Was There Ever a Better Time to Ask Fundamental Questions?
Purpose Alignment and Value Creation during and after the 2020 crisis
Have you been feeling a little uneasy about your exact place in this world and your role in this life, as a professional and as a human being? If there was ever a time to reevaluate and redefine your purpose and the value you create, this would be it.
This article was originally published at www.medium.com/illumination/
The last few weeks have been exhausting for me. First off, I’m happy to report that I’m in good health and so are all of my family and close friends. That’s not something that everyone can say right now, I’m grateful for the fact that I can.
I’m also intensely grateful for the fact that I have people to miss in the first place, and people who miss me back. That I have food to feed my children, a roof over our heads and a means to provide for those together with my beautiful, sexy, hot wife.
It’s been an interesting challenge juggling a 40-hour work-from-home-week with being a stay-at-home-dad since my wife works in health care and the child daycare centres here in the Netherlands have been closed.
But I realize what the real challenge is for me at this time. And what’s been eating up all of my excess brainpower. It’s my wife’s sacrifice as a mental health professional and the beautiful, fulfilling, clearly value-creating work that she does — compared to my work as a marketer.
It’s always been there, it’s always been a little bit uneasy for me, but the current crisis is making it stand out to me sorely, like a lawyer in a pack of fluffy puppies.
It makes me want to reevaluate my Purpose, the value I’m currently creating in the world, and how the two align. I’m strengthed in my desire to do this by the fact that I see individuals and organizations online sharing things that make it obvious to me that the current situation is forcing a lot of people to do the same thing.
I feel like I’m not alone, which is generally a good feeling for a human being.
I haven’t got it all figured out just yet, but as a marketing strategist, self-declared innovation philosopher and lifelong self-actualization nut, I’ve listed some questions that might be of help to you.
I’m pretty much always asking myself these kinds of questions, sometimes they help me and at other times they don’t. But maybe, just maybe, there has never been a better time for me to share these questions with you.
Been feeling a slightly uneasy feeling lately, and felt compelled to click on this article? Then this might be for you. I say let’s be brave and plunge into the abyss.
If you take a look at these questions and it makes you feel like you’re in the exact right spot, I’m really happy for you. If you look at them and feel like you really need to change something — whether it be a big change or a minor one — I will be equally happy for you.
Let’s start light, with the value you’re already creating.
What value are you creating for the world?
And how could you create more value for yourself or others? And by more value, I certainly don’t mean for you to do more things. I expressly mean for you to do as much as you’re doing right now or less, but doing better things.
What do I mean by ‘better’? Well, I’m glad you asked. I mean better in the sense that you would do less of the stuff you’re not necessarily the best at, nor makes you really happy to do. I mean doing more of the stuff that aligns with your Purpose.
Let’s start off with the following fairly simple questions, and go on from there. If you’re looking at this from the vantage point of a team or an organization, the questions should work for you perfectly if you substitute “We”, “Our people” or “Our company culture/Our company policies” for “I/You” in any of them.
- What value are you creating in the world, right now? And I do mean overall — at home, at work, and in the lives of people you touch.
- How exactly is your job adding value to people’s lives? Who are these people and why would you want to add value for them specifically?
- How could you be adding more value, if there were no constraints like time, money and other resources? What could you be doing instead of what you’re doing now, that would add more value?
Please, take no longer than about five minutes to ponder these, and make a few quick notes if you feel so inclined. But do take a little bit of time. I would love to hear if these questions trigger something in you. I hope they make you think, I hope they make you feel something. And I hope they open you up to move on to thinking about your Purpose.
Purpose and Purpose Alignment
Now, let’s think about the purpose of what you do. Combined with the value you are currently creating: what Purpose does it serve in the world, and how does that align with the Purpose you feel you are personally drawn to? How do the things you are currently doing align with your True Self?
Mind you, by True Self I don’t mean some mystical, abstract concept. What I basically mean, is that little voice inside your head, that feeling in your gut, that sometimes reminds you that something isn’t sitting exactly right. You know, that voice that, when unheard for too long stops whispering and simply shouts:
Mind you, this can apply to individual humans, but also teams and whole organizations.
So. Now that you know what I’m talking about: on to the questions for this section. If you’re approaching this from the standpoint of you as an individual human, you could be thinking about things like:
- What is my Purpose?*
- Am I in a position and/or doing the things that align(s) with my Purpose?
- What could I be doing to be more aligned with my True Self?
*Defining one’s purpose is a hefty undertaking. If you have only a vague concept or even no idea, I have a few exercises ready for you if you feel like you could use some help. And I’m quite sure they will be helpful. Let me know in the comments hereunder or via Twitter, or even via my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I honestly believe that in order to maximize one’s potential, one should strive toward doing more of the things that align with whatever Purpose we can uncover in our hearts, and less of the things that do not. In order to be maximally happy, and to provide maximum value for others, I believe it is of paramount importance that we Align what we do with our Purpose.
After What and Why, now let’s talk about How
Lastly, we could think about the way we do the things we do. Because I believe not only should Why we do, How we do and What we do align — we should also strive to do the things we’re doing that don’t necessarily align with our Purpose but we’ve gotta do ’em anyway — in a way that does align with that.
I think of the smart, beautiful human being that made lunch at my previous company. Making lunch for people was not his life’s calling. But he did it with such a beautiful Zen-like, loving and aware dedication that not only were the lunches always fantastic, his approach to it was inspiring to me and many others as well.
Next to trying to align the way we do things with our Purpose, I think it’s a shame that the latest science on productivity and the way most people tend to structure their day don’t line up at all. The same goes for me. I’m pretty damn sure we could all be getting more out of ourselves and out of our day.
How well is my workday aligned with what works for me?
Typically, we spend eight hours at work, while most if not all recent studies on human productivity and focus are showing an attention span that works in blocks of about an hour, and that amounts to four to five hours of deeply concentrated work in a day for the average human. This includes knowledge workers.
The so-called “Flow-state” is the space where we get by far the most value out of ourselves and into the world. Now, how much time do we allow ourselves to be in that state?
Apart from this but connected to it, we know that we’re actually not that good at multitasking and that we miss-prioritize and do more urgent things than things that offer fundamental, long-term value to our stakeholders. Both at home and the office.
Lastly, a lot has been written and said about the effects of smartphone addiction, and if we should even call it that. The jury is still out, but so far studies have shown that:
- The use of digital technology has an immense capacity to distract us from what truly matters or from what we planned to be doing at any time.
- The use of digital technology seems to be connected to increased levels of anxiety and feelings of depression.
- Digital technology seems to be able to help people feel more connected or the exact opposite, depending on personal factors and environmental factors among other things.
In this context, you might want to ask yourself the following additional questions:
- How am I structuring my workday and workweek?
- What is the balance between deep work, shallow work and rest (breaks, time to think and time to not think) in my typical workday and workweek?
- At what moments of the day am I generally most productive?
- What specific tasks or types of tasks work best for me in the morning, afternoon or evening?
- How do I use the available technology to help me focus, to structure my day, finish my tasks effectively and to communicate effectively?
- How am I allowing technology to distract me, to obstruct me from following my daily plan and where do I use it to communicate ineffectively?
As an example of ineffective communication using technology, think about the well-known and too often made mistake of having a conversation via text messaging that would be much better suited to a personal or phone conversation. Or conversely, having a one-hour meeting that could have been an email.
If there was ever a time to think about CSR and charity
One last thought.
If there was ever a time for individual human beings and companies alike (companies are, at the core, collections of human beings, are they not?) to think about ways to go above and beyond, it would be right now. Luckily, a lot of people are indeed going out of their way to provide extra value to people around them. And a lot of companies are doing the same.
If you happen to be in marketing and/or brand management, check out this list of marketing software made available for free to deal with the current crisis.
I think it’s beautiful to see how we can all come together and do the right things in times of crisis. Working in the space of tech I’m proud to say that as a sector, we’re humbly providing free tools to help people do their job safely from home — I think it’s the least we can do and it’s a relatively small thing, but we’re doing it.
If you answer the questions above in an honest way, I’m sure you’ll touch on some ideas that fall vaguely in the space of charity work or Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Maybe even initiatives that carry beyond offering your services for free or at a reduced cost for a brief period of time.
If that is indeed the case, please, don’t shy away from pursuing that now because you feel the stress of the current crisis heavy on your shoulders.
Do what aligns with your Purpose, even — or most specifically — if it means paying it forward in a significant way. I promise it will come back to you.
This has been me Aligning with my Purpose. I’d love to hear what it did for you and yours.
I greatly value and thank you for your attention. That’s why I try to bring value. I mainly write about conscious and balanced use of technology at Life Beyond. I’d love it if you would let me know how you valued this article.
If you'd like to get deeper into the impact of digital technology of our lives, check out my book Life Beyond the Touch Screen.