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I’ve Been Thinking … Purpose is Power


I’ve Been Thinking … Purpose is Power


With no formal position or power, the teenage survivors of the recent Florida high school shooting have sparked meaningful national dialogue around gun rights and gun control where the most influential politicians and celebrities have failed to gain traction. I think a big part of their success is their keen and unwavering sense of purpose.

It is easy to lose that as adults caught up in the how of what we do rather than the why. We spend too much time and energy carrying out specific tasks without stopping to question whether we are actually moving toward our larger goals. That’s where purpose rules the day.

I’ve been thinking about how to help myself and those I work with imbue our everyday actions with more of that critical sense of purpose. I’m lucky in that my work involves helping to create more opportunity for women in the workplace. That purpose drives and motivates me. But still, everyday pressures sometimes obscure it from view.

I remember that old story about the two masons cutting stones for a Medieval church. When asked what they were doing, one responded that he was building a wall. True enough. But the other said he was building a cathedral to the glory of God. Same work but a vastly different sense of meaning and purpose when you can connect what you’re doing to something that really matters to you in the larger scheme of things.

Another way to stay more connected to purpose is to consciously choose (whenever possible) the work activities that resonate most with your mission and then perform them in ways that most inspire you. That can be difficult with prescribed or unpleasant work activities. But I find that even a time-consuming report or wearying travel takes on greater joy and meaning to me when I focus on the end result. I think about a woman I don’t know who may have more career choices because of my work.

My sense of purpose also grows in concert with my sense of mastery. When I meet or exceed my own standards, the satisfaction of a job well done deepens my investment in my purpose.

Finally, purpose grows with progress. Although our driving purpose can sustain us during setbacks, it is difficult to maintain that passion against prolonged challenge. Even small victories do wonders for juicing our sense of purpose and confirming we are pointed in the right direction.

The students of Douglas High School are united in a sense of purpose that has pushed them past barriers that have thwarted many far stronger and more influential than they in the past. In the process, they have not only inspired the world but reminded us to revisit our own sense of purpose. When we imagine the impact we might have in the world, we connect to a nearly limitless source of hope for and confidence in a better future.

Hattie Hill is President & CEO of the non-profit Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF).


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