The power of purpose - Career hacks for a sustainable and fulfilling life

power of purpose
Eighteen months ago, I took the decision to embark on a new adventure building a different life leaving behind my 25-year City career which led to some big changes including founding Wise Sherpa – dedicated to coaching, mentoring and consulting to purpose led and impact focused leaders looking to create sustainable change.

In the run up to my decision to embark on this new adventure, I talked to many people, read quite a few books, articles etc and listened to bucketful of podcasts. One book in particular which provoked my thinking was The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

The research is clear, our lives are longer than those of our ancestors and increasing with every generation for many of us. However, we cannot assume that just because our lives are extending in duration that their quality will be better than those of our parents.

Here are some of the things we do know about our lives as we go headlong into the twenty-first century:

  • How our lives evolve depends to a large extent on our socio-economic circumstances and access to education and opportunities, as well as gender, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation and health.
  • How these factors have played out and impacted in our professional life will influence how we may view and approach the idea of a 100-year life.
  • We will need or choose to work longer. Traditionally, where we would have retired in our mid 60s or even earlier, we now anticipate many individuals especially professionals like me choosing or having to work into their 70s and 80s.
  • We will integrate work and life increasingly starting with remote/virtual working being much more the norm.
  • Career “gaps” with individuals on-ramping and off-ramping whether that’s due to caring responsibilities or the need to take time out to retrain/upskill or other reasons will be increasingly common as individuals prioritise their relationships, health and wellbeing and skills in order to stay fit and relevant.
  • The range of jobs on offer will increase in variety but shift from a permanent employee model to a gig economy model where many of us will be expected to have a much broader and evolving set of skills (such as digital marketing and business development) as well as the ability to deal with change and uncertainty.
  • Our relationship with money vs agency will evolve and shift.
  • And ultimately, we will be expecting to live out our lives with purpose and impact.

In particular, I have become fascinated by the link between purpose and longevity. There is a growing body of research on the power of purpose and its role in longevity. In a recent study undertaken by the University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers analysed the data of 7,000 individuals 50 years + in age. The results showed that “stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality.” Strikingly, they found that individuals whose questionnaires reflected a lack of purpose were more likely to die than those who had “self-organising life aims that stimulate goals.” Indeed, individuals without a purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with one. Critically, purpose proved to be more indicative of longevity than gender, race, or education levels, and more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly. The research also indicates that any purpose is better than none. The important thing is simply having something that makes them excited about life and drives them. We are increasingly aware of the need to look after our health as we age, but we are less aware of the need to ensure we have meaning or purpose in our lives as we mature.

The ideas in the book help to anchor, they provide a strong context from which to work to evaluate where and how all things being equal, you may want to focus your energy to build your future. I realised that if I was truly to manage my energy with all the different requirements on my time, that I needed to have a clear purpose against which to evaluate my activities so that I was able to deliver and feel vitalised through my work as it clearly aligned to my purpose.

And even though I am writing this blog in a period of uncertainty unparalleled in most of our lifetimes, it provides a powerful catalyst for change for many of us – creating a break from the norm, an opportunity to explore new ways of being, working, thinking, communicating. I would propose putting purpose at the centre of this could help steer us into exciting, new places that are well worth the exploration.

*career hacks = ideas that can inspire and influence you to take action when it comes to your career

Rebecca Hill of Wise Sherpa specialises in executive coaching, business mentoring and is a consultant on strategy and change. For more information please get in touch using the details on the contact page of this website.

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