The Power of Purpose 2nd Edition

Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better

The Power of Purpose

Richard Leider proves a detailed and practical process for uncovering your purpose.

  • An extensively revised and updated edition of the classic bestseller (more than 150,000 copies sold).
  • Provides a detailed and practical process for uncovering your purpose
  • Illustrated with inspiring stories and eye-opening research

We all want to find our purpose-that thing that makes us feel like our life matters. Legendary coach and vitality expert Richard Leider defines purpose as that deepest dimension within us that tells us who we are, where we came from, why we're here, and where we're going. Purpose fills us with passion, drive and direction. When all else seems unsettled, uncertain, or impermanent, purpose gives us the will not just to live, but to live long and well. It's not a grand concept reserved for a gifted few, but something each one of us possesses, needing only to be uncovered.

Twenty-five years after the publication of the first edition, Richard Leider has completely rethought his bestselling classic, adding new stories and new practices, eliminating some chapters and revising and expanding others. The result is a book that sums up what he has learned in a quarter century of guiding people from all walks of life on their journeys to meaning and fulfillment.

Leider details a graceful, practical, and ultimately spiritual process for uncovering your purpose and making it central to your life. "Purpose is not a job or a role or a goal,", he writes. "It is a mindset-a choice. It is the choice to bring who we are, our gifts and energies, to whatever we are doing." It is a choice that will not only improve our lives, but extend them-Leider sites a wealth of research proving that purpose is a key to longevity.

With all the demands of our 24/7 world an inspiring purpose is absolutely vital. If you've ever wondered why you should get up on Monday morning, The Power of Purpose will help you find the answer and integrate it into the whole of your life.

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Overview

Richard Leider proves a detailed and practical process for uncovering your purpose.

  • An extensively revised and updated edition of the classic bestseller (more than 150,000 copies sold).
  • Provides a detailed and practical process for uncovering your purpose
  • Illustrated with inspiring stories and eye-opening research

We all want to find our purpose-that thing that makes us feel like our life matters. Legendary coach and vitality expert Richard Leider defines purpose as that deepest dimension within us that tells us who we are, where we came from, why we're here, and where we're going. Purpose fills us with passion, drive and direction. When all else seems unsettled, uncertain, or impermanent, purpose gives us the will not just to live, but to live long and well. It's not a grand concept reserved for a gifted few, but something each one of us possesses, needing only to be uncovered.

Twenty-five years after the publication of the first edition, Richard Leider has completely rethought his bestselling classic, adding new stories and new practices, eliminating some chapters and revising and expanding others. The result is a book that sums up what he has learned in a quarter century of guiding people from all walks of life on their journeys to meaning and fulfillment.

Leider details a graceful, practical, and ultimately spiritual process for uncovering your purpose and making it central to your life. "Purpose is not a job or a role or a goal,", he writes. "It is a mindset-a choice. It is the choice to bring who we are, our gifts and energies, to whatever we are doing." It is a choice that will not only improve our lives, but extend them-Leider sites a wealth of research proving that purpose is a key to longevity.

With all the demands of our 24/7 world an inspiring purpose is absolutely vital. If you've ever wondered why you should get up on Monday morning, The Power of Purpose will help you find the answer and integrate it into the whole of your life.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Richard Leider



Richard Leider is the founder of Inventure – The Purpose Company – and is ranked by Forbes as one of the “Top 5” most respected executive coaches, by Linkage as one of the “Top 50” executive coaches, and by the Conference Board as a “legend in coaching.”

As a Keynote Speaker, he has helped more than 100,000 leaders from over 50 corporations such as AARP, Ericsson, Mayo Clinic, and MetLife discover the power of purpose.

Richard is the author of nine books, including three best sellers, and his work has been translated into 21 languages.Repacking Your Bags and The Power of Purpose are considered classics in the personal growth field. His newest book, Life Reimagined, has been touted as the breakthrough book on the “second half of life.”He is a contributing author to many coaching books, including:Coaching for Leadership, The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching, Executive Coaching for Results, The Leader of the Future, and The Organization of the Future.

Richard holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is a Nationally Certified Master Career Counselor.As a Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, he leads The Purpose Project.He is also a Carlson Executive Fellow at the University of Minnesota School of Management and a guest lecturer in the Harvard Business School. 

Richard is quoted regularly in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, and on PBS public television, NPR public radio, and other media sources.

Richard’s work has been recognized with awards from the Bush Foundation, from which he was awarded a Bush Fellowship and the Fielding Institutes Outstanding Scholar for Creative Longevity and Wisdom award.He was named a “Distinguished Alumni” by Gustavus Adolphus College, and to the “Hall of Fame” at Central High School.

For 30 years, Richard has led Inventure Expedition walking safaris in Tanzania, East Africa.He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Preface: The Purpose Evolution

Part One: The Meaning of Purpose

Chapter 1: The Purpose Moment

Chapter 2: The Purpose Quest

Chapter 3: The Purpose Spiral

Chapter 4: The Gift of Purpose

Part Two: Paths to Purpose

Chapter 5: Uncovering Your Purpose

Chapter 6: Uncovering Your Gifts

Chapter 7: Uncovering Your Passions

Part Three: Working on Purpose

Chapter 8: How Do I Heed the Call?

Chapter 9: How Do I Work on Purpose?

Part Four: Living on Purpose

Chapter 10: Why Do I Get Up in the Morning?

Chapter 11: How Do I Stay on Purpose?

Chapter 12: How Do I Live Longer, Better?

Chapter 13: What Is the Meaning of Life?

Resources

The Purpose Study Group

Core Questions on the Life Spiral

The Purpose Checkup

The Working-on-Purpose Inventory

Recommended Reading

The Purpose Path

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Author

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The Power of Purpose

Chapter 1
The Purpose Moment

I was just trying to get home from work.

Rosa Parks

Purpose is fundamental to human life. It is what makes us human. Purpose is not only what makes us human, it is the one thing that cannot be taken from us. Purpose gives us the will to live or to persevere. It gives us a reason to get up in the morning. Purpose gives us courage.

Most of us want to know that there is a purpose to life—that our being here does mean something and that what we do matters. Most of us want our lives to matter, and we want to live courageously.

Purpose is one of the chief requisites for courage in life. A constant in the lives of people who experience a sense ofcourageisthe ”purpose moment” —moments of meaning. This chapter shows the importance of purpose moments to the purpose quest and helps you to recognize and create such moments in your own life.

The Power of a Purpose Moment

Rosa Parks had a purpose moment that ultimately changed a nation. She was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955. This single act of courage sparked a bus boycott that led to the integration of Alabama’s bus system and paved the way for the civil rights movement in the United States.

The search for dignity is basic to us all. However, we often become deeply concerned about it only when some crisis forces us to confront it—an arrest, an illness, a death, a divorce, or a loss of job. We take life for granted until a crisis wakes us up and forces us to ask the big questions. Crisis is a catalyst for purpose moments. And purpose moments bring us face to face with the big questions, such as What am I meant to do here?

Flight 427 was scheduled to depart Chicago’s O’Hare Airport at 4:50 p.m. on a hectic Friday afternoon. Bill was on his way to Pittsburgh to attend his first meeting of the executive committee of a college board of trustees. Just before flight time, above the din of a busy O’Hare, Bill heard a page that asked him to check with the nearest gate agent. He was instructed to call his office immediately, where he learned that his meeting had been canceled—the first such cancellation in eleven years!

Shortly before Flight 427 was to begin boarding, Bill turned in his boarding pass and made a quick exit to another concourse, where his assistant, Nancy, had booked him on a flight back to his hometown of Atlanta. When he called his wife, Valerie, on his cell phone from his car on the way home, he was greeted by an outburst of tears and raw emotion. ”Bill,” she sobbed, ”you haven’t heard! The plane you were supposed to be on to Pittsburgh crashed short of the airport and no one survived.”

Bill was stunned. Of that purpose moment on the freeway, he said, ”There was only this amazing calm, a sense of peace that setded over me and affirmed that God was holding me in the palm of His hand.” He arrived home to tears of joy and hugs that didn’t want to quit, while the television brought the bitter details of Flight 427 into their living room. Bill reflects, ”I know my reprieve is temporary. My life has been extended for now.”

Bill believes that God had something more to accomplish through his life. On Monday after his narrow escape, he got a hint of what that purpose might be. At his insurance agency, where he was managing director, he was besieged by friends, staff, and agents, all expressing gratitude for his role in their lives. Bill was already the leader of one of the largest, most successful insurance agencies in the country, but at that moment he realized that his true purpose, from here on, was to ”grow values-driven people.” That became the mission of his life and agency. Bill no longer postponed those critical coaching conversations but focused his newly precious time on coaching people to live in alignment with their purpose.

What Is a Life Purpose?

Our well-being and quality of life depend on finding greater wholeness in life. The words health, heal, whole, and holy all derive from the same root. This reveals the obvious fact that to grow whole is not just a challenge of money and health but a challenge of meaning as well.

Having a purpose in life—a clear reason to get up in the morning—is essential to growing whole. Imagine that you’ve decided to conduct your own personal survey by asking a handful of your friends, What is a life purpose? What do you guess the most common answer might be? Would it be similar to your own response or quite different?

At first glance, it might seem like the answer to the question is so obvious that it’s a waste of your time to even ask it. Don’t be fooled, however. There is wisdom in revisiting the questions that we think we already know how to answer. Our answers change at different phases of our lives and with changing life circumstances.

I’ve dedicated my professional life to exploring that single question. Consequently, I’ve had the privilege of asking thousands of people that question and many others. I’ve discovered that the majority of people answer the question What is a life purpose? in a very similar way. They may use different words, but the common thread weaving through their responses is this: ”A life purpose is what I’m meant to do and be while I’m here on the earth.”

Purpose Is What Makes Us Human

So, what is your individual purpose? Whether we explore this question publicly or privately, it is vital to our health, healing, wholeness, and our holiness that we do examine the question. Because what ultimately shape our lives are the questions we ask, fail to ask, or never dream of asking. It is our questions that shape our humanity.

If we had to name what makes life worth living, what gives it meaning and purpose, most of us would probably say it’s the people we love. Relationships, along with work, are the core differences in quality of life at all ages. Whom we love and how we love them are in a way the core reasons we get up in the morning.

Yet the number-one issue in many people’s lives today is loneliness. A sense of aloneness—a strong feeling of isolation or going it alone—affects almost half of us. We complain that we either want more time for friends or would like to have more true friends, versus acquaintances, because busy lives can result in an abundance of acquaintances and a poverty of true friends.

We can easily fill our lives with busyness. There is always more to be done, always a way to keep from staring into the mirror. If we’re not careful, we can begin to mistake our busyness for meaning, turning our lives into a checklist of to-dos that can occupy all the waking hours of our days and leave us breathless, with our feeling of friendship left incomplete.

And always there is more to do. Our to-do lists will outlive us. The labors of our lives will be endless. For every person who summons up the focus and energy to step out on the purpose quest, there are many more who plod on, waiting—waiting for some magical, easy solution to their quest, waiting for a sign.

Discovering What Matters

The Met Life Mature Market Institute (MMI) applied sophisticated market research to the philosophical question of purpose. The MMI team worked closely with me and used my purpose work as a foundation for the purpose model in this study. The study, titled Discovering What Matters, explored with a researcher’s eye for precision the way people prioritize their lives as they face challenges. This marriage of measurement to meaning produced unique, measurable evidence about the role purpose plays in people’s lives. It revealed that regardless of age, gender, financial status, or life phase, the majority of people assign the most importance to meaning-related activities and, above all else, spending time with friends and family.

People with a sense of purpose in their lives were more likely to report being ”happy” and to describe themselves as living the ”good life.” Having a sense of purpose was related to possessing both a ”focus” on essential things today, and a ”vision” of the future they wanted to enjoy.

The study showed that the concept of purpose, even the word itself, is something held in high regard by many, perhaps even most people. Some described purpose as giving them a general direction for their lives, while others even went so far as to allow it to prioritize the key choices required in their day-to-day living. And yet, many of the respondents might have found it difficult to honestly point to how they would use purpose in the daily choices they make.

But is purpose merely an esoteric idea that is nice to have, or a more powerful universal concept? Responses revealed that purpose was the differentiator between those who reported living the ”good life” and those not living the good life. Eighty-four percent of those who felt their lives had purpose reported that they were living the good life.

A ”Build-Your-Own” trade-off exercise was used to assess people’s expectations of what their lives would be like with respect to activities five years in the future. They were given a set number of ”life points” to distribute among a range of activities in four categories: money, medicine, meaning, and place. Consistent with results from other parts of the study, respondents across all age groups allocated the most life points to meaning-related activities—that is, being with friends and family—with older respondents (aged sixty-five to seventy-four) focusing the most time on meaning-related activities.

It is clear from this research that mature adults are driven by the pursuit of meaning and purpose in their lives, and that the older people are, the more important living with meaning and purpose becomes. While there are certainly some differences among age, income, and asset levels, the consistent message from this research is that the circumstances that truly bring a sense of contentment, happiness, and satisfaction to life are fairly universal.1

Everyone Else Has a Purpose. So What’s Mine?

An entertaining evocation of this purpose research is the musical Avenue Q, which is the twenty-first longest-running show in Broadway history and has won several Tony Awards, including the award for best musical. The show has also spawned other productions around the globe, including the one I experienced at the Gielgud Theatre in London.

The show is largely inspired by (and is in the style of) Sesame Street. Most of the characters in the show are puppets operated by actors onstage; the set depicts several tenements on a rundown street in an outer borough of New York City. However, the characters are in their twenties and thirties and face adult problems instead of those faced by preschoolers, thus making the show more suited for the adults who grew up with Sesame Street. A recurring theme is the central charaaer’s search for his elusive ”purpose.”

I sat enthralled as the song ”Purpose” was sung. The core message—”Everyone else has a purpose. So, what’s mine?”—brought forth murmurs from the strangers sitting around me, as they chuckled over the lyrics, such as ”Purpose—it’s the little flame that lights a fire under your ass. / Purpose, it’s like driving a car with a full tank of gas,” and others. I left the theater that night feeling affirmed that purpose had truly arrived in the public discourse. From shows in London and Las Vegas, from youngsters and oldsters, the ever-elusive-purpose-in-life theme was finally on the marquee. Avenue Q was a purpose moment for me.

It is often a purpose moment that awakens us to our gifts and passions. Benjamin Jackson was running in a local 10K weekend race in which a number of wheelchair athletes were also participating. A postrace conversation with one of these athletes led Ben to an awareness of the challenges they faced in their normal day-to-day activities. Soon he explored the realities of wheelchair life at the college he was attending and at his mother’s workplace. He began writing letters and lobbying his school’s administration to provide funds for greater accessibility to athletics for students with disabilities. Ben went on to study architecture and now consults with organizations on making their buildings more accessible to people with physical challenges. Fulfilling work began with a purpose moment following a 10K race, and today it serves as Ben’s calling.

Purpose helps us understand what is core to our life, what we care about in our actual day-to-day living. Our world suddenly makes sense to us.

The Purpose Game

There are purpose moments that we could all take advantage of by extending ourselves into the world. When you want to give yourself a lift, you can play the ”purpose game.”

Here’s how the game is played. Look around, wherever you happen to be, and see what or who needs your touch. For example, while driving, maybe you could let other cars in front of you while driving all the way to your destination. Another possibility is to tell your spouse or a significant other a new reason he or she is important to you. Or you could buy coffee for a friend for no reason; create an end-of-day celebration because you lived this day; get up early to write an e-mail or handwritten note of gratitude to someone.

The important idea is to play consciously in life, giving your gifts or serving others. You want to do little things that make you feel on purpose. We often put a lot of energy into doing the big things, but we want to feel on purpose ”all” the moments of life. There are ”purpose moments” everywhere, every day that we could fill up with ourselves. When we are watching, ready to play the purpose game, the possibilities are endless.

Make a list of purpose moments you could play tomorrow that would be unexpected and make you feel good. What are your favorite games of purpose?

A Purpose Moment That Changed Me

One person who had a profound purpose-moment effect on my life was Richard Reusch, my college advisor. To this day, I can cite material from his lectures verbatim. Dr. Reusch required students to pick up their exams in his office so he could talk with each one. More than test grades were the subject of discussions in his office, however. At the end of my first semester at Gustavus Adolphus College, in danger of flunking out, I went to talk to Dr. Reusch before final exams. I can still smell the pipe smoke and picture his office, where he was surrounded by African artifacts collected in his forty years of work as the ”Maasai missionary” in Tanzania.

”I’m really lost,” I told him. ”I want to stay here, but I’ve really screwed up my life. What should I do?”

Dr. Reusch didn’t ask about my courses but simply asked me to tell him something about myself. ”About myself?” No other professor had ever asked me that! A magical hour later, I left his office with a vision for what I wanted in school and in life. Somehow, Dr. Reusch made the hour almost a spiritual experience, and I knew something special was intended for my life.

Twenty years later I traveled to Tanzania and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I was astonished to learn that the crater at the summit is named Reusch Crater. Dr. Reusch climbed Mount Kilimanjaro sixty-five times, helped to establish its exact altitude, and discovered the crater now officially named after him. He knew twenty languages, and he wrote books on religion, history, and geography in German, English, and Swahili.

Richard Reusch came to Minnesota and taught church history, comparative religion, and fencing at Gustavus Adolphus. His archive files are stuffed with letters of appreciation from young people, from parents of students, and from Maasai leaders in Tanzania, who said, ”Come, please, and help us again.”

He concluded his ministry, or service, at St. John’s Church at Stacy, Minnesota, of which he still was the pastor when he died. Two weeks previously, he had announced his resignation date. That date became the occasion of his funeral.

Dr. Reusch used to say that a miracle occurred when a need and a solution converged. That day in his office I witnessed a miracle, thanks to a life memorably lived. He was one of the most purposeful people I have ever crossed paths with.

Purpose is the recognition of the purpose moments in life and the courage to choose a life that is aligned with that purpose. Purpose defines our contribution to life, moment to moment. It may find expression through family, community, relationship, work, and spiritual activities. We receive from life what we give, and in the process we understand more of what it means to ”show up in the moment.”

Look ahead. How old do you think you’ll live to be? Imagine you’re that age. As you look back on your life, what would you like to be able to say is your legacy? How did you become the person you were destined to be? What might you do to create purpose moments so that you can look back over your life with no regrets?

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