I'm a little concerned these days that my corporate clients are talking about 'purpose'. The hot topics right now seem to be about either organisations having a greater sense of purpose or helping their employees get a greater sense of purpose and meaning from their work. I think we need to be careful with who 'owns' this sense of purpose and meaning.
There is lots of research coming out now saying - if employees get a greater sense of purpose and meaning from their work then they'll be happier and ultimately more productive. I'm not so sure.
Firstly money and purpose can be uneasy bedfellows. Are organisations going to move away from profit and toward purpose? I don't think so. Nor should they, this could just become a massive distraction. Secondly, many employees can't afford the luxury of pursuing their 'purpose'; they have families to raise and bills to be paid so it's not for everyone. Thirdly, maybe there is more than one type of purpose and I think there is.
The first type of purpose is where a person feels that their life has a purpose to be achieved or delivered upon. So it's like an outcome, a legacy, a contribution they want to make and they own it.
The second type of purpose can be 'how' you live your life rather than 'what' you do with it. So it's more day to day, more in the present rather than aspirational. And maybe this is the corporate one - how we treat our staff and how we treat our customers is our purpose. This distinction is an important one for organisations to consider.
Life Stage Purpose
Then perhaps the two go together - depending on where you are at you may wish to focus for now on how you live your life and do your work. Later, when you are not needed so much, when the bills have reduced and when the debt is nearly gone, you can then think about your aspirational purpose.
Now that I am in my mid-sixties I am in the last quarter of my life. It is only now that I feel I am free to be fully myself and to live the kind of life I once dreamt of. There is still time to be the person I knew I could be if only circumstances allowed. Well, now they do. I never thought that my later years could be my most enjoyable years but it is proving to be so. Of course, there is only one precondition for a brilliant, match-winning fourth quarter: good health. That is, fit for purpose.