Friday, October 31, 2008

Bringing Focus Back to Purpose

I was sifting through my inbox last night and this morning and thought "How many of these things that I do are bringing me closer to my Life goals?"  As we all know, every choice in life brings us closer to or further away from our goals.  The decision to not make a choice between various options is in itself a choice and unless you are incredibly lucky, not a choice that consistently carries you closer to your ultimate purpose.

We move closer to our Life goals and Life purpose when we can visualize what we "want to be when we grow up" and take specific actions towards that vision.  Many of you who know me personally have seen the vision board I carry in my pocket, a constant reminder of my ultimate destination while I am here on Earth and my ultimate destination when my end-of-days has arrived.

However, as I sorted through the list of "asks" on my desk, all of which are quite noble and important to the requestor, I realized that most of them are not in congruence with my purpose.

When I accept too many of these, whether personal or professional requests, my efforts become diluted.  Since many are not in alignment with my passion, as a human being it is possible I won't put my best efforts into them or I may procrastinate heavily regarding them.  This is because they are not something I feel strongly about or my brain might just be overloaded with too many of them.

Many of these requests will have no impact on my life at all and in fact, will have little impact on the life of the requestor either.  Many times, people will lob stuff in your direction because they want you to solve it - the belief that "their want" should become "your desire".  However, when you push back on them to do it themselves, you find they don't want to do it either or it is not important enough for them to get at it right away.  How important was it at all if that is the case?

I was recently asked to help a client whose company was dying and discovered that my passion for success far outstripped their own.  They were in fact, indifferent to the success of their organization, which is why they asked me to save it.  When I came to that realization, I turned them down, pointing out that if they didn't care, why should I?  They didn't understand the question, saying I should want to help them because we were friends.  Imagine where our lives would be if we catered to that line every time!

While it feels noble to want to help everyone who comes to you looking for help, eventually by helping everyone except yourself, you burn out, awash in exhaustion, frustration and maybe even financial trouble while the people who loaded you up in the first place have moved on to find others to help them.

I'm not suggesting that you help no one or that you be cold and ruthless about who you help.  I'm suggesting that you be more discerning and discriminating in how much time you have for your own personal objectives and how much you have to give to others.  Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has some powerful tools to help you in this area.

You are most empowered to help people in the best way possible when you are strong mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally.  To get into and stay in that state takes a commitment to yourself as well as to others.

Sometimes saying no to someone is the best thing that could happen to them as it will either force them to find someone else who could put more passion in it than you (potentially producing a better result) or it forces them to justify their ask, possibly causing them to realize it wasn't that important in the first place.  Maybe after they have justified their ask, you may see an opportunity to align your purpose with their ask.  Everyone wins if that is the case.

If you give all of your time away, pretty soon you will be so spent that you will not offer any value to yourself or others.

Don't let this happen to you.  Keep your purpose squarely in front of you at all times.  Know when you have time to help great causes and great people and know when it is time to focus on your own purpose.

When the time for laser-life focus is upon you, don't be afraid to say no.  It may be the most empowering choice you made that day - for everybody!

As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9-10 (my emphasis added)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people...

So, give when you can.  I teach everyone to give before getting.  However, sometimes you can't give at the moment and that is ok.  Don't let people convince you to feel guilty for such guilt may propel you to serve others incessantly until you fail completely.

Live your life - not theirs.  When you live your life, you can help others be successful (however you gauge success).  The reverse is not necessarily true or as fulfilling.

Now if you will excuse me, I've got to tell a bunch of people that I'm too busy right now.

In service and servanthood.



  1. Well Harry, I asked you yesterday evening to help me get introduced to a potential candidate for a position I'm trying to fill. That particular person on Linkedin had numerous pathways between me and him. I was drawn to your name. I don't know why. I also attempted the same process with 4 other candidates. So far you are the only person that has taken the time to forward my introduction. Thank you for taking the time, and I hope something comes of it. Your blogs are very inspirational. Only if you have the opportunity, I would appreciate any tips on how to find one's true purpose in life?

    Thanks again,
    Johnny O'Sullivan

  2. Hey Johnny,

    Thank you for your kind words. The reason why people like you and I are in LinkedIn is to serve each other and to help empower each other towards greater things. I can't comment on the other folks but I was happy to help bring you a step closer to your need (and it took me all of 10 seconds to do it). :-)

    As for tips on finding one's purpose, I have been humbled and priveleged to be asked this question by you and others.

    I have given a number of lectures about this lately. Let me see if I can boil the content down to an acceptable size. I will post it here soon and will invite comments.

    Thank you again for the kind comments.

    Take care and create a great day!