Self-leadership week 3 (locked)
Self-leadership week 4 (locked)
Self Leadership: Week 1
An introduction to purpose
Today, we kick off the first of four modules in our Real Program, and it’s all about introducing you to the concept, and importance, of purpose.
Purpose is a word that gets thrown around a LOT. It can guide life decisions, give us a framework for our behaviour, shape our goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning.
But purpose is a big word, and many of us don’t know where to start in the search for our own, individual purpose. Some of us feel put off by the concept of a lifelong ‘higher’ purpose, particularly if we aren’t coming at the question from a particular religious or philosophical base.
I’ve found that it’s easier to think about purpose if we reframe the way we are asking the question itself. When we ask ourselves, ‘What is my life’s purpose?’ what we are really asking is: ‘What can I do with my time that is important?’
Importantly, the answer to these questions won’t just fall in your lap one day, or reveal itself with age. Unlocking your purpose is a practice that requires reflection, development and a commitment to act. That’s what we’ll be doing together over the next few weeks.
What IS purpose?
For some of us, purpose is connected to meaningful, satisfying work. For others, purpose lies in our responsibilities to family or friends. Others seek meaning through spirituality or religious beliefs, or through giving back and charity work. You might find purpose in a combination of all of these aspects.
Some people worry that searching for their purpose sounds like a self-serving or selfish quest, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, finding purpose is a process of recognising what we can contribute to the world—whether that’s creating beautiful art for others to enjoy, being there for friends in need, or bringing more joy into the lives of your loved ones.
The key point here is there is no right or wrong way to define purpose—it’s a unique concept that looks different for everyone. What you identify as your path may be different, but no less ‘valid’ than others.
What’s more, your purpose can (and will!) evolve and shift as you move through different stages of your life. It grows as you grow.
What is the benefit of living with purpose?
Research increasingly suggests purpose in life is one of the core components of wellbeing. Unlocking and pursuing your purpose can have powerful beneficial effects on both our brain and our body—in fact, having purpose is linked to positive health outcomes like better sleep, fewer strokes and heart attacks, lower risk of dementia, and premature death.
A 2016 study found that having purpose in life was linked to some measurable cognitive benefits in people who were in their 30s up through their 80s. The participants rated how much they agreed with statements such as “I live life one day at a time and don’t really think about the future” and “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.” They also took tests of memory, executive function and cognitive function. Those with a greater sense of purpose, no matter what age or education level, scored better on these measures than people with less purpose.
Dr Eric Kim from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health investigates the connection between purpose and health. Fascinatingly, people with purpose are more likely to ensure they are looking after themselves physically through things like preventative health care. In fact, his studies show that, over a 6-year-follow-up period, women with a strong sense of purpose were three times more likely to get a mammogram, and two times more likely to get a pap smear.
It’s compelling stuff—when you live with purpose, you know you want to stay healthy to achieve your goals and be there for the important people in your life. It’s further confirmation of that incredible mind-body connection and just one reason why I’ve created this three-prong approach that incorporates a nutrition plan, an exercise plan and the self-leadership program we’re embarking on right now.
So, let’s move on to your weekly activity It’s all about helping you identify your core values, which is vital for uncovering where your purpose might lie.
This exercise is intended to help you identify your core values (which are essentially your foundational beliefs and non-negotiables). These values will form the foundation for thinking about your purpose.
Take your time. Let these questions marinate a little, you’ve got all week. Go from your gut, and don’t filter yourself—you don’t need to share any of these answers with anyone (unless you want to!).
What motivates me to get up in the morning?
What keeps me up at night?
What am I doing when I’m at my best?
Why am I bothered by what bothers me?
Why do I do the work I do?
Why do I live where I live?
Why do I buy what I buy?
Why do I long for what I long for?
Why do I read and watch what I do?
Why do I admire whom I admire?
When am I happy?
Why do I have the relationships that I have?
What are the themes that are coming up in your responses above? Can you identify any common elements?
The themes that feature most prominently in your responses are important indicators of where your personal core values lie, so take some time to analyse your responses and try to pull out a handful of things that are most important to you.
For me, my personal core values are things like family time (no phones when I’m with the kids), living near the water, giving back to community and those that are doing it tough. And of course, one of my absolute non-negotiables is moving my body and fuelling myself and my family with good food!
Once you’ve identified your values, write them down and stick them on the fridge or bathroom mirror so you can reflect on them as we move through the program.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to introduce yourself to the group on FB. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a good ice-breaker: post a comment with your name, your home city/town, and if you’re feeling brave share one or all of your core values with the community. Maybe you’ll find someone with similar values and non-negotiables—it’s always interesting to see what other people’s values are.