This past weekend, I had the pleasure of addressing a group of 40 university student leaders at a retreat sponsored by Oregon Campus Compact. Arriving early, I was invited to share breakfast with the group before giving my presentation.
As we chatted over breakfast, one student asked, “What is your purpose?” Something in his tone told me that he was asking more than the topic of my presentation, “Servant Leadership: Global Trends in Leadership.” Clarifying, he asked, “What is your purpose in doing what you do with us here?”
Each of us is called to some purpose in life. Some hear the call loud and clear; others, not so much. Some never hear it at all. Richard Lieder, Founder and Chairman of The Inventure Group and author of The Power of Purpose, said, “Purpose is the conscious choice of what, where, and how to make a positive contribution to our world. It is the theme, quality or passion we choose to center our lives around.”
Our purpose grows out of that which we value. Our values, our bedrock beliefs that represent our unique and individual essence, give us an unwavering belief in what we stand for and ensure that we live our life by design.
We acquire, develop, and make our values uniquely ours through the simple process of living and reflecting on life.
That’s a fairly straight forward sentence, but it contains or implies a huge number of moving parts. It is not as easy or as simple as it sounds. Settling on our values and defining our purpose requires a lifetime of work. It’s assisted with a little openness to Divine inspiration.
One of my favorite books is Richard Bach’s Illusions: Reflections of a Reluctant Messiah. It’s a story about a disillusioned writer and itinerant barnstormer who meets a former mechanic and self-described messiah and goes on to learn to be a messiah himself. Full of pithy and timeless quotes, Bach wrote about the process of discovering one’s purpose: “You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self. Don’t turn away from possible futures before you’re certain you don’t have anything to learn from them. You’re always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past.”
My purpose, and this is what I shared with the questioner, is to serve as a facilitator of dialog about what it means to be a leader.
What is your purpose?
Photo: Hamed Saber via Flickr
Written by David McNamee Director of Marylhurst Center for Servant Leadership