Why do I exist?
What is the meaning of life?
What is it all FOR?
I am a “why” guy. It’s part of my wiring. I want to know why something is done, whether it’s actually working and serving its intended purpose.
In the marketplace today, both the consumer and the retailer are trying to answer one big question — Why should someone buy this? If the company selling the product doesn’t know what it’s FOR or how it’s good FOR the customer, the customer surely won’t know. And then all you’re left with is marketing schemes.
The same question applies to our lives. Why should I be friends with you? Why should I listen to your advice, spend time with you or read your Instagram posts? Chances are, if something isn’t going to be good FOR you, you’re not going to do it. Considering the people around me, I was curious to know how I could make it clear that I am good FOR others and my organization, too.
I encountered Jeff Henderson at our annual conference and was struck by his wealth of knowledge and experience in leading teams and organizations. So I dove into Know What You’re FOR, his comprehensive and inspirational road map for building a company or a life with a powerful purpose.
I was most looking forward to this section of Know What You are FOR. I prefer to run my life as if I am the CEO, CFO, and COO of ME, Inc., and I find that thought exercise both challenging and convicting. In working with teams and leaders, we often encounter people who feel a disconnect at work and in their personal lives because their purpose at work or in life is unknown. Or sometimes the disconnect comes because their purposes at work and in life are inconsistent. More often, though, we find people have not done the work to discover what they want to be known FOR. If you want a better life or a more exciting journey, first find the answer to the question, What do I want to be known FOR? Then start running your life FOR your purpose.
What Are You FOR?
Jeff is clear: strategies that are good for companies, are good for peoples’ lives. Strong, healthy and fulfilled organizations, teams and people know who and what they are FOR. They have clarity as to why they exist.
What good does prioritizing our purpose achieve? Jeff says, “Purpose is the anchor that keeps you from drifting.” So often, companies, teams and individuals miss their goals and get offtrack because they don’t have clarity around or focus on what, specifically, they are trying to accomplish. As Yogi Berra so wisely warned, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” However, if you are tied to your purpose, you won’t drift away from where you want to be, and you’ll get closer to where you want to go.
Knowing what you are FOR and who you are FOR creates a solid and powerful purpose. If you’re not sure, answer the question, Why do I exist, as a person or a leader? Why do we exist as an organization? The answer should be compelling, larger than life, and inspire passion in your heart. A truly powerful purpose is greater than your short-term goals or financially-motivated priorities. We all want our bank accounts and organizations to get bigger and better, but we must dream bigger than we are, to actually get bigger.
“If your purpose isn’t bigger than your business, your business won’t get bigger.”
Jeff has proven time and time again that shifting your focus to thinking others first is one the keys to thriving. Figure out what you want to do FOR others. He challenges us to strive not to “be the best IN the world, [but to] be the best FOR the world.” Be a champion for those you seek to serve. Put their needs above everything else.
Consider, whose world do you want to change? This won’t be a near-term aspiration, but something great and expansive. The best purposes are things that will take centuries to achieve, or better yet, things that are eternal, that can never be fully realized here on earth.
At WinShape Teams, our purpose is “to see the redemption of leadership, teamsmanship, and followership.” For Chick-fil-A it is “being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to them, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Establishing a clear and compelling purpose alone is not enough. After you cast the vision, you must “Keep the vision visible [because] vision rarely repeated is quickly forgotten.” This principle applies to us and our individual purposes, as well as our teams and organizations. If we lose sight of our purpose, we are likely to forget and make decisions that detract from our goals. We might even set goals that have nothing to do with our purpose in the first place.
Goals are important, but goals that help you accomplish your purpose are indispensable. I used to set goals to make everything better all the time. Now I focus my goals on what specifically feeds my purpose. I answer the question, Which goals, if accomplished, will put me closer to realizing my purpose? Then I prioritize those specific goals.
Knowing what you’re FOR gives you a litmus test to use in every choice and strategic decision. You can ask, Does this help us in our quest to be FOR ______? This framework also helps you create metrics to measure your progress and celebrate when you get things right.
Knowing who you are FOR and what you are FOR helps you achieve MORE.
You will find, as a leader and as a follower, knowing what you are for is invigorating. Through this lens, every move makes sense. Jeff illuminates, “When purpose lives in an organization, the organization lives on purpose.” How would you like to spend every day knowing that what you are doing is making a difference? That even the most unpleasant of tasks are for the greater good and helping you do great things FOR those you seek to serve?
The most thriving people and organizations discover their purpose, keep it in front of them, and champion those they are FOR. And they know inspiration is not a one-time deal; the truth is, “It’s not enough to be inspired. You have to remain inspired.” Keeping what you’re FOR front and center is one way to do that.
Having a compelling purpose energizes a business and its people, and it has the same effect on individuals. When people have a compelling vision for their lives, they’re able to live life on purpose. This is not a simple undertaking and frankly it is hard work. Most people can’t decide what they want FOR lunch, how can we expect them to decide what they want FOR their whole lives? It will require time, soul-searching, coaching, and self-discovery, but the result is a life on fire and a purpose that changes your world and the world around you.
What are you known FOR?
How do you know you’re actually living FOR what you are FOR? Answer the question, What do others think you are FOR? As an organization, you are known for your brand, and you want to be known for your vision. When your brand matches your vision, you’re positioned to grow. Wisdom teaches, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Say yes to things that feed your purpose and no to things that don’t.
Know what you are FOR and pursue it so boldly and loudly that others clearly see what you are FOR.
I don’t know who you are FOR, but the question is, do they? If you are FOR your family, loving them well and providing for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, do they know it? OR do they know that mom or dad is FOR the business and their work, providing us with nice stuff but they’re never around?
If you are for underprivileged students in your community, do they know you are FOR them? If you are for small business owners, do they know you are FOR them? Our priority should be to show others that we care about them. Make it clear that you are FOR them, and you are here FOR them. If you are really FOR something, live like it.
If you want to begin the personal or professional journey of figuring out what you are FOR, set some time aside to really think about the question, What do I want to be known FOR? Ask your family, your team, and your organization; invite them into a dialogue.
When you have a solid answer, start asking people that know you well what they would say you are FOR. If the answer isn’t close to your purpose, identify ways you could start better aligning your life with what you want to be FOR.
Some of the greatest work you can do is discovering what you are FOR. If you gain clarity on your purpose, you’ll start to see everything differently!