Wow, that is really bright and shiny…what’s it for?

It’s interesting that people are so drawn to finding, understanding, and designing around “purpose.”  If presented with an object unfamiliar to us, we instantly want to know what purpose it serves. 

From seeing a garlic press for the first time to sitting on a mountainside reflecting on one’s life, the question of purpose is innate and unique to humans. 

Consider this: Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life, has sold over 50 million copies in 85 different languages! 

Warren doesn’t coach readers to “find” their purpose; he teaches that there ARE five purposes, all fulfilled by living a God-centered life. 

What I’ve discovered is that looking for the purpose of anything in your life has many tangential benefits. For example, ask yourself about the purpose of your desk, something most of us utilize every day. Your desk may serve the purposes of holding your computer monitor, being a comfortable place to sit and sign checks each month, and be a landing strip for notes or mail that comes into your office. Another person’s desk could be used strictly for holding all their collected materials needed to develop their book as they use the desk top as a writing surface. 

Take a moment and note one or two main purposes of your desk, i.e., how it is utilized by you. 

In my book, The Kaizen Method to Living a Healthy Lifestyle (2020), you can find a full description of what a “purpose-driven kitchen” would look like and how to set it up to truly serve you and significantly help you to live a healthy lifestyle. 

In this article, we’re considering “purpose” in the pragmatic sense of functionality (more than one’s mission in life). Yet, great leaders live “on purpose.” 

Look at these various definitions we find online for “purpose.”  

  • The definition of a purpose is a goal or intention.
  • The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or goal.
  • Something one intends to get or do; intention; aim.
  • The reason for which something is done, or the reason it is done in a particular way.
  • To intend, resolve, or plan.

Other than your desk, of course you interact with many, many things and processes for some particular reason(s) every day. Try this exercise and discover many surprising benefits: 

  1. Choose something that you use every day—car, kitchen, FaceBook, tablet, anything. 
  2. Write out your reasons for using it, and especially what purpose it serves. List at least 10 if you can. 
  3. Consider each purpose and pick the top three—the ones that give the most valuable outcomes. 
  4. Look at one of your top three and give your item a (current) rating: 1 star is pitiful, 2 stars mean this important item barely gets you by; a 3 rating means it’s satisfactory but is not a 4, which means it works well and serves its purpose reliably. The top 5* rating means that you love the way this performs its job in your life. You have zero complaints. Then rate the other two items, assigning a grade of 1-5. 
  5. Now describe what has to be in place for each to be a 5* top rated item. For example, if your desk is where you do most of your hand-written letters, journal entries, or creative projects, you need the right desk lamp, paper, and writing utensils. If you don’t have those, how could your desk get a 5* on serving that key purpose? It can’t. Make a list of what’s missing for each item (that would improve its rating from wherever it is now)—there’s your “wish list.” 

Now you have the perfect shopping list or answer when someone asks you what they can get for you as a gift.  You have purposed-filled goals now, worth saving up to purchase—or, OFTEN when you have that kind of clarity and intention, your wish-list items will simply show up.  Note what you end up attracting into your life once you get clear on your desire.  Leaders live “on purpose,” but that doesn’t mean they have to always be resolute and goal-driven. Simply getting clear on purpose and desire in every area of your life will make you a better leader. 

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