The word “purpose” comes from the Old French word purpos and the combination of the Anglo-French words purpos and proposer.
Purpose is defined as “the reason for which something is done, or created, or for which something exists.” In its verb form it means “to have as one’s intention or objective.” As a noun, it proposes a state of being.
Dan Pontefract, the writer of The Purpose Effect, describes a three-way relationship between one’s own sense of purpose, your employer’s intentions, and your role in your job. When these three pieces are defined, aligned, and work harmoniously with each other, then all three parties—the employee, the organization, and the society—will benefit. However, if this is not the case, there is the possibility that it can be harmful to the society, the enterprise and the individual.
When a company’s mission/purpose is congruent with that of an employee, then an individual has a higher possibility of achieving fulfillment in his or her life. This is especially so, if the organisation has a social purpose. Everyone wants to contribute something great to their world.
On the other hand, if a person enters into a business whose objective is in direct conflict with his or her own purpose, he or she can develop a negative association with their place of employment. This can mean less engagement and a worsening work ethic. When an individual’s purpose is not being met, he or she can become lethargic, isolated, and apathetic.
Pontefract describes the trifecta as a three-legged bar stool. When one leg is uneven or broken, things start to crumble, whether it is at the level of the individual, company, or society. People who are in such scenarios, simply go through the motions, waiting until their voice matters. Just an inch off of one leg of the barstool can lead to a poor outcome.
When you witness someone working hard to fulfill their discovered purpose, you can see them grow, and discover joy and self-confidence. Pontefract states that “when organizational, personal, and role purpose become symbiotic, the pro’s outweigh the con’s time and time again.”
Take Lindsay Hemric for example. In 2010, Hemric founded and chose to work for Teeki, an eco-friendly clothing company that uses the fibers from recycled water bottles to make clothing, over other manufacturers who made their products in sweatshops, using environmentally devastating practices. Teeki is committed to helping everyone involved, which helps Lindsay thrive and fulfill her personal purpose.
Purpose comes when you want to give “more” to the world.
Uncharted Play is yet another example of a firm with a higher purpose. Founded by Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman in 2011, UP was built to deliver “motion-based, off-grid renewable energy,” also known as MORE, into “’everything that moves.’” Some of their inventions include the Soccket and the Pulse, a soccer ball (the former) and a jump rope (the latter) that produce energy after a few hours of use. UP wants to use “play” to prove the following:
- Doing something positive for the environment doesn’t need to be a snore fest.
- Anybody can be a social innovator.
- If people all over the world can come together and try to fix the issues that need our attention, then the possibilities are endless.
Both aforementioned companies are trying to serve all of the stakeholders and achieve alignment of personal, organizational, and role purpose. This symbiotic relationship will provide all parties with happiness.
There are several cautionary tales when it comes to defining and maintaining purpose, both for the person and the business. Some believe that purpose miraculously appears or is divine intervention at work. Others argue that they are entitled to be given a purpose by their employers, but some higher ups disagree, especially if they value their profit margin more than their employees.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Purpose does not just appear. It doesn’t grow on trees. You will never win a purpose at a poker table. It will not harm your career or the collective. Purpose does not mean the end of the profit. It is for the benefit of everyone.
Purpose can be synonymous with “bliss” if you let it. Purpose needs to be considered personally, for the good of society, and for the organization. So, start searching for your own purpose, find an employer that aligns with your purpose, and define your role in that company, and start searching for your bliss.