It’s our raison d’etre and it speaks to the core of our very existence.  It nourishes us in the dark times. Sheds light when we’ve lost our way and stimulates growth even in the most barren of landscapes. 

Why Purpose matters

There is strong scientific evidence to suggest that having a purpose in life and work can have a profound effect on our wellbeing.  According to a Longitudinal Study, those who live and operate with a purpose can live 15% longer than those who don’t.  According to best selling Author, Dan Pink, purpose is one of the three key ingredients for professional and personal motivation, particularly when you are working in a role that requires skill, creativity, and challenging cognitive thinking. But it isn’t exclusive to work. Having a purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across our adult years.

Equally, businesses that operate under a true purpose tend to do well.  Take the clothing firm Patagonia for example who’s sales have rocketed every time they have taken on an environmental or social challenge because this type of activism is at the heart of their company.

Having a Purpose is good for the soul and good for business and it can be a catalyst for innovation.

Our purpose is something that we have simply got do – sometimes at all costs. It’s our raison d’etre and it speaks to the core of our very existence.  It nourishes us in the dark times.  Sheds light when we’ve lost our way and stimulates growth even in the most barren of landscapes.

It takes a people-first approach

True purpose (and therefore innovation) starts with empathy.  By walking in the shoes of others we can then recognise their needs and problems.  Through adopting this posture we can focus on connecting the dots that just might solve the problem.  This requires us as individuals (and businesses) to put our ego’s to the side and take an outside-in view of the world.  If a project, product or service is to succeed it must solve the problems and fulfill both the functional and certain emotional needs of the people we wish to make change for. Taking an inside-out view, no matter how experienced we are in our field, will only get us so far.

A 10-minute exercise on how to define a purpose for you or your organisation

I’ve designed this 10-minute exercise to help anyone define a purpose on which to innovate themselves and their businesses.  It can apply to an individual or a collective. To help with the exercise, I’ve designed this Purpose Setting Canvas.

Follow the prompts in each of the six stages.  Try not to ponder too much.  Approach it with a light playful mindset if you can and see where the answers take you.  If the ultimate answer doesn’t resonate with you or stir up motivation within your very being, then it’s worth going deeper with the practice.

Free tool – Purpose Setting Canvas

Print it out A3 size and grab some sticky notes. Play with different answers, moving your stickies around or replacing them with new ones as you refine your answers.

Purpose Setting Canvas

If you like it, let me know.  All feedback welcome.


Posted by Steven Thomas

Fan of great ideas and (especially) the people that make them work. Steven is the creator of CurveFinder exploring subjects like collaboration, leadership, creative endeavour and personal development. He's spent over two decades working in the UK media industry holding various senior business and creative leadership roles, most recently with a focus on Digital Transformation and Start-ups. Accomplished coach and mentor. Seth Godin's altMBA Alumni. Lives in Edinburgh with his wife and young family. Always in the kitchen at parties.

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