There was a time in my life when I was saying yes to everything. I took on random work, ran volunteer projects, and attended meetings whenever I was asked, no matter the project or event. I have always been adept at juggling projects and dividing my attention among several areas. However, at this point in my life, my schedule was so full, I only had an average of six hours of rest time built into my day (and that included sleep!). This pace was not sustainable and, ultimately, I felt burned out and stretched thin.
The main problem? I was straying too far from my purpose when I said yes to everything.
I ended up in meetings where I had little to offer or gain. I worked on projects that were well outside my wheelhouse or scope of interest. Ultimately, I was doing myself a disservice and not making the kind of impact I wanted to be making. It was time to pump the brakes and refocus! It was time to develop and stick to a purpose statement.
What Is a Purpose Statement?
A purpose statement articulates the impact you would ultimately like to make. When you see your path stretching out in front of you, where do you want it to lead? Your purpose statement can make sense of those big-picture goals for both yourself and others.
Why Write a Purpose Statement?
We often spend so much time buried in day-to-day work that it’s easy to lose sight of our core purpose. When we’re “in the weeds” for too long, we frequently end up feeling stressed and unfocused, among other negative side effects. Creating a purpose statement can remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing or, if you’ve veered from the path, it reminds you to course correct and modify your work to more closely align with your purpose.
When you’re clear about your purpose, you can more easily set short-term and long-term goals for yourself. You understand where you’re going, and you can more easily think about the big-picture steps that are needed to get there. According to a McKinsey & Company article published this past year, “People who live their purpose at work are more productive than people who don’t. They are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay at the company.”
Additionally, when you’re clear about your purpose, you can more easily say “no” to requests that fall outside your passion, abilities, or interests. Reflecting on the time in my life when I said “yes” to everything, I now know that I could have avoided so much busy work and stress by simply saying:
“Thank you for the offer, but this work falls outside my scope of interest. I am mainly interested in [fill in with your purpose/goals] at this time.”How to Write a Purpose Statement
You may already have some idea of your purpose, but how clear is it? Are you still uncertain about your direction?
That’s okay! I challenge you to work on clarifying your purpose before writing your purpose statement. To gain clarity, it is vital to engage in active reflection. While you reflect, consider both A) your passions and B) your experience and areas of expertise. Both factors are important for determining your purpose and eventually writing a purpose statement.
Your reflection could take one (or more) of a few different forms:
- Daily meditation (While keeping your goals in mind.)
- Regular journaling (Start writing about your passions and interests for 15 minutes each day.)
- Discussions with others (I love this one! It can be so insightful to talk out your purpose with others and get their feedback and reactions.)
- Exercise (Think about your path as you work out.)
- Prayer/spiritual practices (Do whatever comes naturally to you. For me, it helps if the prayer is conversational.)
As you reflect, eventually your purpose should crystallize. You’ll begin to see how your passions and experience could work in tandem to make an impact.
When you feel ready, write your purpose statement! Begin by completing the following statements:
- I am passionate about…
- I am uniquely positioned to…
Then, put them together.
- My purpose is…
From this point, you will begin testing your purpose and seeing if it fits (more about how to do this in my book, Purposeful Hustle). If you’ve tested it, and it doesn’t feel quite right, revisit your purpose statement and rewrite it. Then, test it again.
It’s possible your purpose will change over time, and that’s fine too! Revisit your purpose statement as often as you need, modify it, and start living in it. Because the more you focus on living in your purpose, the more grounded and energized you’ll feel.