You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Write and Share Your Purpose Story – Part 3 of 3

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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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.

For More Information:

You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Mine for and Discover Your Purpose – Part 2 of 3

You’ve identified your unique gift and written your gift statement as part of your work from Part 1. Good job. Let’s see how you can apply your unique gift in the discovery of your purpose.

Purpose is the overarching guiding principle that gives your life meaning.

Purpose is the forward-pointing arrow. When you are clear about your life purpose, with an explicit, written purpose statement, you will know why you get out of bed in the morning. It incorporates your special gifts and life experiences.

Opportunities come your way in life. By applying your unique gift to these opportunities, you discover your purpose. But you can’t just sit still and wait for it to drop into your lap. You’ve got to do the self-discovery work.

To make purpose resonate, it’s important that it serves a cause bigger than you. You can create a lot of meaning in your own life by helping someone else do something that is meaningful to them.

Your purpose may have nothing to do with what you do for a living. Your career may not be your calling. While you may get fired from your job, you can never be fired from your purpose. If you can get fired from it, you haven’t discovered your purpose yet. Your purpose is not about the expertise you bring your job, either. Let’s not make our position or expertise our purpose.

For it to be your purpose, it must work in all areas of your life.

Mining for and discovering your purpose means embracing your gifts, capturing your essence, and living authentically. When you are clear about your purpose, you’ll never feel like you are an impostor.

Your purpose is unique to you. It can do no harm. It permeates all areas of life. While your purpose may change with life’s seasons, the “red thread” of purpose never changes in your life.

 When you are living by purpose, everything seems natural. It may not be easy, but you must live authentically. In your sweet spot. It’s like a baseball hitter or golfer who hits the ball on the sweet spot. Living on purpose is like the ball hitting the bat on the sweet spot. It just flies effortlessly.

When you’ve defined your purpose statement and live by purpose, there are many benefits. It serves as a filter. When an opportunity or experience presents itself, you ask, “Does this situation help me fulfill my purpose?” Or, “If I say yes to this experience, is that consistent with my purpose.” It allows you to quickly and definitively answer “Yes” or “No.” “Is what I’m about to do in keeping with my purpose and values?”

Heeding your purpose isn’t an easy path, which is why most people never know it. They don’t listen to their hearts. Or if they do and follow their calling, they fear the unknown, and they fear looking foolish or failing. So, they play it safe and drift along. Perhaps they are comfortable. Perhaps they have the means, but they lack the meaning. And they never create the impact they were born to make. Don’t let this be you.

“Would it not be better to ask people to what purpose are they applying their life, rather than simply asking them what they do for a living?” Thom Winninger, author, Your True DNA!

Step 2: Mine for and Discover Your Purpose

It’s time to go mine for purpose. Pull out your journal and thoughtfully answer the following purpose framing questions. The outcomes will be the raw material for your purpose statement and story.

When you were young, what activity brought you the most happiness and satisfaction? What were the specifics? What emotions do you feel as you recall these memories?

Hint: It could be one specific moment, a specific activity, or a list of experiences.

What have been the three most salient events in your life that have made you the person you are? Write one sentence that describes the gist of these events or experiences.

Hints: These are likely your most challenging life experiences. Pick an experience that is currently not impacting you.

Now, which of the three events would you call the single most defining moment in your life?

Hint: It is often – but not always – an event that happened early in life, often between ages 9-12, when you didn’t have the answers for the challenges you faced.

Why do you get up in the morning?

Hints: What gets your blood flowing? What causes do you care about most deeply? What is a problem that “someone needs to fix”? What are you committed to that is bigger than you?

What are your three inviolable values?

Hints: What are the top three values that guide you? What are the values you could credibly have printed on a t-shirt to wear? People would agree, “Yes, that defines what you stand for and how you operate.”

Using your unique gift and the responses to the purpose framing questions as raw material, reflect on the key words and phrases that jump out at you. Highlight the key words and themes. Can you see a pattern? A pattern – the gifts, the values, the red threads, the purpose – should begin to emerge.

It’s time to create a purpose statement. Your purpose statement does the following:

  1. Identifies the unique gift(s) you bring to the world;
  2. Taps into your own life experiences (challenging times, passions, and best memories);
  3. Uses a minimal number of words or symbols;
  4. Consists of words that have deep meaning; and
  5. Every time you recall and share your purpose, it provides clarity and focus to live on purpose.

Smarter people than your author recommend you meditate and contemplate intensively and extensively about your purpose statement. I suggest you do this, too.

Reflect on and complete this sentence:

The purpose that is leading me is: ____________________.”

Now edit your sentence into your purpose statement. Here are some examples.

To provide safe passage down the river of life, helping others to experience adventure, find and feel joy, and live life fully.

To show others that their daily marathons are possible to get through and that nothing is really impossible.

To help others look and feel great, and to lift up their happiness, confidence, and self-image.

Creating content for the 50+ crowd and sharing stories of people living their passion.

 To be a channel for those in broken situations to get connected to the Healer.

 To guide others through the moguls – so they see what is possible and become unstoppable.

 To courageously dig deep to unleash potential as powerful as Nature.

Now it is your turn.  What will be your purpose statement? Write it here.

With your purpose statement defined, let’s use it as part of a story – your purpose story.  Tomorrow, I’ll share with you an example of a powerful purpose story.  We’ll then work together to craft your purpose story, to help you bring your purpose to life.

“I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned.”Clayton Christensen, late professor at Harvard Business School and bestselling author

For More Information: 

Reinvent Your Impact - Bestselling Book by Executive Coach Chuck Bolton

You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Identify Your Unique Gifts – Part 1 of 3

Six months into the global health pandemic and many of us are restless. It’s an uneasy time. We want to go back to normal and resume our lives like we did, prior to mid-March.

In so many areas of life, it feels like there is little we can control.

Last week, while listening to Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Radio on SiriusXM, I heard for the first time an Uncle Kracker song, No Time to Be Sober. I was amused and a couple of the lines from the song struck me.

I used to crack a beer and throw on CMT,

But now I’m sipping vodka with the CDC.

The song continued:

This ain’t no time to be sober.

There’s a time and place to hide your face,

And I got nothin’ but time to waste,

This ain’t no time to be sober.

The song is humorous, but the message, of uncertainty and an altered state during a dark time, hits a little too close to home for me.

Everyone is experiencing it to some degree. We may be worried for ourselves, our loved ones, friends and co-workers. We’re feeling it on multiple fronts – concerned about health, work, finances, school re-openings, COVID restrictions and the political division created by all of the misinformation from our president about the pandemic. We miss our friends and family. We miss our places of worship, going to a ball game, traveling and gathering with our friends and families.

When this pandemic ends, I don’t want to reflect on it as a period when I chose to waste time because I had “nothin’ but time to waste.” That isn’t uplifting to me, and likely not to you, either.

What about you? If you feel angst and uncertainty, what do you say we take back what we can control?

We have a choice. We can control our minds. We can control what goes into our minds. Limiting the 24-hour continuous negative news cycle and social media. Limiting the binge watching of Tiger King and other inane, mindless shows. We must guard our minds from trash.

Secondly, we must feed our minds.  With positive content that will nourish our minds. Inspiring stories, reading good books, learning new useful content, journaling, writing and sharing uplifting stories with one another.  We consciously feed our minds with positive thoughts and energy.  Bestselling author John Ortberg writes, “What makes people the way they are is the way they think. Think great thoughts! People who live great lives, think great thoughts!”

So, let’s take care of our minds. Then we operate with purpose – even during a pandemic.

If you were interviewed by NBC News anchor Lester Holt, in front of a live audience of 12 million people, to describe your purpose in life – not a summary of your job description or your company’s purpose – could you deliver it in a sentence or two with clarity and conviction?

If you answered “no” or “not sure,” you’ve got plenty of company. It’s been reported by Gallup that 70% of leaders don’t know their purpose. That number is likely even higher in the general population.

What exactly is meant by the word, “purpose”?

Purpose is the overarching principle that gives your life meaning.  It’s a forward-pointing arrow, that gives you clarity and helps you get out of bed in the morning.

You can’t be fired or retire from your purpose. A pandemic can’t derail your purpose.

The pursuit of purpose is biological. It’s programmed into your DNA. Your brain has a “seeking system” that encourages you to explore, learn and find meaning.  Your brain is wired to want to know, understand and experience purpose and the positive emotions that go along with it. You’re wired to be simultaneously driven toward something and pulled to it. So, defining your purpose is a human need.

While operating on purpose won’t answer all the questions you’re wrestling with today in these turbulent times, it will provide you clarity and serve as your Northstar for your life. You’ll know where you are headed. It gets you out of the mode of surviving and on to the path to thriving.

If you haven’t clarified your life’s purpose, how about you and I work together for the next three days – for a three-part series on purpose – and get you clear about and living on purpose?

Here’s the good news. Your life purpose is inside of you, just waiting to be released. You’ve got to find it. You’ll need to mine for it. I’ll show you how.

My good friend and client, Dave Hemink, CEO of Nonin Medical, a medical device company that provides critical products in the fight against COVID-19 says, “Your purpose is deep inside you; it is there.  It’s up to each person to find it.”

Viktor Frankl, bestselling author, renown psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, experienced unspeakably harsh conditions during his three years in Auschwitz. Frankl lost his wife, brother, father and mother during the Holocaust.  The author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl wrote, “Man’s search for meaning (purpose) is the primary motivation in life. (Defining your purpose is) the most important activity for your development. With it, we can survive even the worst conditions. It gives us meaning in life.”

Your purpose is to make a positive difference in the world – however you define your purpose.  When you operate on purpose, you create an impact. Creating impact is a strategy for playing offense with your life. Impact is defined as having a strong, powerful effect or influence on a situation or a person.

You’ll need to do some reflection work, to answer the questions posed, so grab your journal or a pad of paper and pen, answer the questions to the best of your ability and do the work. If you don’t do the work, you won’t see the results.

The three steps for finding your purpose and living on purpose are:

  1. Identify your unique gifts;
  2. Mine for and discover your purpose;
  3. Write and share your purpose story;


Step 1: What’s Your Unique Gift?

Each of us comes into this world with a unique gift. It’s a personal characteristic you are endowed with, even if you don’t know exactly what that gift is.

The requirement for living a life of purpose and impact is to know and apply your gift. Applying your gift for a purpose greater than you allows you to impact others and make an impact on the world. What’s your unique gift?

Here are a few questions to reflect on to get clear about your unique gift:

Who are you?

 Describe yourself in just a few words. What descriptors would you use? Examples might include that you are a loving husband, a passionate artist, a committed leader of others, a healer of the body and soul, a matriarch of the tribe, a faithful friend. So, in just a few words, describe yourself.

What is it that people come to you for?

 What are you naturally good at—so good that other people compliment you? When others consult you for advice, what do they ask you about? They may say, “You are so good at that!” And you may not even realize what you do and how you do it that makes this characteristic a special, unique gift. You may minimize the gift or even take it for granted. Or it may seem like everyone can do it, so you don’t think twice about its uniqueness. When others come to you and ask, “How do you do that?” you can rest assured that it is a valuable gift. You find the gift comes naturally and you apply the gift unconsciously. What is your gift?

What would others miss?

 Survey your close friends, work colleagues, and family members, and ask them, “What do you see as my three greatest gifts? And what would you miss if I were no longer here?” How would they respond? What do you think they would say? Write it down.

They may ask “Is there something wrong?” Or, “What’s up with you?” as those are admittedly questions you don’t get asked every day. So, when you ask, you’ll want to start by sharing with them their greatest gifts, and what you would miss if they were no longer here. It’s a wonderful way to demonstrate what that person means to you and your love for them. By sharing with them their gifts, you appreciate their uniqueness and honor them.

What do you do that feels effortless and gives you energy?

 When you give your gift, it feels effortless. Far from expending your energy, the use of your gift renews your energy. You give it naturally to others, and you give it often. What is the gift?

Hopefully, you have several gifts that you’ve identified with one particular gift emerging as the one that is unique. Can you identify your number one unique gift?

If you are still struggling, request the input of others who are close to you. Others often have a clearer view of your special gifts.

Based on your reflections, what is your unique gift?

As you gain clarity of your unique gift, can you create a gift statement that describes what you are called to do to apply your gift? Here are a few examples:

  • My gift is transparency and genuineness. I use my gift to help others, sharing my emotions and vulnerabilities to build trust and create a degree of calmness with those I meet.
  • My gift is recognizing and focusing on what others do well, so I can help them apply both personally and professionally to optimize the impact of their gifts.
  • Time and patience are my gifts, which I use to help those around me—family, friends, and strangers.
  • As one who navigates and guides people down the river of life, I assist new widows as they transition from heartbreak and loss to a future of hope and possibility.

Frank Pleticha created his gift statement: “Through my gift of empathetic and active listening, I help channel resources and contacts to the broken person sitting in front of me.” For more on Frank’s unique gift and gift statement, you can read his story.

Now it’s your turn.

What is your unique gift statement?

Congratulations! You’ve now landed on your unique gift and gift statement– the gifts that make you special, a one-of-a-kind. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? You bring a uniqueness that no one else in the world brings. Now, you know what it is.

As you’ve defined it, you get to apply your gift to the opportunities and situations that come your way.

How will you apply your gift more often in the future?

Tomorrow look for my post, You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Mine for and Discover Your Purpose – Part 2 of 3, where we’ll discover how to use your unique gift in identifying and living by purpose.


For more information: