I struggled through my last internship. I was so excited to start it and I hoped to learn a lot from the company with which I was about to spend my summer. The company was cool, the environment was fun, the work was high in quality but for some reason I dreaded going into the office every day. Why was this internship such a poor fit for my life? Because the work was not tied to my purpose in life.
I’ve always had a vague idea of what I want my life to look like and what kinds of contributions I want to make in the world but I could never put it into words. At the end of this internship, I knew I needed to be able to articulate my purpose and pursue only those opportunities that would help me fulfill it.
Serendipitously, I attended the PRSSA 2017 National Conference in October where multiple presenters talked about finding personal purpose. I chatted with lifestyle strategist and #PRSSANC presenter Patrice Tanaka and PRSSA National President Andrew Cook about distilling and defining a personal purpose statement and how knowing your purpose can help you professionally.
Why do I need a purpose statement?
Patrice Tanaka knows that “the process of articulating our purpose and the courage to live it is the single most important thing we can do to unleash our leadership potential and the joy of a more fulfilling life.”
What makes having a purpose statement so powerful? Consider going into an interview and saying, “Hi! I’m Lauren Thomas. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in public relations. I’ve had the same kind of experience as all the other candidates for this entry level job but I hope you’ll hire me.” Not too compelling, is it?
Consider instead saying, “Hi! I’m Lauren Thomas. I’m a BYU graduate of public relations but what you should really know about me is that I am committed to making important things in the service of others.” This tells an interviewer more about me than a resume or cover letter ever will.
Knowing, articulating and sharing your purpose gives you a “competitive advantage” in your education, career and life. One short, digestible, inspiring statement can help you express your highest goals and values, network with more power and focus, as well as find the best professional opportunities.
Andrew Cook has developed his purpose statement based on important events in his life. He uses his statement every day when evaluating what opportunities to pursue and how to spend his time. He said, “Knowing my purpose not only helps me filter out opportunities but also stretch toward the best opportunities. Knowing yours will help you know what you should do as well as what you don’t want to do.”
How do I find my purpose?
Pondering over your interests, values, goals and dreams will give you a lot of information about your personal purpose. While the task may sound daunting, defining your purpose doesn’t take much time.
Andrew suggests starting by recording a few transformative moments in your life. These moments will help you recognize the values you hold close and the kind of person you want to be. Consider the moments you feel most alive, the times when you’ve recognized great injustice, the times when you’ve felt valuable to another person or to a community. Write these thoughts and experiences down.
Patrice uses a short questionnaire to help clients understand their talents, values and goals. Each of the ten questions helps you understand your passions, gifts, talents, values and goals. She is willing to share this questionnaire with PRSSA students to help you find your purpose.
How do I write a purpose statement?
Remember, your purpose statement needs to be long enough that it can inspire and guide you but short enough that it can be easily memorized and shared—aim for about five to 20 words.
Be creative with yourself! A string of jargon won’t be inspiring or guiding. Use your creative, communicative mind and use language that enlightens and inspires you! Don’t worry if it takes a few tries to write a statement that inspires you. Your purpose and your statement are highly personal and may not be formatted like anyone else’s. If your statement communicates who you are, what matters most to you and how you best serve others, you’ve got it!
After finishing my internship and working through this process, I’ve determined that my purpose is “to make important things happen in the service of God, my family, my friends and my fellow men.”
Now that I have a personal purpose statement that inspires and excites me, I am pursuing a more fulfilling future. I can ignore mediocre opportunities in lieu of excellent opportunities that will enable me to fulfill my purpose.
If you feel your purpose is simply to land a job and make a lot of money, so be it. But if you feel like your life has a greater purpose, I challenge you to discover it, distill it, define it and live by it. Understanding your purpose will help you fulfill it.
Lauren Thomas is a senior studying public relations at Brigham Young University. She loves helping individuals and organizations find greater purpose and enabling them to have real impact. When she is not working on PR campaigns, you can find her in the dance studio, riding in the family Jeep, or color coding her daily planner. You can connect with her on Twitter @laurenishiguchi or on LinkedIn.