The benefits of having a sense of purpose in what you do

Focus Mode

In this article we will cover the high level importance and impact that having a sense of purpose has. For the science behind purpose, please see this related article.

This article is a part of a series of articles that explore brain health and performance.

What is a sense of purpose?

Having a sense of purpose is related to having the intention to accomplish something that is meaningful to you and makes a positive difference for others. 
So having a sense of purpose in what you do at work relates to believing that what you do is meaningful and contributes to making a positive difference for others. Your sense of purpose is influenced by your core personal values and beliefs. Author’s purpose: To improve quality of life and achieve potential.

Why a sense of purpose is important

  • A sense of purpose acts like a north star in directing your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
  • Having a sense of purpose in what you do provides a sense of lasting fulfilment and is the most significant enabler of you being at your best.
  • A sense of purpose provides immense motivation and guides you in achieving your authentic potential.
  • A sense of purpose enables you to get through harder times and to persevere through adversity.
  • Having a sense of purpose significantly benefits your health, work performance and ultimately your levels of flourishing.

Why a sense of purpose is important for organisations

Purpose helps to align Personal Leadership and Culture.

An organisation’s purpose is based on why the organisation exits beyond making a profit and it directly impacts how its employees behave and think. Clearly communicating the organisations purpose helps bring clarity to the organisational culture, making its values and beliefs more tangible.

“A culture of purpose guides behavior, influences strategy, transcends leaders–and endures.” – Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global CEO.

Seeing and understanding a clear organisational purpose linked to serving others, also supports you as an individual in better understanding how your contribution makes a meaningful difference to others. It helps you find your own meaningful purpose in what you do. Employees can be assisted in this process during the on-boarding process by clarifying how the employee’s role contributes to achieving the business’s purpose.

A common purpose unites people and provides motivation to the whole workforce, no matter how challenging the situation. Imperative, a company that researches Purpose, found that having a sense of purpose was the most significant factor in job satisfaction and that it quadruples the likelihood of being engaged at work. 

In built to last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras state that organisations with a purpose had on average a six-to-one higher performance than their competitors and grew an average of three times faster. Linked to the quote above from Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global CEO; Deloitte’s Core Beliefs & Culture Survey has found that organisations that focus beyond profits and instill a culture of purpose, drive more business confidence, investment and ultimately are more likely to find long-term success. More specifically in 2014, Deloitte’s survey found that 82 percent of respondents who work for an organisation with a strong sense of purpose, expressed confidence that their organisation will grow in the same year, compared to 48 percent of respondents who consider that their organisation does not have a strong sense of purpose. 

Further to this, in the same survey respondents who consider that their organisations have a strong sense of purpose, are nearly double as optimistic about their organisation’s ability to stay ahead of industry disruptions (83% vs. 42%) and to outperform their competition (79% vs. 47%).

How do you go about discovering a sense of purpose?

Our unconscious brain (what we call the Elephant) drives much of our behaviour and is the source for our inner motivation and drive. Although our Elephant does not have the capacity for language. On the other hand, our conscious brain, or Rider provides our language capabilities.

We can use our Rider to gain clarity on our purpose and to put the purpose into words. This helps us communicate and therefore influence our own behaviour and to inspire, plus attract others who relate to our purpose.

There are various methods you can use to gain clarity on your purpose.

Richard Leider, uses a one minute napkin method.

The University of Southern Queensland provides a very nice ikigai worksheet that helps you explore what your unique and completely individual purpose is based on your key drivers in life.

Simon Sinek, Peter Docker and David Mead’s share a different approach in their book: Finding your why. This approach provides a straight forward method to finding your why for individuals, groups and organisations. 

What is your purpose? 

You can read more on the topic of meaning and purpose here.

In the next article in this series we will explore our basic social and emotional needs and the impact they have on our brains.

Here are all of the articles in this series.

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