ask questions of others, listen deeply, and demonstrate a natural sense of curiosity, without carrying the burden of external expectations.
Leaders with a purpose know why they come to work every day, which is a WHY that goes beyond themselves to self-transcendence (Victor Frankl and Maslow). A sense of clarity, courage, curiosity, confidence, and authenticity inspires well-being, healing, longevity, and superior performance at work.
Purposeful people exhibit the following characteristics:
I will miss my father very much and will be forever grateful that he showed me how important having a purpose in life can be, as a guidance system we can live, continue to grow, and die by.
*Richard Leider is the author of eleven books, including three best sellers about purpose; Repacking Your Bags, The Power of Purpose and Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old? The Path of Purposeful Aging.
I founded The Red Rock Consultancy for the specific purpose of working with C-level executives, senior leaders and their leadership teams as an integral leadership development resource.