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The Power of Purpose

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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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18 Chapters

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Contents

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Chapter 1 The Purpose Moment

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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.

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.

 

Chapter 2 The Purpose Quest

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Service is the rent we pay for living. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.

Marian Wright Edelman

Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, therapist, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, notes that many of us are questioning life, and suggests instead, ”Let life question you!” We ask: What has life done for me? Will things go my way today? What’s in it for me? However, there is a more profound wisdom in reversing the questioning and letting life question us. An openness to being questioned by life is a way to uncover our purpose.

It is often in the midst of profound purpose moments that we pull back from the entanglements of daily survival and let life question us. The benefit of a crisis is often the letting go of petty concerns, conflicts, and the need for control and the realization that life is short and every moment precious.

Cancer therapists Carl and Stephanie Simonton give their patients this advice:

You must stop and reassess your priorities and values. You must be willing to be yourself, not what people want you to be because you think that is the only way you can get love. You can no longer be dishonest. You are now at a point where, if you truly want to live, you have to be who you are.2

 

Chapter 3 The Purpose Spiral

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We are all on a spiral path. No growth takes place in a straight line. There will be setbacks along the way. . . . There will be shadows, but they will be balanced by patches of light. . . . Awareness of the pattern is all you need to sustain you along the way.

Kristin Zambucka

All life is a spiral of change, a continuous graceful curve toward purpose. There is a definite pattern to it all, and we spend our whole lives seeking that pattern by living with different questions at each age and phase. Searching for the pattern is the heart of our human quest. If we’re aware of that pattern, and our place in it, we can identify the best choices to sustain us along the way.

Most of us find that our purpose evolves as experiences change over our lifetime. A new sense of purpose may be triggered when we reach a particular age, by a crisis, or by a natural, ongoing discovery of who we are.

Asking new questions as we age is part of the quest for purpose. This chapter will help you detect the spiral pattern of your own life and recognize your current question.

 

Chapter 4 The Gift of Purpose

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Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love and nonviolence. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Mahatma Gandhi

Life purpose is a gift that you give naturally and spontaneously. Remember those times when people you care about wanted you to share with them? Maybe they were in need and asked for your contribution. Think about what you love doing and what you want to contribute naturally. What do you want to give others that would make a difference for them? What is it that you see naturally, that you would like them to see for themselves?

Your life purpose is a gift for three reasons. First, you didn’t have to earn it—it came with your birth. Second, it is a gift because you get something for yourself when you interact on purpose. And third, it is a gift to others because they get something from you that is theirs to keep. This chapter will help you realize that you are uniquely gifted for serving others, and will show how your own story can help you uncover your purpose, gifts, and passions.

 

Chapter 5 Uncovering Your Purpose

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We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by doir, deed; (2) by experiencing a value; and (3) by suffering.

Viktor Frankl

Where do you start? How do you decide where to commit yourself? How do you uncover your purpose or calling? Many of us are starved for alignment in our lives. Purpose can serve as an aligning focus for our gifts, passions, and values. The most effective people know how to focus their daily activities while keeping their eye on a longer-range purpose, the ideals they want to align their lives around.

Purpose has a way of focusing time and energies around itself; that is the real power behind the purpose! It often involves refocusing our lives in order to bring out our voice and full music. This chapter will help you identify what moves you, show three ways to find your purpose, and challenge you to simplify your life to focus on your purpose.

Our life work is the purpose we live by transformed into action. If we open our eyes to the world around us, we often notice the endless ”work” that calls for our energies and talents.

 

Chapter 6 Uncovering Your Gifts

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Many people die with their music still in them.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

The power in purpose means uncovering our gifts—those of which we’re already aware and are motivated to master and those that are emerging that we would like to try or explore.

We each possess gifts and natural talents. This fundamental assumption has proved true for everyone whom I have coached over the past thirty years. Everyone is gifted in some way. Many of us might deny that this is the case simply because we have focused on our weaknesses rather than our strengths.

Although talents are a part of everyday vocabulary, few people try to state clearly what their natural gifts are. The power behind our purpose is knowing and using our most-enjoyed gifts. This chapter will help you answer these questions: What are my gifts? How can I best give my gifts to something in which I believe—a value, product, person, service, ideal, problem, or organization?

We all have natural abilities and inclinations and find that certain things come easily to us. We may perform a talent so effortlessly that we forget we have it. This is a gift. We might not have had to pay the price to invest in this gift because it came so easily; we might have been born with it! We may never even have had to practice it extensively.

 

Chapter 7 Uncovering Your Passions

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This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to makingyou happy.

George Bernard Shaw

Now that you have considered your gifts—the power—where do you express them? For the sake of what? An important next step is to uncover what moves you. This is the hard part for many of us because we believe the old adage, ”Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Most of the emphasis—mistakenly, I believe—has been put on the ”worth doing well.” The real question is ”What is worth doing?” — a much-neglected question for many of us. What issues, interests, causes, or challenges capture your genuine enthusiasm? What keeps you up at night? What gets you up in the morning?

In the answers to questions like these, we can uncover our passions. Our passions, simply stated, are our obsessions— those things we care most deeply about. Whatever form they take, passions are identified by their vitality—they are ”alive”; we feel them deeply. A passion moves us to action in the world. Moreover, a passion doesn’t quit but keeps recurring in our thinking and experiences.

 

Chapter 8 How Do I Heed the Call?

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This book is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.

Studs Terkel

Earlier in human history, people offered their daily aaivities as a thank you to God, because all enterprise was ultimately intended for God. This was the basis for the infamous work ethic, with which many people have an ambivalent relationship. However, the concept of stewardship, by which one made an offering to God of one’s best efforts, elevated a person’s work to the status of a calling.

A calling comes from the inside out; it is the expression of our essence, our core. Our calling is an expression of the spirit at work in the world through us. It is that mysterious voice that calls us to find our voice and to play our music. A calling means bringing spirit to work. A calling calls forth the deeper questions of work, such as how, why, and for whom we do our work.

 

Chapter 9 How Do I Work on Purpose?

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The true test of a servant-leader is this: Do those around the servant-leader become wiser, freer, more autonomous, healthier, and better able themselves to become servants? Will the least privileged of society be benefited or at least not further deprived?

Robert Greenleaf

In my years as a life coach, I have seen many people who do not connea deeply with their work. Some people measure success in strictly financial terms. Others have a broader definition of success, but their vision is not consistent with the purpose of the organization for which they work. And judging by the dramatic rise in the number of stress-related problems among workers at all levels, many feel alienated from any meaning in their work.

This chapter will explore the meaning of success and provide a tool to help you determine if your work is on purpose.

Toward what success do we strive? The work ethic, for many of us, does not seem to be dead or even dying. For some of us, success is the advancement of our careers. We will make tremendous sacrifices for a career, will bend over backward to avoid making waves to advance it, and will treat ourselves as resumes to be packaged and marketed to further it. The consequence of such an orientation to success is that we become motivated primarily by personal gain—what our work will get us.

 

Chapter 10 Why Do I Get Up in the Morning?

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Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Living on purpose is a choice. It is a way of living in which you are aware each moment of each day that you have a choice about what to say and do and how to be. Every situation presents you with a new purpose moment—an opportunity to show up on purpose—and you are conscious of the opportunities.

In other words, living on purpose simply means becoming aware of who you are and what you are bringing to life during each day.

A good place to start living on purpose is to ponder the ultimate purpose question: Why do I get up in the morning? For many of us, this question is as tough as it is inevtable. Ideally, we should not let a day pass without spending some time reflecting on the question.

This chapter will explore answers to that question and discuss the link between purpose and happiness.

Often we are so busy trying to answer the questions that we fail to take time to acknowledge, even celebrate, the questions themselves. We believe meaning comes from the answers, from knowing. In fact, our quest to know may make it harder to find meaning. We can so easily sit down at the computer and Google the answers that we rarely take the time to push the pause button and live in the questions, the big questions that matter. Technology has accelerated life, we are in a hurry, we have lost respect for the mystery embodied by the big questions.

 

Chapter 11 How Do I Stay on Purpose?

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To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

Staying on purpose through the busy routines of work and life is not easy. Our daily routine often lacks a sense of ”why?” Life may appear to have no purpose, to serve no apparent ends.

Thus, we are in great need of deliberate reminders of the ”why.” Yet we create little time for regular relaxation and reflection. It is through open, focused refleaion that we see beneath the surface to the place where we know not with the mind but with the heart. Here our intuitive side recognizes a power beyond the natural and rational, and we are able to accept the unknown on faith.

There are steps we can take to enhance our ability to think quietly and calmly and to open our listening. This chapter suggests two tools that will help you reflect, listen, and stay on purpose: regular times alone, or ”solos,” and starting a purpose study group.

 

Chapter 12 How Do I Live Longer, Better?

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Through compassion, you find that all human beings are just like you.

The Dalai Lama

We are born as purpose-seeking creatures. Purpose is necessary for our very health and longevity. If you doubt this, check out the rates of illness and death when people lose or give up their sense of purpose. People who retire without something to retire to have a much higher incidence of early mortality and illness than do those who have a focus.

Research is beginning to validate what many people have known intuitively all along: when it comes to longevity and well-being, purpose is working in our favor. A sense of meaning grows out of the choices that we make moment to moment. Meaning develops as we experience these purpose moments in life. And meaning deepens with spiritual evolution. When we clarify and settle on an intentional purpose in life, we often find a spiritual home, and a greater sense of well-being arises in our moment-to-moment, day-today actions in the world.

This chapter will help you see the connection between meaning and both longevity and well-being.

 

Chapter 13 What Is the Meaning of Life?

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One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has [his or her] own vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment, which demands fulfillment.

Viktor Frankl

From birth onward, we are all growing older, but are we also growing up, or maturing? Aging belongs to the body, and maturing belongs to the spirit. Aging requires nothing special from us; maturing requires a spiritual quest. Maturity is spiritual wisdom embodied.

We all long to grow in wisdom as well as in years, but unless we make conscious choices to do so, we may simply grow old. What keeps us from growing up? How is maturity gained?

This chapter will explore those questions and discuss the vital links between wisdom, spirituality, and the meaning of life, and our purpose.

If we live as victims, without choosing, we simply become old. But when we age with conscious choice, we can walk the path of spiritual evolution and grow whole, mature, wise. These are the only two choices.

What stands in the way of choosing the spiritual path to wholeness and wisdom? Time. The number one pressure on people today is lack of time. Technology encourages us to be ”on” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week via computers, smart phones, and other devices. Electronic gadgets have done away with boundaries to work, making us available outside normal work hours, even on weekends and holidays and during vacations. For more and more of us, the workday never ends.

 

The Purpose Study Group

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Session 1: The Meaning of Purpose

Read:

The Preface and Part I, Chapters 1—4.

Do:

Before the session, answer the following questions:

If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently? (Preface)

Look ahead. How old do you think you’ll live to be? (Chapter 1)

My calling in life is_______. (Chapter 4)

Discuss:

Decide who will be the facilitator.

Perform group introductions.

Read the quote by Andrew Greeley in Chapter 5 (”It seems to me that in the last analysis there are only two choices ”) aloud and discuss it.

Discuss the three presession questions (above).

Session 2: Paths to Purpose

Read:

Part II, Chapters 5-7.

Do:

Review the eight intelligences in Chapter 6.

Rank-order yourself from 1 to 8 based on what you perceive your natural strengths to be (1 is highest, 8 is lowest).

Think of a talent that would fit in your #1 area.

Review the nine passion questions in Chapter 7-

Discuss:

Read aloud the quote by Viktor Frankl at the beginning of Chapter 5 (”We can discover the meaning of life in three different ways . . .”) and discuss it.

 

Core Questions on the Life Spiral

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The Purpose Checkup

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After a certain age, many of us accept the necessity of regular physical checkups. We’re also generally willing to review our financial situation with some regularity.

So if money, medicine, and meaning are all essential to a purposeful life, we might be wise to take guidance from the financial and medical worlds and adopt the praaice of a regular checkup on that third dimension to ensure that our spirit—our sense of purpose—remains healthy.

Please read each statement carefully and take a few moments to decide on a true response for yourself. Then write the number that most nearly reflects that response. The answers offer the following range of responses:

1. Definitely disagree.

2. Somewhat disagree.

3. Somewhat agree.

4. Definitely agree.

_____

I derive satisfaction from what I have in my life.

_____

I express my creativity in a number of ways.

_____

I have found ways to offer my gifts and talents to the world.

_____

I have a positive vision for my future.

_____

I feel satisfied with my location.

_____

 

The Working-on-Purpose Inventory

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