Why do people, coaches, and management authors actually think that purpose is something a person or an organization can “do”?

I get asked a lot of interesting questions, but I’d never heard this one before.

I don’t believe coaches or authors think that purpose is something that one can do. Coaches and authors are offering purpose as an access to deliberately articulate why we are doing something. Purpose is a frame, or a point of view, not an activity. However, articulating a purpose can inspire really effective action.

As a quick example, If I say I’m riding a bike to lose weight – that would be my “why”. So then, my purpose for bike riding is to lose weight. Losing weight will have a certain level of motivation for me.

However, if I ask myself – why do I care about losing weight? I care because I think I’ll feel better. I care because my husband likes riding bike and that would be something we could do together. As I think about this and investigate it for myself, I hear ‘because I have seven incredible grandchildren and I want to make a difference in the world they are growing up in – I can’t make the big difference I want to make if I don’t feel well or am not very healthy’.

I realize that considering this last ‘why’ really inspires me. I could ride a bike for that – for impacting the world in positive ways for my grandchildren. That is very compelling for me. I picture my grands as grown ups, having examples of people they know who really made (make) a difference, having the world operate just a tiny bit better in some ways, and that picture brings tears to my eyes. I can imagine my beautiful grands living in that world. That is now my purpose for bike riding. So can I do that purpose? No.

But I can do an action and riding my bike fits that category. And with that ‘why’ or purpose, I will do the riding of my bike with way more passion than for losing weight (which is a typical “purpose” for me to do anything and almost never gets me into action).

So, a purpose can inspire us to take action we didn’t imagine possible, or to take action in ways we didn’t see before. Action is doing and doing produces outcomes. Outcomes are way of knowing if what we and our team are doing is making the difference we want it to.

Having a purpose makes a difference to one’s effectiveness, but most importantly to one’s satisfaction.

There are lots of ways to being to articulate or create a purpose statement. Here’s one video I like that’s short and clear regarding how to create a purpose.