Purpose and Values

Posted by Mike Kaaks

26 August 2012

I have labeled myself a purpose and values coach. These words describe the primary levers I use when working with my clients. I believe in the great strength which comes from knowing thyself, and that the core of this knowledge lies in understanding one’s purpose and values. With this knowledge in hand you are equipped to find your path to fulfillment and feel energized in it’s pursuit.

The best tool I have found to find one’s purpose is Tim Kelley’s book “True Purpose”. Kelley believes that the question “what is your purpose?” is not rhetorical or philosophical, but that it has a definitive answer for each of us; an answer that tells us why we are here. As evidenced by the grail myth, this is a question that men in particular wrestle with as they journey through life. Purpose is not about us being here to provide shelter and security to our family or achieve status and reputation; rather it resolves how we can live at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, fully self-actualised. Kelley points out that finding our true purpose can be a painful journey, noting that the discomfort experienced in the search is a key to knowing that you have found the right answer.

Purpose, deep purpose, also exists in corporations. Not the ‘to make money for my shareholders” stuff, but knowing how the enterprise is making a difference to the world. Knowing the sense of purpose which binds it together, the sense of purpose that flows through its history and is framed in the present, engaging the energies of its employees. In their book Firms of Endearment David Wolfe and his colleagues talk about the shift from shareholder value to stakeholder value - a world in which Society is one of their five key stakeholders. Now that’s a view in which knowing and understanding Purpose has a place!

Working in corporations where individuals feel alignment with Purpose creates great places to work. Values work the same way. By knowing and understanding our values, and finding alignment with the enterprise, we can find work which delivers great fulfillment and in which our performance soars to new heights.

Our values are simply our personal preferences and priorities - they represent what is most important to us. Values exist for individuals and for corporations, although politics can mean that in an enterprise there is a difference between the expressed values and the lived values, so it can be a bit harder to see theirs. Let me give you an example of how this alignment works. My top 5 values are knowing me, engaging with people, achieving, loyalty, and caring. I hope you can see at least 4 of those in play in this blog. The alignment between my values and my work makes it easy to get up in the morning. The same applies in enterprises of any scale. Great places to work are built on alignment of purpose and values.