The only obstacle to finding purpose

The only obstacle to finding purpose

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By Jamie Smart

The popularity of Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ has found countless business leaders, marketers and private individuals looking for a sense of purpose and direction. Enlightened marketers realise that consumers are drawn to products and organisations that resonate with and reinforce their own values and sense of purpose. In this article, you’re going to be getting in touch with your inner source of evolutionary purpose; the guidance system that can keep you on-track today, and twenty years from today. 

While researching his ground-breaking book, Exponential Organizations, angel investor Salim Ismail and his team explored businesses that were growing at an exponential rate (E.g. Airbnb, Netflix, Uber each doubled the size of their business in 2015).

One of the qualities they identified that all the exponential organizations share is a “massive transformational purpose” (MTP).

You may be familiar with some of these, for instance:

  • TED’s MTP is to spread ideas
  • Uber’s MTP is to evolve the way the world moves
  • Kickstarter’s MTP is to help bring creative projects to life
  • Duolingo’s MTP is to give everyone access to education of the highest quality - for free
  • LinkedIn’s MTP is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce
  • Google’s MTP is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful

Millennials are flocking to purpose-driven companies.

A recent survey of LinkedIn employees* showed that over 40% of them prioritized meaning and fulfilment above wages and job status.

Research shows that purpose-oriented employees are far more likely to be high-performers, with strong levels of engagement and loyalty to the purpose-driven organizations that employ them. 

Your inner source of evolutionary purpose

While you may not be founding or working for an exponential-growth business, a sense of purpose and direction are innate; as natural to you as breathing. When you were a child, a purpose would find you, captivate you and guide you until you transcended it. This is the sense of evolutionary purpose that has already motivated you… 

  • to crawl, to walk and to talk
  • to explore the world and learn about what fascinates you
  • to throw yourself into pastimes, hobbies and other activities
  • to develop skills and master them

A purpose finds you, captivates you, then guides you until you transcend it.

That sense of evolutionary purpose is what has me writing this article, and may well be what has you reading it. Stop and consider that for a moment. Are you open to the possibility that your innate capacity for purpose and direction is guiding you in this very moment? 

As you reflect on your life, you may be able to identify a number of different times or periods when you were captured by a particular passion, purpose or enthusiasm. In fact, the word “enthusiasm” comes from ancient Greek, and literally translates as “the God within”.

The ancients recognized the wisdom of your passions, enthusiasms and authentic desires.

So what gets in the way of realizing your purpose?

There’s an old Sufi tale about the wise man, Nasruddin, who was observed one day racing his donkey through the streets of Baghdad, frantically searching for something. The townsfolk called out, asking what he’d lost. Nasruddin shouted, “I’m looking for my donkey!” 

You may have been told you need to “find your purpose”, but how do you do that? It turns out that a more valuable question to ask is, “What gets in the way of your realizing purpose?”

What gets in the way is looking for it where it isn’t.

The misguided search for purpose is the biggest obstacle to finding it.

You see, it turns out that you don’t find your purpose; purpose finds you.

As you get a deeper understanding of your mind’s innate capacity for insight and realisation, you open yourself to the ‘inner guidance system’ that reveals purpose, direction and inspiration. 

This article is based on an edited extract from Jamie Smart's book, The Little Book of Results: A Quick Guide to Achieving Big Goals, published by Capstone, April 2018.

Jamie Smart is a Sunday Times bestselling author, speaker and executive coach. You can find out more at, or via the usual social media outlets on @jamiesmartcom 

* Reported in the blog post The Power of Purpose at Work by Reid Hoffman, Nov 6th 2015


Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 09 Aug 2018
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