Updated: May 18
Having a clear sense of purpose - your why, your North Star, or whatever you choose to call it - helps us to feel that we are growing and moving forward towards something meaningful, that the future will be better than the present. We caught up with the inspiring Mark Pitcher from Smash The Box, to learn more about finding your purpose.
When children come along, so many parts of our lives change that it can be a struggle to keep up. Family life can be an emotional and physical rollercoaster. It's important to find ways in which to feel and keep motivated - even more so during these unprecedented times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Successful teams have a strong sense of purpose… and after all, a family is a team of sorts - Mark Pitcher, Smash The Box
Why is a sense of purpose so important?
Your purpose, your why, your North Star, or whatever you choose to call it, is vital for us humans to feel that we are growing and moving forward towards something meaningful, that the future will be better than the present. Successful teams have a strong sense of purpose… and after all, a family is a team of sorts.
What is purpose?
There are many different definitions of purpose. The one we prefer is as follows: “the contribution you wish to make, plus the desired impact of that contribution.” This impact can also be framed as “what is the before and after of coming into contact with you and/or your family?” We have all by now been asked by society about our carbon footprint. We are now starting to be asked about our social footprint – what is our impact on our communities? We would also go a step further and ask what is your emotional footprint? How do you make the people around you feel?
How do we manifest this?
So, how to live this in a busy, noisy, social world with so many demands on our time, on our energy and with everyone within the family having different needs? A great place to start is by asking ourselves (and each other) better questions. Family life can be stressful at times and not every day can be a happy day. Simply telling people to “be happy” is not always helpful. Start by exploring or re-exploring the times in your life when you’ve felt the most “alive”, “in your element” and ask yourself why? What was it about that event that gave you the feeling? Get really honest with yourself. Which of your boxes did it tick for you?
Get started on finding your purpose
Here is an exercise to help you start finding that purpose. Thinking back over your life to date, divide it into the following timeframes: 0-12, 13-17, 18-22, 23-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80. Ask yourself the same 7 questions below for each phase of your life. Try and move quickly through these and go with your gut instinct, rather than overthink it. Give yourself time to do this, but not too much time. Answer as quickly as you can.
1. What was the activity?
2. What did you actually do?
3. What specifically was the sense of joy you experienced?
4. What abilities were demonstrated by the accomplishment?
5. What was the general subject matter?
6. What were the circumstances?
7. What were the relationships to other people and things?
Now look at your notes and try and identify themes. Are there words that are similar? Or that keep surfacing? Looking at these words, start thinking about how you would complete the following statement for yourself: my purpose is to… (contribution) so that… (impact). Think of this as your very own life statement. For example, Mark’s is, “To light a spark in people, so they can make their mark on the world”. Play around with it until the words feel both comfortable and inspiring. We believe that a great purpose/life statement is one that you can articulate in roughly 20 words or less. It is also one that you could stand up in a presentation and speak about but equally one that you would be comfortable saying to your spouse/partner without feeling weird. This is why so many company mission statements are so incredibly dull and uninspiring because they only work in one particular field of life.
Once you have established your purpose or at least a sense of it, then you have your North Star and are ready to move forward. Just like punching co-ordinates into your car’s satnav or Googlemaps - you can’t set out until you know exactly where you’re going! And by the way, a purpose does not have to be material or achievement based. Chasing a feeling can be a purpose too.
Take the next steps
How well do you know yourself? Do you know your key strengths and gaps? Use this as an opportunity to get really clear and honest with yourself about your unique gifts and talents. How can you use these to start living your purpose? If you’re brave enough, pick 3 or 4 people from different areas of your life, people that you respect. Perhaps one is a close friend, perhaps one is a friend from a long time ago, one is a colleague or ex-colleague/boss and one is your spouse/partner, for example. Ask them to list your top 3 strengths and look for themes. Do they confirm what you secretly already knew, or perhaps you’re pleasantly surprised!
Keeping things in perspective. This is important for dealing with traumas, difficult situations or disagreements, past and present. The ability to “re-frame” past events, however difficult, and find the positive lesson from those events is important before you can move forward in the right way. Remember those 2 convenient beliefs:
Convenient Belief 1: "Everyone has a unique view of the world”
Convenient Belief 2: “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have, what they know and the experiences they have had to date.”
Agreeing your standards as an individual and as a family. Creating “bright lines” of what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. From here, it is easier to set personal and family goals so everyone can thrive. Remember the simple three category exercise for setting goals designed to provide balance:
1. energy goals
2. family & friends goals
3. work & service goals
Practice (AKA positive habits and rituals)
A massive part of re-inventing yourself is looking at and changing the shape of your day. Start with working out how much sleep you actually need - it’s different for different people. Try and aim for a set bedtime. This will become the foundation for how you start your day, "creating your day before your day creates you”. Create your own special time in the day - your “holy sanctum” - even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes initially. Use the “perfect days and perfect weeks exercise” to motivate yourself. Start simple by adding one new positive habit at a time and lose one negative/bad habit. If you add one each month, that’s 12 new positive things you’ll be doing in a year's time that you’re not doing now and the shape of your day might look very different! We often overestimate what we can achieve in a week or a month but we underestimate what we can achieve in a year!
You WILL get knocked off track. Life can be tough sometimes. External stresses - work, lack of sleep, illness, eating, drinking, child and family needs, school - all play a part. It can be difficult to stay on track. We are emotional beings and need to let off steam occasionally. It’s normal. Don’t judge yourself for this. Just get back on the horse and get back on track. If it’s emotions or other people that you are struggling with, always try to talk about how you feel and what you believe when expressing. Remember no one can ever tell you how to feel! Use the *FFI model to make yourself heard, understood and acknowledged without causing offence or conflict. *FFI = Facts. Feelings. Impact.
Just start! Do it now! Chunk every goal down into tiny steps so that it’s harder to NOT do the first step. Action builds confidence. Get an accountability partner if you need to but make a commitment to yourself and just start with one small new habit. Dream big, start small! Or if dreaming big is not for you then, dream small, start small! We’re with you all the way.
Superpower secret! 💥
Think positive! Catch negative thoughts and flip them into the positive. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings lead to positive actions. Take care with who you surround yourself with on a regular basis and what you consume on a regular basis. Feed your brain as you would your body! A positive mindset massively increases your chances of success and fulfilment in life. Plus it feels good!