Purpose is an active expression of our values and our compassion for others—it makes us want to get up in the morning and add value to the world. The Power of Purpose details a graceful, practical, and ultimately spiritual process for making it central to your life. This revitalized guide will help you integrate it into everything you do.
This third edition has been completely revised and updated. In addition to new stories, examples, and resources, it features four new chapters. “Purpose across the Ages” looks at how purpose can evolve during our lives. “The 24-Hour Purpose Retreat” includes seven mind-opening questions to help you unlock your purpose. “The Purpose Checkup” offers a new tool for periodically evaluating the health of your purpose. And in “Can Science Explain Purpose?” we learn what researchers are discovering about how an increased sense of purpose can improve our health, healing, happiness, longevity, and productivity.
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Why Do You Get Up in the Morning?
Your aim or direction.
Your reason for being.
Your reason for getting up in the morning.
You may not have considered the first three items, but most of us have wondered about a reason to get up in the morning, at least occasionally. The Power of Purpose, Third Edition, is about that reason: to help you unlock the power of purpose in your life.
What Is Purpose?
Our purpose is the essence of who we are and what makes us unique.
Our purpose is an active expression of the deepest dimension within us—where we have a profound sense of who we are and why we’re here.
Purpose is the aim around which we structure our lives, a source of direction and energy. Through the lens of purpose, we are able to see ourselves—and our future—more clearly.
You have a purpose no matter what age you are, how healthy you are, or what your economic or social situation is. Your purpose is the reason you were born, and it can be what gets you out of bed in the morning.
Purpose is actively living your values, leaning toward compassion for others, and getting up in the morning to contribute value to the world.
Purpose is what gives life a meaning.
What Is the Power in Purpose?
Power is the other key word in the book’s title that needs attention. Webster’s Dictionary defines power as the “ability to do, act, or produce.” Only certain kinds of purpose have the potential to be empowering, so being deliberate about identifying our purpose is essential. What determines the power in purpose, ultimately, is the worthiness of the aim. Having purpose that provides real power requires an aim outside ourselves. Only when our purpose is larger than ourselves can meaning be deeply savored and long lasting, not just a goal completed and then forgotten.
At our very core we need to matter. We need evidence to believe that we are growing and are giving—becoming the best we can be. Naming our purpose helps us satisfy a basic need that we’re being used for a purpose that we recognize as worthy.
Many of us say we don’t have enough time to take care of our careers and our lives. Then before we know it, we’re right! We are so busy trying to survive in an increasingly complex world that we don’t have time to notice time passing. We do many things to answer the question Why do I get up in the morning? However, our busyness can also be a way of avoiding the question. In addition, it is an anxious way of living that can lead to unease and psychological and physical problems. And finally, we might end up asking, What have I done with my life?
How Do You Unlock It?
There is a better way. Having a reason to get up in the morning can add not only years to your life, but also life to your years!
Finding that reason is not easy. If it were, we’d all know exactly why we’re here and be living that purpose every minute of every day. However, my experience shows that when you unlock a clear sense of who you are, everything else follows naturally.
Some people will come to the purpose quest with a natural bent toward reflection. Others will find the process uncomfortable, or unnatural. A few will just roll their eyes. The key to engaging both the seekers and the skeptics is to offer a step-by-step practical guidance process. And, that’s what this book offers to you.
If you are looking for a reason to get up in the morning or asking questions such as these, this book is for you:
• I feel that I’ve missed my calling in life. How do I find it?
• I’ve successfully reached midlife. Is that all there is? What’s next?
• I’ve been growing spiritually. How do I connect my spiritual growth with my work?
• I’m in a major transition (graduation, marriage, new job or job loss, divorce, illness, death of a loved one). How do I find meaning and direction?
• I have enough outer success. How do I find inner fulfillment?
This book was developed by interviewing older adults about such deep questions, then combining their wisdom with my studies in the fields of adult development and counseling psychology. Specifically, I asked a cross-section of older adults this question: “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?”
Three themes wove their way through all the interviews. The respondents consistently said they would be
• more reflective,
• more courageous,
• clear earlier about purpose.
From these interviews, I concluded that purpose naturally resides deep inside the human soul. All people seem to have a natural desire and capacity to contribute somehow to life. Each of us wants to leave footprints. And each of us has a unique purpose. Each of us is an experiment of one. We can learn from, but not adopt the purpose of, another person; we must unlock our own. Each of us is on a lifelong quest to find our purpose, whether we are consciously pursuing the quest or are vaguely aware that something is missing.
The quest for unlocking your purpose begins with believing you have one. No book, of course, can convince you of this. You must arrive at your own decision. But, the process works if you work the process. And, many people today are doing just that. Unlocking your purpose is not a single revelation; it is a process that must be experienced.
What Is the Purpose Movement?
Over the past decade, there’s been an explosion of the interest in purpose. Psychologists describe it as the pathway to happiness. Scientists point to it as essential to brain health and well-being. Business experts make the case that purpose is a key to exceptional productivity and organizational credibility, and medical professionals have found that people with purpose in their lives are less prone to disease and even live longer.
Throughout history, humans have sought to make sense of their lives, searching for meaning through prayer, retreat, art, music, nature, community, gratitude, forgiveness, and multiple other ways. Traditionally, purpose was connected with the spiritual aspect of people’s lives, and healers, priests, and shamans were the ministers who helped people connect with the sacred to restore bodies and souls to health and wholeness. Now science is increasingly validating what people have known all along: that purpose is fundamental. When it comes to life’s inevitable breakdowns, purpose can provide a breakthrough. Purpose can give us the will to live. Without purpose, we can die. With purpose, we can live in dignity and compassion. Purpose is the one thing that cannot be taken from us.
Indeed, I believe that the process of unlocking your purpose and finding the courage to live it—what I call the power of purpose—is the single most important developmental task we can undertake today.
The twenty-first century shift to an accelerated, global, technology-driven world is driving a purpose movement. Such periods tend to spotlight what does not change—what remains constant and nonnegotiable in our lives. Purpose is one of those constants. People of all ages are seeking a new perspective on how they fit into this changing world. We are challenged to find relevant answers to the age-old questions of purpose and meaning. In this era, purpose has the marks of a movement—an inner-directed quest. We could say that we are living in the Purpose Age.
In addition, many of us have come to acknowledge publicly what we privately knew all along: that surviving adolescence and early adulthood did not ensure a tranquil, jolt-free passage through the rest of our careers and lives. We change; our priorities and values shift; confidence grows, dissolves into doubt, returns; relationships evolve, break apart, reform; careers and life-styles lose energy or take on new interest—all forming a complex life cycle. Thus, purpose is not discovered once and then we are done with it. It is reimagined at various points throughout the life cycle, typically during crises and major life transitions.
Welcome to the Third Edition
The Third Edition is different. Here’s why. As a lifelong student of purpose, I’ve kept learning and growing. The insights in this book have grown along with me. The lessons learned have come from study, practice, and stories from past readers. Like a good school or teacher, we can return to a good book over and over for lifelong learning. Like most of us, the purpose story has grown and matured. And, parts of the story have stayed the same.
I initially chose to write this book because of my deep personal belief that we live in an evolving spiritual world and that every individual in this world has unique gifts and a purpose to use those gifts to contribute value to the world.
This book builds on earlier editions of The Power of Purpose, expanding and deepening the conversation. It is based on forty years of study and experiences with people of all ages who were engaged in the purpose quest. New stories about purpose have been added, and other material has been updated. In addition, the Resources at the back of the book have been updated for the many people who asked me how to use the book in seminars, classes, book clubs, and spiritual or study groups.
The book is organized in a way that makes sense to me, but everyone has different needs and interests, so you should feel free to follow any order you want.
I believe that spirit touches and moves our lives through the purpose journey. That is my starting point for helping people to unlock their purpose. In a pluralistic society, not everyone will agree with that starting point. That’s all right. Let me be clear, however, that my objective is not intended to express a specific religious point of view or to exclude people who don’t believe as I do. Instead, this starting point is the very reason for my acceptance of the many differences among people. Because of my starting point, I believe that each person has a spiritual reason for being and that our world is incomplete until each one unlocks her or his purpose.
I hope you will find your purpose—if I have found mine, this book will be a catalyst for you finding yours.
Richard J. Leider
Table of ContentsPreface: Why Do You Get Up in the Morning?
PART I: WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE?
Chapter 1: The Purpose Checkup
Chapter 2: The Purpose Myths
Chapter 3: The Purpose Path
Chapter 4: The Purpose Gift
PART II: THE PURPOSE JOURNEY
Chapter 5: Purpose Across the Ages
Chapter 6: Unlocking Your Story
Chapter 7: Unlocking Your Gifts
Chapter 8- Unlocking your Curiosity
PART III: PURPOSE AND WORK
Chapter 9: The 24-Hour Purpose Retreat
Chapter 10: Working With Presence
Chapter 11: The Working on Purpose Quiz
PART IV: PURPOSE AND WELL-BEING
Chapter 12: The School of Life Purpose
Chapter 13: Living With Presence
Chapter 14: Communities With Purpose
Chapter 15: Can Science Explain Purpose?
The Purpose Practice Group Guide
The Purpose Checkup
The Working-on-Purpose Quiz
Resources for Reflection
The Purpose Company
ABOUT THE AUTHOR