In the last Creating Impact post, I shared how to mine for and discover your purpose. After a lot of thoughtful reflection about your unique gift and your life, you wrote your purpose statement. Well done!
Most people who clarify their purpose statement stop there. Not you! Not us! We’re writing and sharing our purpose stories.
Why write a purpose story, you may be wondering?
When you write your purpose story you catapult your purpose to life.
Your purpose story is your commitment to your life’s direction. You’ve had ups and downs. You’ve experienced bumps and bruises. These experiences brought you to where you are today, giving you the raw material for your purpose. When you take your gifts, beliefs, experiences, values and now purpose statement – mix it all together – you craft your purpose story. Your noble cause – your purpose – is one to which you’ll commit yourself to forever, beginning today.
As you write your purpose story, you may also heal some old wounds that have stayed open for far too long. While you may quit on goals, you’ll never quit on your purpose. So, honor that purpose by capturing the story of your purpose that you will tell yourself and others, when the opportunity presents itself.
Why would you tell your purpose story?
When you tell your purpose story to those close to you, you strengthen your bond with them. By sharing your purpose story, you’ll encourage and inspire them to mine for their purposes and to write and tell their purpose stories. You’ll lift their hearts with your story.
In today’s world, with so much information flying at you from so many directions, you forget facts, figures, numbers and trends in the information overload. It’s hard to sort out what is real, what is important, and what isn’t. Information in the form of facts, figures, percentages, and statistical variances is directed to your head. It literally goes in one ear and out the other. Anthropologists contend that 70% of everything we learn is through stories.
Your purpose story, on the other hand, comes from the heart and is directed to the heart. People will remember it forever and want to hear it again and again. It will move them. To influence and persuade, you aim for the heart and then the head.
Who is the purpose story for?
It’s for all of us. You, me and us.
Everyone loves stories, whether it’s a story in a movie, a book or live by a skilled storyteller. Good stories draw us in like a magnet, like a moth to a flame. Your purpose story will inspire you. When you tell your purpose story, it connects others to you. They begin to know, like and trust you. Think of your purpose story as connective tissue.
Your purpose story isn’t about perfection. No one is interested your perfection. When you share your bumps and bruises, you share your humanity. The more personal your story, the more universal it becomes. People listen to your story autobiographically. In other words, when you speak of your mother and her struggles, people think of their own mother and the struggles she faced.
In my newest book, 19 Fighting COVID-19: Unsung Heroes Creating Impact During the Pandemic and Unrest, I profiled Chris Bentley. After graduating from the US Naval Academy, Chris served for fourteen years as a naval flight officer before entering the private sector. Now, he is an accomplished and recognized financial advisor and founder of Wings for Widows, a non-profit organization that provides free financial, legal and coaching services to recent widows. He’s also an international bestselling author. Chris is a man who lives on purpose and creates an enormous impact.
At the end of this post, I’ll share a link where you can read the entire story about Chris. But for now, let’s focus on Chris’s purpose statement and purpose story. Here are Chris’s words:
“As a young man, I was a river guide – helping our guests navigate more than 40 miles of whitewater, providing safe passage from the put-in to the take-out.
“As a naval officer, I was a mission commander – getting my crew to station, prosecuting enemy submarines, and returning home after 10-hour missions. I provided safe passage from take-off to landing.
“As a sailor, whether skipper or crewman – I weathered storms topside, at the helm, day and night, ensuring safe passage of our sailing vessel and the passengers entrusted to my care.
“As a financial advisor I guide clients through up and down markets to help them retire comfortably and realize their dreams. I provide safe passage during a lifetime of living and investing.
“As the founder of Wings for Widows, I provide safe passage for new widows, from heartbreak and loss to a future of hope and possibility.
“The purpose, then, that seems to define me is:
“To provide safe passage down the river of life, helping others to experience adventure, find and feel joy, and live life fully.”
The impact Chris seeks to make is ”To make certain no new widow has to go it alone.”
That’s Chris’s purpose story. There are many other purpose stories of ordinary people, just like you and me, in my book, Reinvent Your Impact: Unleashing Purpose, Passion and Productivity to thrive. Mine’s in there, too.
Now, let’s get to work on your purpose story.
Step 3: What’s the Story Behind Your Purpose?
Over the past several days, you’ve done a lot of reflecting and writing on your unique gift and your purpose. Pull out your notes.
Here are ideas to get you started writing your purpose story:
- Write your one true sentence. It’s been said that when Ernest Hemingway had writer’s block, he’d write one true sentence. Start your story with one true sentence. Chris wrote his, “As a young man, I was a river guide – helping our guests navigate more than 40 miles of whitewater, providing safe passage from the put-in to the take-out.”
- Remember, you are the hero of your story. All good stories follow the “Hero’s Journey” pattern. It’s like a three-act play. First, there’s a challenge that comes out of nowhere that has to be met. Often, but not always, it happens between the ages of 9 -12. Identify your challenge. Second, there’s a struggle. Your wrestle with the challenge. You don’t know the solution to fix the challenge, but through trial and error, often with the advice from a wiser and more experienced person, you figure out how to solve – or at least control and overcome – your challenge. Third, there’s resolution of the challenge. You conquer the challenge. You are able to make sense of what has happened. You move on. You share your insights with us about how the challenge can be conquered. This is the classic Hero’s Journey.
- Write as fast as you can for 45 minutes. After you’ve written your one true sentence, with your notes in front of you, highlight the keywords, set a timer for 45 minutes, and write as fast as you can. No critiques or edits for now. Write about your purpose and how and why it became your purpose.
- Read it, edit it, refine it and memorize it. When you finish your story, read it out loud. Edit it where necessary. Record yourself reading the story. Play it back. Continue editing and tightening up your story. Memorize your story. Make sure the story is three minutes or less.
- Share it. Share your story with family members and friends who care about you. Ask for their impressions and feedback. Make adjustments where necessary. As a general rule, briefer is better. Now identify opportunities for sharing your story, to lift up, encourage and inspire others.
Love your purpose and purpose story. When it shows that you love your purpose story, others will love it, too. When you share it with others, when you deliver it, do so with absolute conviction. Don’t read it like a news reporter. Embody your story. Physicalize your story when you share it. Keep rehearsing your story on walks, on your solo bike rides or runs, when you’ve got some alone time. With practice, you’ll have a purpose story that grabs – and moves – hearts and minds. Once your purpose story is ready for prime time, look for opportunities to share with friends and colleagues. They will be drawn in and fascinated by your purpose story.
Your story will reinforce your need and commitment to live a life of purpose, so you can create great impact. Sharing your purpose statement and purpose story will inspire others to write and share theirs, too.
Your story helps others understand what is important to you, how your life experiences have made you what you are today and why you do what you do. Sharing your purpose story is the most generous thing you can do. When you tell it with conviction and authenticity, you’ll hold your audience’s attention like a magnet.
You tell your purpose story authentically and others will empathize with you and be more likely to embrace your passion and position. It’s the way to influence and lead others.
Research shows that leaders with purpose who communicate this purpose to their followers inspire their people to be:
- 8 times more likely to stay at the company;
- 2 time more likely to have higher job satisfaction; and
- 70% more satisfied with their jobs.
Imagine an organization where all leaders and team members mined for and discovered their individual purposes and shared their individual purpose statements and purpose stories. What would that be like? I’ll tell you.
When I’ve worked with leaders and their teams to write and share their purpose stories, something magical happens. A level of trust, respect and empathy emerge that were not there previously surfaces. Sharing your best human qualities – your purpose and purpose story – is a catalyst for building an aligned, high-performing, supportive leadership team. Aligned together to serve the broader organization’s purpose, you’ll have a powerfully connected, purposeful and passionate team, positioned and committed to create great impact.
Here’s the link to Chris Bentley’s story, Providing Safe Passage Down the River of Life During the COVID-19 Crisis. http://theboltongroup.com/providing-safe-passage-down-the-river-of-life-during-the-covid-19-crisis/
Especially during the pandemic, everyone needs a purpose. Everyone needs a purpose and a purpose story. Commit to writing and sharing your purpose story. Encourage others to do the same. That’s the path for creating an amazing level of impact.