A Coaching Power Tool created by Heather King
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. John F. Kennedy
At some level we all hunger for meaning in our lives. We need to feel at our core that we matter, and that we are making a difference. Adopting a lifestyle that is on purpose provides an opportunity to enrich others, by leaving your imprint in a positive way. (Canfield, Hansen, & Hewitt, 2000, pg. 272)
The dictionary defines the word purposeful as meaningful, intentional, focused, determined, resolute, and ordered; having a definite purpose; being full of purpose; being fixed on one’s purpose.
When a person is full of purpose they are excited about where they are going because it is clear to them. They are motivated to move forward and know what they want and/or need to do. This clarity on their purpose brings calmness, confidence, and a sense of contentment when they are fulfilling that purpose. A person who is clear on their purpose can move forward with much more ease than a person who has not yet figured out their purpose.
Living purposefully can bring a great deal of joy and fulfillment, however, living a life of purpose is much more than just gaining personal happiness or fulfillment. There are many examples of people who have pursued money, fame, power, pleasure, etc. as their ultimate goal and yet it has not brought them fulfillment and joy. Often the most fulfilling things in life are ones that we’ve had to work hard for and we reach them as we pursue an end that is bigger than ourselves. So, living in a purposeful way may be hard work and may even require sacrifice and suffering, but it will bring great fulfillment as we make a contribution and a difference in the world. (Stoltzfus, 2008)
According to the dictionary the word purposeless is defined as aimless, meaningless, having no purpose, plan or goal; doing something without a discernible point. Without purpose a person does not have clarity on how to make decisions because they do not know what direction they want to be moving in. They are at the mercy of whatever whim comes their way.
When a person does not live in a purposeful way their lives become consumed by the urgent and immediate needs they see all around them. They are not able to focus on the bigger picture and they can be filled with a sense of meaninglessness about their lives. Living or acting without purpose can also bring stress, chaos, and anxiety into a person’s life.
A person may have achieved a great amount in their life and yet still may feel unfulfilled, discontent, or like something is missing. This feeling may come from a lack of purpose. Even if a person cannot articulate their life purpose, they still have one. It is challenging for people not to do this purpose. When they are not living their purpose they live with a feeling of disconnect. (Whitworth, Kimsey-House, & Sandahl, 1998)
Questions for Reflection
- What are the benefits of living with and without a purpose?
- What are the difficulties of living both with and without a purpose?
- Do I really need a life purpose?
- What difference would it make to know my life purpose?
- How much am I willing to commit to having a life purpose and living by it?
As coaches we can support our clients as they discover their purpose and seek to live purposefully. The following activities are not designed to help client’s discover their purpose, since there are many tools available for that, but to help clients understand the importance of living purposefully and how to keep the bigger picture in mind in order to do that.
Activity #1: Why live purposefully?
Ask the client to remember a time in their life when they felt fully alive, a time when their life seemed to be in sync, and what they were doing brought them great joy and peace. Once they can visualize this time in their lives ask them to reflect on the following questions:
- What were you doing?
- Where were you?
- Who were you with?
- What did it feel like?
- What would you life look like if you felt this way all the time?
After the client has thought about this for a while have them describe it to you. Then have them describe what it would feel like to live this way on a daily basis? End by reflecting on the fulfillment that comes from living purposefully. Talk about how the positive emotions of that fulfillment tend to come from hard work and sacrifice as we pursue a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.
Activity #2: How to live purposefully?
There are many tools already available to help clients define their life purpose, strengths, abilities, passions, personality type, values, etc. So this exercise is intended for use after the client has clarified many of these aspects of their life and is looking for a way to put it all together and live purposefully.
Purposeful Living Visual Aid: Clients will create a visual aid that will help them see the “big picture” and be a constant reminder to them as they seek to live purposefully.
- Have the client write their life purpose at the top, center of a poster board or a large piece of paper.
- Right below their life purpose, have them place several columns with headings such as strengths, passions, abilities, experiences, personality traits, values, etc. Have them make as many columns as they have information about these different aspects of who they are. Then have them fill in the columns with the information they already know about themselves.
- Beneath the columns have them place the heading “My Current Roles.” Under this heading will be space for them to place their current roles and statements about how those roles fit into their bigger purpose, skills, passions, etc. These roles can be written on separate pieces of paper and attached in a way that they can be removed if the client sees that they don’t fit their purpose or their stage of life has changed and they no longer are in that role.
- Finally, have them reflect on any roles that they currently have that may not fit into the purpose they have set for their lives. Have them brainstorm ways they can delegate or fade out of those roles.
We all need to see the bigger picture of how what we are doing matters. Keeping our minds focused on that bigger purpose and how we fit into it is a powerful way of bringing meaning and fulfillment into our lives and the lives of our clients.
Canfield, Hansen, & Hewitt, 2000. The Power of Focus. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.
Dictionary.com (2012). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com
Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online (2012). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary
Stoltzfus, T. (2008) Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills. Virginia Beach, VA.
Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, H., & Sandahl, P. (1998). Co-Active Coaching. Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black.