You have accomplished a great deal as a leader. Maybe you started a business and hit your initial income goals. Or perhaps you have climbed the ladder of success in your field to a very high level.
Others look at your life and think you “have it made.”
But you know the dirty little secret.
Something is missing. You don’t know what…but something is missing.
While you put on your success face during the day, your nights are filled with restlessness.
While you go through the motions of your work and daily life, there is a sense of apathy, boredom, or dread.
The work you used to love now feels uninspiring.
You may realize your career success has impacted other areas of your life, and not in a good way. Perhaps your health, relationships, or sense of personal fulfillment have suffered.
You read books like Purpose Driven Life, and while the messages are good and sound, you still have that gnawing sense that something is missing.
That “something missing” is, indeed purpose.
Purpose is the driving factor of human beings. We are either living our purpose or searching for it, and it seems elusive. In a sense, purpose is our highest potential – it is the ultimate reason we exist. Even those who are living their purpose will plateau at times and experience a sense of rudderless-ness.
Here are signs you are struggling with purpose.
- Lack of fulfillment, even though you have everything you need and more
- Resentment toward those who are living their purpose
- Fear that you may never find your purpose
- Issues in other areas of life beyond work: relationships, spiritual, health, or personal finances, for example
- Restlessness and feelings that something is missing
- Frustration or anger
What to do when you are at these points.
Understand this is a normal part of being human
Humans are designed for purpose. Each of us comes equipped with innate strengths, and we have a unique blend of skills and life experiences as well. We seek to use these tools to fulfill our purpose. But we are human. We don’t have it all figured out yet. And that is okay. The act of seeking, striving, plateauing, and then resuming our pursuit is…life. The key is to expect the ups and downs of fulfilling purpose, and work with it.
It is hard to bring your fullest potential in your work when you are exhausted. As a leader, managing your energy is critical. You must be at your best in order to lead your team to be their best. Stephen Covey’s Habit #7 – Sharpening the Saw – is a critical habit for long-term success. In this day and age, more is expected of leaders than ever before. Competition is fierce. Margins are tight. Challenges are many. Sharpening the saw is not only a good suggestion; it is an essential life practice.
Look for a new challenge
Some leaders are blindsided when they reach a level of success – something major to which they have aspired – and then find they are not satisfied with that success. This is because there is still more potential.
Rest, then pursue a new and higher challenge. You may not “feel” like pursuing a new challenge, but once you begin, you will once again resume your path to purpose.
Face your fears
Fulfilling your purpose and reaching your highest potential can be fear-inducing. What if you miss the mark? What if you pursue the wrong purpose? What if your ladder of success is pinned to the wrong wall? These are fears of failure.
What if you do succeed? This is the fear of success, and it has the same effect as the fear of failure – stagnation.
Give yourself permission to experiment, fail, and even succeed. Everything you learn along the path of life and work is of value to you in your pursuit of purpose. Don’t wait until you know your purpose – start from where you are, and purpose will reveal itself with more clarity as you go.
Focus on legacy
We often confuse accomplishments with purpose. Purpose is bigger than accomplishments. It is the core of who you are as a person, and what you leave behind for those who follow.
In this sense, you lay a path to purpose day by day, but you may never fully realize that purpose in your lifetime.
Think of the many authors, architects, artists, and leaders from history. Many died penniless, perhaps with a sense of purposelessness. But their legacy lived on, well beyond their lives. They had done what they were gifted to do, and that was their purpose. They may not have realized it, but their lives served great purpose.
Leaders would do well to seek to serve with the gifts they have been given, and let purpose unfold in its own time.
In the classical Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey thought he had purpose. He was going to travel and see the world. He was going to have an adventurous life.
But the reality of his life took a different turn. He worked in his father’s struggling business, stayed in his hometown, married, had children, and lived in an old drafty house. His life seemed purposeless to him.
But when given the chance to see how life for others would have been if he had never been born, he realized his life had even greater purpose than he imagined.
As you go about your day-to-day life and business, focus not on purpose, but on service. How can you, as a leader, serve others? This creates legacy.
“The Bridge Builder,” a poem by Will Allen Dromgoole says it well.
When a man was asked…
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?
There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!
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Dave Ferguson is “The Leaders’ Coach”, an internationally recognized executive leadership coach, speaker, facilitator, and author. Are you interested in talking to Dave about coaching or having Dave speak to inspire and motivate your team? “ASK COACH DAVE” at 704-907-0171 or at Dave@AskCoachDave.com.