“Often times you hear about companies and their vision statements—true North, or their ultimate dream. And those vision statements can inspire those companies. Rarely do you hear about individuals with personal vision statements. So, my question to you is: What’s your personal vision statement? Mine would be to expand the world’s collective wisdom and compassion—inspired by the idea that wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness, and compassion without wisdom is folly.” – Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linkedin
Several years ago, I met someone who had no idea how to become successful. He couldn’t see how to unlock his purpose. He wanted to do great things, but couldn’t see past his short term goals of making more money and getting out of debt. He needed a vision.
In this question, I discovered my Infinite Purpose: empower people, starting with him, to achieve their full potential. I coached him to get his head out of his head, clarify his purpose, and start changing the world. And then he led change at Fortune 500 companies. He started things. Big things. He brought people products that could make their lives better. At some of the most influential high tech companies, he empowered people starting new businesses to get in the game in new ways, leveraging social media to grow their brands and dreams. He also focused on being a dedicated husband and father, and friend and volunteer in the community, giving countless hours to causes that influence people.
Like Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University, he believes in the power of a growth mindset. He’s never afraid to fail. And he pursues his purpose with unrelenting passion. In a two year study of junior high school students, Dweck found that those who held a growth mindset were able to overcome challenges. When offered different study skills, they embraced them and achieved big impact. The growth mindset, as opposed to the fixed mindset, invites failure knowing its part of the story of success, along with hard work, focus, and dedication. Those who stick with the growth mindset continue working hard despite setbacks.
At some point in our lives, many of us stopped dreaming. But having an Infinite Purpose is about going back to when everything was endless possibilities. When we dreamed without fear. Infinite Purpose is about dreaming again.
There’s power in purpose. No question about it. Adam Grant, star Professor at Wharton, conducted a study to test the power of purpose with a call center at a fundraising organization by randomly assigning employees to one of three groups. In the first group, employees read stories from fellow employees describing perceived benefits of the job, including financial benefits, knowledge, etc. Another set of employees read positive stories from those whose lives were changed by benefitting directly from the organization through scholarships. And the third group of employees didn’t read any stories at all. Employees were told not to talk about or share what they’d read with any other callers. The researcher was able to obtain the number of pledges earned as well as the amount of donation money obtained by the callers both one week prior to the study and one month afterward.
Here’s what happened. Employees in the Personal Benefit and Control groups secured the same number of pledges and raised the same amount of money as before. But people in the group who read about how they’re work affected the world, “earned more than twice the number of weekly pledges (from an average of 9 to an average of 23) and more than twice the amount of weekly donation money (from an average of $1,288 to an average of $3,130).”
Having an Infinite Purpose creates a force multiplier in life because our purpose is always going to be greater than any challenge in front of us.
We’re all motivated by different things, but studies show that the most powerful, highest-performance goals are connected to meaning. When Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker examined experiences of people who described their lives as happy and others who described their lives as meaningful, she found that being happy and finding life meaningful overlap, but that there are important differences. Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Those who considered their lives happy focused on what was happening to them in the present moment and were “takers”, and those who considered their lives meaningful found insights exploring and integrating their past, present, and future and were “givers”. Givers go beyond a balanced life to creating one connected to what’s most important.
When we make goals about achieving something tied to serving others, our goals keep on giving. Like when my young sons and I were at the carnival and I challenged them to hit the plates with the ball so we could win a big stuffed animal for their little sister, Faith. When we’d attempted it for ourselves in the past, we rarely won, but because we were focused on winning for Faith, we each broke a plate, on three of three attempts, and won a big stuffed dog for her. An Infinite Purpose like that keeps you connected to work, life, and the world. Here are some characteristics of an Infinite Purpose:
- A few lines that capture what will constantly be motivating for you every day
- Like a life teaser trailer that offers the best of you for those you love and respect most
- Powered by inspiring concepts (kindness, courage, etc.) and tied to service for others
Here are some radically simple examples of Infinite Purpose:
- “I speak not for myself but for those without voice…those who have fought for their rights…their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” – Malala Yousafzai
- “I’ve always liked working on stories that combine people who are relatable with something insane. The most exciting thing for me is crossing that bridge between something we know is real and something that is extraordinary. The thing for me has always been how you cross that bridge.” – JJ Abrams
- “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” –Maya Angelou
Brain science says that purpose is our greatest power source. If this is the case, then why do people focus so much on the What and the end goal rather than the journey itself? For example, “Lose 40 pounds”, “Earn $10000 more dollars”, etc.
If the best companies in the world do it by focusing on the Why, then why don’t more people? Nike says “Just do it”, and Disney says “We Create Happiness.” Purpose is the ultimate impact vehicle. We’re wired to want the Why first. But most people and organizations don’t realize this and don’t even know it until it’s too late. It’s amazing to see the audacity of the untested aspirations of people who’ve been inspired to accomplish truly great things, and how they link to something bigger than themselves. Stephen Covey had been groomed by his father to lead the family business but decided his Why was to instead become a teacher. His one-phrase statement of purpose way back then: “I want to release human potential.” And that’s what he did. Here are other examples of people who shared with us their Infinite Purpose:
- “I want to help people make things physically beautiful.” –Lauri Ward, Professional Home Therapist, and author of Use What You Have
- “We set out to help children by building the largest non-profit for children in the world.” – Joe Lake, co-founder of The Children’s Miracle Network, the largest multi-billion dollar charity for children
- “Be beautiful and powerful and have great adventures despite any disappointments in life.” –Alison Levine, Captain of 1st US Women Expedition to Mt. Everest, and Head of Daredevil strategies
- “Help people out—by connecting in a new way.” –Craig Newmark, creator of craigslist
What’s your Infinite Purpose?