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Balancing 2 young children, a very busy tech career, school, and managing my household, I think quite a lot about living with purpose. I recently gave a talk within my work group about what it means to strive for excellence and how purposefulness and mindfulness drive excellence. I’ll share some of those thoughts with you here today.
First, let’s define purpose. Your purpose is more than your responsibilities and daily tasks. It is not your job title or job description, nor the bills you have to pay or the commitments you’ve made. Purpose goes deeper than that. It is what drives you. It is the flame at the core of your being. It is your subconscious compass that guides every decision and every action.
Living with purpose is learning to construct and tell our own stories. It makes us more human and helps us to build greater capacity for empathy.
To discover your purpose, you must boil down everything that drives you to a (few) simple drivers. What is it that guides every decision you make, every idea you have, every question you ask, every action you take?
My purpose in this life, what gets me out of bed in the morning, is two-fold:
- To serve the best interests and needs of my children
- To alleviate pain in others
My work at SAP serves this purpose by allowing me to provide a financially stable, safe home for my children, with good schools and a safe neighborhood, and a flexible work arrangement, so I can be home when my kids need me. I am a natural-born healer by personality, so my work in community experience (and previously, in product support) allows me to serve my second purpose – to alleviate the pain of my customers, partners, coworkers, and the business.
By serving my purpose, I am not only striving for excellence, I am propelling myself towards it by sheer force of my inner flame. Because excellence is more than just meeting KPIs or exceeding goals. Excellence only occurs when we breathe it in, when every question, thought, or idea starts with “how does this serve my purpose?”
Living with purpose extends beyond mindful workplace habits. It is especially relevant to your habits around work/life balance and your relationships outside of the office. After an especially grueling last few weeks preparing for our SAP TechEd Las Vegas 2016 event, I took Friday off this week to recover. My need to be productive nearly forced me into working or accomplishing chores around the house, but when I thought back to my purpose, I realized that I was not actually serving my purpose by refusing to rest. I realized, about 2 years after my daughter was born, that if I did not prioritize my own health and well-being, I would not be serving her interests. So, I spent my day off lounging in yoga pants and watching Quantico on Netflix — and it was wonderful, and (despite my anxiety-driven paranoia) the world did not actually collapse around me for taking a day off.
Sometimes finding space to serve your purpose means taking a day off. Sometimes it means protecting an hour a day for yourself to do something you love, like doing yoga, reading a book, checking out your favorite podcast, or playing a video game.
I wrote recently about quitting Facebook because it no longer served my purpose. What steps are you taking to live with purpose?