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Nine months before the end of World War Two, Simon Wiesenthal was a death camp inmate taking a break next to an SS corporal who asked him what he would tell people in the USA “if an eagle took you to America.”
Fearing a trap but deciding to be honest, Wiesenthal haltingly said: “I believe I would tell the people the truth, Herr Rottenfuehrer.”
The SS-man did not shoot him but simply said: “You would tell the truth to the people in America. That’s right. And do you know what would happen, Wiesenthal? They wouldn’t believe you.”
This was the defining moment for Wiesenthal and his purpose became clear: should he survive the rest of the war, he would commit himself to tell the world the truth about the Holocaust – one in which he lost relatives 89 including his mother. He devoted the rest of his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals and, after the war, he helped to bring over 1100 Nazis to justice including Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele. It’s a stunning story.
Ever had a “moment of truth” conversation? Ever been told you couldn’t do something, and you vowed you would prove that person wrong?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve often felt a bit daunted by the topic of ‘finding your purpose in life’. I’ve tried so many times to do the exercises in books and at workshops. It’s harder to find your purpose if you haven’t had a Wiesenthal experience or have a cause that prompts a huge sense of injustice (and forgive me because I know there are plenty of them).
People of faith tend to find it easier to feel purpose. Mother Teresa described herself simply as “God’s pencil.” That was all she needed! My Sikh friends Harpreet and Sukhi (both financial advisors) are very clear that their faith drives them to make an ever more positive mark on the world. They are inspiring to spend time with.
Sometimes I wonder if you struggle more with finding a purpose when your self-worth is wobbly; In other words, if your inner dialogue is: “I’m not sure how much I deserve a mighty sense of purpose because I’ll never be Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa.” As a result, you don’t persevere to work on answers.
Many people are driven to make a difference in an area that has personally affected them – that becomes their cause. They lose a child to a drunk driver. They survive a near-death experience and want to help others who had that illness or had a similar accident.
Maybe finding a deeper purpose is a longer journey for some people that requires more digging and re-visiting. Keep mining.
What are the great benefits to defining your purpose?
Neurobiologically, purpose alters the brain by shifting the attention off ourselves and it attracts outside assistance. It boosts motivation, productivity, resilience, and focus.
Clarity: It helps you focus on what matters most
It helps you feel more grounded and centered
Your purpose is long-term mission-driven
It’s easier to listen to the voice who wants you to be better
Your purpose gives you FUEL to persist towards your next breakthrough – think: Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Suffragettes
I realize most of us aren’t fighting for a mighty cause. But what is your driving purpose?
There’s no ‘right way’ for how you express it.
Write out your Big 5:
Of all the ways to help identify/express your purpose I’ve seen over the past thirty years, my favorite is based on an idea I got from Robin Sharma’s book, The Everyday Hero Manifesto. He calls it the Big 5. When he was on a safari once, he was told he’d get to see the ‘Big 5’ animals of the continent. It prompted him to wonder what the Big 5 things were for his life.
a) List out the different roles in your life (parent, partner, vocation, etc.).
b) You might list out the different areas of your life (health, relationships, professional, financial, spiritual, etc.).
c) You can also think about causes you are passionate about and how you would like to make a difference there.
d) Ask yourself: What type of parent/partner/leader to my clients do I want to be?
How do I want to make a consistent difference with…?
e) Revisit your past life regrets, then reverse them, and inject them into your Big 5, eg, as a child, I had so much anger towards my mother that I fell into the unconscious habit of blaming her for much of my unhappiness or things I didn’t like about my life instead of taking ownership for everything in my life. Unfortunately, because I hadn’t resolved all of this negative hard-wired reactivity even by the time I got married (ouch), I unwittingly did the same thing with my wife for the first few years. As a result, I still find it important to have on my Big 5: “Be a human being who fiercely works to TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERYTHING IN HIS LIFE (no blaming!”)
While it makes me a bit uncomfortable sharing mine with you and putting myself out there in the public, if it helps you get started then it’s worth it because the benefits to having such a clear sense of direction are so helpful – especially on the harder days.
Mission Statement – to Do My Best to…
1. Be a human being who fiercely works to TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERYTHING IN HIS LIFE (no blaming!) and evolve 4% DAILY towards his potential (personal mastery – no timider and playing small!). Feels calm, strong, and FULFILLED with a journey mindset (who deals with anger and is non-reactive to the words of the unhappy)
2. Love on and PUSH as many people as possible so they feel worthy, confident, and bold to face their fears, experience breakthroughs, and fast track to fulfill their potential
3. Shower love on and raise confidence, intrinsically motivated, and kind kids
4. Be a responsible, principle-centered provider and protector for my family who knows there is enough, and I am enough (my own resources are DEEP)
5. Be a content creator and role model who does outstanding work DAILY, charges what he’s worth, and doesn’t take life so seriously
As with most exercises, just start. Even if it’s five minutes in the car. Then keep what you come up with highly visible – it will make your days richer, and you will feel more aligned about what matters most to you.
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121