4.1 Your Purpose for Being

For those new to this series…

This blog is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational potential.  We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the template we have developed to help clients achieve their personal and organizational potential.  The FOW elements include Three Principles of Mankind and Four Disciplinesthey are the pillars that enable natural alignment and meaningful success.

I was privileged to spend 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics, including 11 years with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders. Working with Bo revealed there is much more to long-term success than talent. Being a systems engineer, I was fascinated by the science behind what made enduring success possible.  There are many great leaders who possess what Bo possessed, but Bo may be referenced more than others as he was the one I studied most.

4.1 Your Purpose for Being


AfteBusiness People Corporate Walking Commuting City Conceptr finishing my presentation at a corporate seminar, a gentleman in his forties approached me and said, “You know, I have never given a thought to my life having a purpose.  I have been so busy earning a living, taking care of my family, and trying to stay active in the community, that I never gave a thought that my life may have a purpose.” The next week I met with a highly respected doctor nearing retirement, and I shared this story with him.  He responded, “I am not sure I knew my purpose in life at 45. I was so busy operating, seeing patients, and caring for my growing family; I was too busy running from one place to another to think my life had a purpose.”

As we discussed in previous posts, our need to seek Fulfillment has four progressive Stages. As we mature, we move through the Stages and our Purpose in life becomes more clear, more meaningful. It is at Stage III – Fulfillment from Contributing to the Benefit of Others that one’s sense of a meaningful Purpose really begins to gel.

Defining Your Purpose

Your Purpose is:

  • Your deep fundamental reason for existence, beyond making money
  • The intrinsically motivating force that brings energy into your life

Your Purpose should:

  • Illustrate your idealistic motivations for doing what is meaningful to you
  • Provide alignment with what you do and who you were meant to be
  • Get you out of bed in the morning
  • Guide and inspire you for years
  • Serve Stage III – Fulfillment from Contributing to the Benefit of Others
  • Answer the question: What would the world be missing if you did not exist?


Purpose Statements of Individuals – Examples

OprahWinfrey“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” – Oprah Winfrey, founder of the Oprah Winfrey Network

“To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”
– Denise Morrison, CEO, Campbell Soup Company

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An Organization Must Have Purpose

As you personally have a purpose, so do organizations.  Each member of the team should be able to express verbally why they care about the work they do. The Purpose Statement need not be unique, and can it be modified over time.


Purpose Statements of Organizations – Examples

Merck  – To discover, develop and provide innovative products and services that save and improve lives around the world.

Mary Kay – We believe in a larger purpose: helping others to achieve their dreams.

Southwest Airlines – To connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.


Your Why Resides Within Your Purpose 

Deep inside your actions is the Why you do what you do; it is your Why that makes you attractive. Simon Sinek captured this so well in his book Start with Why (2011).  Sinek notes that it is in the limbic brain where decision-making has no capacity for language, numbers, facts, figures, or processes: the limbic brain feels what is right.  Are you in business or living a life consistent with Stage II – Comparative Fulfillment, or are you in service of Stage III – Fulfillment from Contribution for the Benefit of Others?

Connecting with Others Through Your Purpose

Patagonia, a maker of outdoor sportswear, exemplifies a company that has a lot of Why in it.  They are well-known for their commitment to fair labor practices and environmental responsibility. There is a Why to their business that goes beyond great clothing.  I shop at Patagonia because their purpose is in alignment with mine.  They make great gear, and they stand for something bigger than profits: they want to make a difference in the future of our world, which resonates with me.  Shopping at Patagonia makes me feel in alignment with who I am meant to be.  People support organizations and buy for themselves for what it does for them.  If you are an individual or an organization at a Stage III – Fulfillment from Contributing for the Benefit of Others, consumers will buy from you. They can see you have a Purpose that is in service of them.

What you do and How you do it are the proof of why you are in business. You attract others who are like-minded.  Partners, employees, and customers whose Purposes reflect a Stage III – Fulfillment from Contributing for the Benefit of Others will be loyal, committed, and dedicated, and they will help you to move toward your Vision.

Leadership Questions/Challenges

  • What is it that is intrinsically energizing to you, that touches your heart in service of improving other’s lives?
  • At the end of each day, make a note of what energized you that day, and what drained you.  After several weeks, review your notes.  What patterns emerge?
  • At work, when you organize a meeting, in addition to creating an agenda, clarify the purpose of the meeting so that all of your team is on the same page and moving in the same direction.
  • As you move through your day, think about the reasons for each of your actions.  Are they consistent with your Purpose?


FS&A Events Coming  Up in April & May

If you would like to learn more about building flourishing teams, please join us for FOW 101: Introduction to the Foundation of Winning on April 8, 2016, in Ann Arbor.

If you are practicing many of these principles, please join us for FOW 302: Foundation of Winning in Action May 5-7, 2016, in Ann Arbor.  We will visit Zingerman’s to see what makes them flourish, and then we will build a plan for you to flourish. Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig will be keynote speaker.

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