My colleague, Victor Stretcher, recently published a book called Life On Purpose: How Living What Matters Most Changes Everything (2016:16). In the first chapter Vic reviews the scientific literature on the benefits of purpose. The research suggests that having a life purpose will:
- Add years to your life
- Reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than half
- Help you relax during the day and sleep better at night
- Double your chances of staying drug – or alcohol free after treatment
- Activate your natural killer cells
- Diminish your inflammatory cells
- Increase your good cholesterol
- Give you better sex
- Give you more friends
- Give you more happiness
- Give you deeper engagement in life
Vic asks what would happen if a company produced a drug that could do these things? He suggests that the company would be worth billions. People would flock to buy such a drug.
What the list suggests to me is that we are designed to be purpose seeking beings. When we have and pursue a life purpose we live a proactive life and we function at a higher level.
This raises a question about organizations. Why wouldn’t every organization assist every employee in discovering and recording their life purpose? I know of one organization that considered this alternative but the executives expressed a fear, “If they clarified their life purpose, wouldn’t they all leave the company?”
Stop for a moment and think about this question. It is natural or conventional question. Yet the question exposes many terrible assumptions about the nature of people, work, organizations and management.
In my experience I have observed that executives have many fears about trying to create a purpose driven organization. Thankfully, despite their many fears, the executives in the above organization determined to go ahead. They made an extensive effort to help people clarify their purpose and then helped them link their purpose to the purpose of the company. The result was a dramatic increase in engagement and an increase in financial performance.
Today those same executives are transformed. They are not only fully committed to the notion of having a purpose driven workforce, they continue to learn from the successful process they created. As a result these transformed executives desire to do more.
Do the people in my organization know their personal life purpose?
Do the people in my organization see the link between their purpose and the purpose of the organization?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?