Finding Purpose in Entrepreneurship with Michael Woodward
Finding purpose is a very tricky thing. The more I talk to people, the more I see people who are living life without purpose. Some want to find purpose, others are content floating through life, yet many more don’t even know what to think about life all together. Living life without purpose is a really sad thing. There are leading thought leaders, speakers, and influencers telling you to ‘Start with Why’ and ‘What’s your What’. While these questions are great questions to answer, they are simply leading you to two things. Purpose and Identity. We’ve talked about Identity a lot over the last few years but we really haven’t talked much about Purpose. So on today’s show, we are talking ‘Purpose’ and more specifically finding your purpose in entrepreneurship.
So let’s start by defining purpose. This helps to give us a baseline for the rest of the show. What is purpose?
Noun: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
Verb: have as one's intention or objective.
Going a step further, many aren’t just looking for purpose but actually their ‘Life Purpose.’ According to University of Minnesota, Life Purpose can be defined as
Your life purpose consists of the central motivating aims of your life—the reasons you get up in the morning.
Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning. For some people, purpose is connected to vocation—meaningful, satisfying work. For others, their purpose lies in their responsibilities to their family or friends. Others seek meaning through spirituality or religious beliefs. Some people may find their purpose clearly expressed in all these aspects of life.
Purpose will be unique for everyone; what you identify as your path may be different from others. What’s more, your purpose can actually shift and change throughout life in response to the evolving priorities and fluctuations of your own experiences. - The link to the full article in the episode notes:
So can you find purpose in entrepreneurship? I think it really depends on how you view your career, goals, and values…but for many entrepreneurs the reason they chose this path was to build things that mattered to them. They wanted to build their ideas and dream. They wanted to impact the world in some way. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to an entrepreneur that didn’t have purpose behind what they are doing. However there are those who I have met who seemed to be searching for purpose and hoped to find it through entrepreneurship. I think they are searching for some kind of fulfillment, joy, or to fill a void missing in their lives. To those people, I hope today’s show encourages you to step back and really figure out who you are and what you value. For those of you who are living your purpose through you journey of entrepreneurship, I hope today’s episode encourages you. Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur there are many powerful takeaways in today’s episode that will help guide you on the journey of finding purpose in your life.
Ready to dive into this? So purpose in simplest terms is the object or goal in which you are headed. What you want to accomplish It’s the vision that is pulling you into the future you want to create. Purpose is an idea. It is a belief. The ambition, dream, aim, intent, the ‘end’. The Hebrew word for this is ‘acharit’ or the end. Purpose is the end result of behavior, beliefs, vision. It is where you are going and living fully in the moments to get there.
Purpose is really the driving force in life. The reason why so many are searching for purpose is that they are feeling unfulfilled, lacking in some way, without purpose, or missing significance. When you find it, you feel like you are living ‘what you are created for.’ It amazes me how many people say those terms ‘I feel like I’m doing what I was created to do’ when they explain their journey of entrepreneurship. Some of these people believe in a God and others are atheistic in their beliefs. But all feel the same…that they are living what they were created to do. To live their purpose. How are some people able to find this entrepreneurial purpose while others seem to be miserable in life? Why aren’t more connecting with the purpose of their lives? And how can you find your purpose in life and entrepreneurship? We will be right back to go deeper into purpose and answering these questions.
We are back and talking about finding purpose in entrepreneurship. I want to take the next few minutes and focus now on why you need purpose in your life, especially if you are going to take the leap of being an entrepreneur.
Why do you need purpose? According to psychologists at Psychology Today, when we don’t have a sense of purpose in our lives. It makes us more vulnerable to boredom, anxiety and depression. And particularly if we have an addictive personality it can make us vulnerable to substance abuse. Alcohol or drugs are, of course, a way of alleviating psychological discord, but at the same time they can be seen as a way of gaining a very basic sense of purpose: to satisfy your addiction. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201307/the-power-purpose)
So are there different types of purpose? Actually studies show that there are several kinds of purpose. Some will benefit you more than others. What are some examples?
- Survival - This is the most basic of purposes you can give. It’s primal. In this style of purpose you are literally just trying to make it to the next day. In life this looks like food, shelter, water…but in entrepreneurship and business it looks a little different. It could be cashflow and payroll. It could be a difficult deadline. It could be finding the next project or getting rid of a bad project. Any way that you look at it, this kind of purpose in life or business is all about getting through today. ‘Surviving another day.’ Every person and especially every entrepreneur faces this in their lives. It’s a kind of purpose that should be short lived. It’s a reality we all have to face at times, however it isn’t a place we should live for long and we won’t last long if we try to live in the ‘survival’ place of purpose.
- Using a Pre-existing model or meaning of purpose - This takes on the belief and driving force of others that are around you or have gone before you. In life this often looks like religion or politics. Now I’m a big fan of religion…I’m a long time follower is Christ’s teaching. I understand that this fills my beliefs with a specific worldview and that I need to be aware of this as I bring my beliefs into business and entrepreneurship. It helps to define my beliefs in a specific standard of ethics. But it doesn’t stop there. As an entrepreneur there are teachings that for many they have adopted as their beliefs and purpose in business. This is neither good or bad (although it can become unhealthy), but it is a specific worldview. Great examples of this is following the reasoning behind ‘funnels’ like Clickfunnels. For others they might pick up a specific purpose in social oriented entrepreneurship like businesses focused on solving the problems of the environment, the needs of the less fortunate, or other beliefs. This can be a strong place to find purpose, but it can also become a dangerous place to find purpose. We need to question the purpose that we adopt from these sources until they stop being someone else’s purpose and start becoming our purpose.
- Status or Money: This is purpose focused on what I can accumulate. More money, more stuff, more power, more authority, to become famous. This could be because you want to impress others (external purpose). It could be to fill a desire for ownership or accumulation (internal purpose), but it could also be a purpose for another reason. If this is your driving force for purpose, you may want to stop and really find out what is driving you into this purpose. Is it greed? Maybe it’s fear? It could be consumerism. It could also be selfishness. If it’s one of those motivators of purpose, I would recommend that you find a place of healthy purpose. On the flip side, maybe you are doing it so that you can give to those in need, provide better for your family, or even save for early retirement. And those motivators might not be bad at all.
- Altruistic / Idealism: This purpose is split into two key area. First you might want to change the world out of your concern for something in society. You want to improve the world. You want justice for the broken things in life. Bring a new idealism and philosophy to the world. Secondly it could be to be to help those in need. This is often when purpose goes from being an internal driver forward and to an external driver to change the world. Your purpose is no longer about ‘just you’ but about the people and world around you.
- Personal or Spiritual Development: This is purpose that drives you forward into learning. Learning more about yourself, finding new creativity, making yourself a better person. Think of this as ‘self-improvement / Self-Help’ motivated purpose. There is a desire to grow personally. There is a desires to grow deeper into learning and spiritual revelation.
So what are the positive side affects of purpose?
- Give you something to do or move towards. Gives you direction. Keeps you from being ‘bored’
- Brings you joy in the ‘doing’ of things to move your purpose forward.
- Helps others.
- Let’s you focus on the positive instead of the negative.
- Gives you challenges that cause you to grow and evolve.
- Make you healthier physically, emotionally, spiritually.
- Increases your self esteem.
- Allows you to communicate a vision or mission to your team.
- Most importantly it gives you hope.
We are going to pause here for a break. When we return, we are going to talk about how you can find your purpose in entrepreneurship and life.
We are back for our final segment as we discuss how you can find purpose in your life and finding purpose in entrepreneurship. So let’s talk about how you can make this real in your own life. Now we are more focused on entrepreneurial purpose and you may be wondering why? Did you know that the average person spends 90,000 hours over their lifetime in ‘work.’ If you are an entrepreneur I would guess that you actually spend even more time working. So here are my steps to finding your purpose in entrepreneurship.
- Slow down. Many of us our to busy ‘doing’ that we can’t or don’t take the time to really walk through the process. In the last few years I’ve been saying ‘You have to slow down to go fast’. What I mean by that is that if you do not slow down you will spend most of your time responding to life and business. You won’t have time to find your clarity in your purpose. You won’t have time to create a plan. So you need to slow down.
- Take stock of where you are. Living a life of purpose weather in life or in business starts with being intentional. You need to know where you are currently. Do you have a vision for the future? Do you have purpose? Many people are simply floating through life. They are hoping to find what brings them fulfillment. The search is even deeper for many entrepreneurs because this is a critical piece for their success. So step back and really think about if you have a purpose. If you do, awesome. If you don’t, then you need to really think about what matters to you so you can define your purpose.
- Ask a lot of questions. Ask why something matters to you, why you care. Ask why you do what you do. Ask how you got to where you are. Ask if you are happy. What are you good at? What are you bad at? Question everything in life. Figure out what you value, your passions, hopes and dreams.
- Explore what you are good at and what you love to do. Often this is a great place to guide you into finding purpose. There are reasons that you are gifted in certain areas. There are reasons you are passion filled in other areas. These passions and giftings may very well be pointing you to your place of purpose. As an entrepreneur this can give you a leg up on helping to build your idea or dream so that you can fulfill your purpose. They will also show you areas in which you may need to grown or ask others to help.
- Write it down and refine. This is where you begin to craft your mission, vision, and purpose statement. For some reason when you write things down, they become more real. So write it down. Refine it until it feels right to you. Refine it until it’s clear to you. Refine it until it is clear to others. Get it so that your purpose is really focused.
- Look at your purpose both in the micro and macro levels. How does your purpose impact the small decisions you make? How does your purpose impact the big decisions you make? Don’t just focus on purpose from a self centered focus but also take into consideration how this impacts the people around you and the world.
- Make your purpose give others purpose. This is one of the fastest ways you can grow your business. When your purpose gives your team purpose, it will set them on fire to change the world. When your purpose gives hope to the world, you will grow advocates for your customers and beyond. As Mark Zuckerberg once said ‘It’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense of purpose for others.’ As the Bible says: ‘Without vision people perish.’ Create that vision to impact the world around you.
- Create a plan. How does your purpose impact your life? How does it change your business? What will it take to make this a success? You need to begin to build a plan to turn your purpose into reality. You can not stop with the idea alone. You must push into action. Without a plan you will not see the vision and purpose come to pass. Stop responding and start building. This may mean that you need to shake up your role in the purpose you are building. You may need to put others in roles and trust them with your dreams, ideas, and purpose. This is scary to do, but it is the best way to build your purpose so that you can really reach the fullness you were created for.
- Check back in with yourself. Finding purpose is a life long pursuit. It will change and evolve as you continue to mature and see how sometimes the unexpected opens up new places of purpose. Don’t be ridged in your purpose. Allow it to evolve and grown and ultimately become even more than you could have envisioned.
I do want to caution you on a few things.
First, don’t get so locked up in your purpose that you forget your family and the ones you love around you. You want them to be part of this journey. They will be the biggest supporters and help on this journey.
Secondly, as an entrepreneur it’s easy to put our value in our purpose and it’s either success or failure. You need to know your value doesn’t come from success or failure. It comes from understanding your identity and choosing the unconventional path of entrepreneurship. Simply taking the step into the unknown shows that you are willing to take your purpose to the world. Keep going, it’s going to be worth it.
And my final thought. People struggle to find purpose all of their lives. One of the quickest ways to find purpose is to get around people who know theirs. Don’t copy their purpose, but instead learn from them. Find out how they discovered their purpose. Ask the for help to find your purpose. You become like those you hang out with, so get around people that are going to push you to become the best at who you are.