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Purpose can sometimes take a backseat to getting things done.

Regularly evaluating our purpose can help add meaning to the times when all we seem to do is put out fires.

Business sometimes proceeds at a blistering pace, and over the weeks and months, we can feel like our raison d’être is to meet deadlines and keep the business pipeline flowing. But we all need to step back regularly and revisit our purpose for doing what we do.

Our core purpose isn’t the same as our vision or mission. A vision statement is about where you want to be at some future date. Mission has to do with the business you’re in and is also forward-looking. Purpose is about why you do what you do, and about how you conduct yourself every day.

A Core Purpose Statement Serves Anyone, in Any Position

Logistics executive Cheryl Johnson got her lesson in core purpose statements early, as a dishwasher in a hospital. On her first day on the job, her boss told her that her purpose was to “help ensure a clean, healthy environment so patients could heal as fast as possible and go home to their families.” In other words, the clean dishes were a critical element in something much larger and more important.

You may never have attended a leadership coaching program or been placed in a formal leadership position of any kind, but whatever you do, you lead your life. A core purpose statement serves you well regardless.

Steps to Creating a Core Purpose Statement

The first step to creating a core purpose statement is, of course, to figure out what your purpose is. Not what you want it to be, but what it is right now. Fleshing out your core purpose statement should involve several key steps:

  • Giving yourself permission to “stretch” – by defining a purpose that includes an indefinite series of new goals that continues to push you forward
  • Being both rational and emotional – so that not only does your core purpose statement define the value that you bring, but also the feeling of inspiration or excitement you bring to your purpose
  • Using plain language – because purpose doesn’t depend on corporate jargon for validity
  • Making it actionable – because living out your purpose requires you to do specific things, whether it’s cleaning hospital dishes or signing multi-million-dollar contracts

Writing down your core purpose statement is an excellent way to shape, understand, and assimilate it into your life.

And as mentioned earlier, it’s smart to re-evaluate your core purpose statement periodically. The world changes constantly, as do demands, skills, and technologies. Your core purpose may shift over the years to account for the many ways your reality changes. But whenever you know your core purpose, you can lead on purpose.

What Your Core Tendencies Can Teach You About Leadership

Both inner-core strengths and outer-core competencies influence your success as a leader, whether or not your position as a leader is a formalized one. We are all individuals, and our core purpose statement must be individualized. Likewise, our leadership styles are individualized and are influenced by our purpose and by our characteristics and competencies.

Trying to lead without knowing your core purpose is a bit like framing up a house without laying a foundation first. It might look impressive, but it may have a hard time holding up in a storm. Leadership development programs and leadership coaching programs often talk about purpose, and many of them ask participants to create a purpose statement. Knowing your purpose and regularly reflecting on it keep you grounded and on-track, and that is invaluable in a world filled with distractions.

We’re all guilty of focusing on tasks at hand and forgetting about our purpose once in a while because the world doesn’t slow down for anyone. But we need to know our core purpose, re-evaluate our core purpose periodically, and do what we can to live our core purpose so we can lead with purpose – even if we lead only ourselves.

I encourage you to check out my books, particularly Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential. It goes into great depth on the subjects of inner-core characteristics and outer-core competencies to help readers understand their purpose better and use their strengths to lead in the ways that are uniquely effective to them as individuals.

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