A Year of Living Purposefully
by Richard J. Leider

There are two fundamental questions that most of us, ultimately, want to know the answer to: The first is “Who am I?” The second is “How shall I live?” The primary questions that have been asked of leaders and elders throughout history, in the end, refer to these two questions.

A “year of living purposefully” requires answering the two questions with two core practices: Contemplation and Activation. The challenge is, “Will we dare to contemplate who we really are and then activate the truth of what we discover?”

What is Contemplation?
Contemplation is the pursuit of “truth.” The pursuit of truth means that we seek to find out for ourselves, “Who am I.” If we look around at the world we live in, we will find that it is a very rare person who is curious about what is true. In fact, many of us simply assume that we already know. It takes a rare courage and curiosity to be willing to independently question notions that we already have in order to find out directly for ourselves what is true.

What is Activation?
Activation is the experience of living our truth. When we act in the world on purpose, it is often quite a revelation. We discover a depth of vitality that is energizing. And, in those purpose moments, we experience a dynamic freedom that is liberating and meaningful. As long as we are breathing, we must live in these questions. There is no choice in this if we want to feel alive.

For the Sake of the Whole
Purpose is a call to both contemplation and activation. Genuine purpose points to the end of a self-absorbed, self-serving relationship to life. The promise of purpose is “evolution”—the evolution of consciousness. This evolution occurs when we recognize that “the point of human life is to consciously live for the sake of the whole.”

The most significant part of the purpose quest is to uncover why we are here. And when we uncover that, the whole point of human existence—to live for the sake of the whole—is revealed.

If we are sincere about living on purpose, we want there to be no contradictions between the self that we experience in contemplation and the self that we are who acts and reacts in the world.

Everyone Else Has a Purpose. So What’s Mine?

An entertaining expression of “living on purpose” is the musical Avenue Q, which is the twenty-first longest-running show in Broadway history and has won several Tony Awards, including the award for best musical. The show has also spawned other productions around the globe, including the one I experienced at the Gielgud Theatre in London.

The show is largely inspired by (and is in the style of) Sesame Street. Most of the characters in the show are puppets operated by actors onstage; the set depicts several tenements on a rundown street in an outer borough of New York City. However, the characters are in their twenties and thirties and face adult problems instead of those faced by preschoolers, thus making the show more suited for the adults who grew up with Sesame Street. A recurring theme is the central character’s search for his elusive “purpose.”

I sat enthralled as the song “Purpose” was sung. The core message—“Everyone else has a purpose. So, what’s mine?”—brought forth murmurs from the strangers sitting around me, as they chuckled over the lyrics, such as “Purpose—it’s the little flame that lights a fire under your ass. / Purpose, it’s like driving a car with a full tank of gas,” and others. I left the theater that night feeling affirmed that purpose had truly arrived in the public discourse. From shows in London and La Vegas, from youngsters and oldsters, the ever-elusive-purpose-in-life theme was finally on the marquee. Avenue Q was a purpose moment for me.

A Year of Living Purposefully
Drawing on years of experience in life/work planning, The Inventure Group designed a LifeMap practice tool to help build a framework for a year of living purposefully. As its name suggests, the LifeMap serves as a navigation tool for the most important journey of all—your life!

Here are five frequently asked questions about the LifeMap:

1. Why do I need a LifeMap?
A LifeMap is a powerful way to visualize your goals and keep you evolving. Vision is a key connector between your activation and contemplation.

The LifeMap is intended to inspire you and focus you by keeping your “story” on display 24/7, 365 days of the year. It keeps your “why” in front of you focusing on the big question—“How shall I live?”

2. What goes on a LifeMap?
Each LifeMap is unique. Every artist has his or her own view of life. Every map expresses an individual’s own style. The more personal it is, the more likely it will attract and keep your day-to-day attention.

We recommend using visuals, affirmations, favorite quotes, power words, photos and online images to encourage you to focus your attention on the map.

The LifeMap process starts by asking you to contemplate your purpose, vision and values. Next comes the activation of those essential elements through establishing your goals for the year in four areas: work, personal, financial and relationships.

3. Can I do a LifeMap on my computer?
Part of the magic in the LifeMap is the “handmade” design process. Your map can, however, be adapted into screensavers and even posted to your cell phone for wallpaper.

Some people choose to downsize their map with a smaller scan that they can post at their desk or even in their car. We’ve seen wallet-size versions of maps and iphone and Blackberry-size replicas.

4. How do I use a LifeMap?
The LifeMap is a self-coaching tool. Check it daily or weekly. Carry a copy on a small card in your planner or wallet. The LifeMap is a daily, weekly, monthly reminder “practice” not just a vision.

5. Do I share my LifeMap?
By sharing your map with a “purpose partner,” you will attract a like-minded person who supports your vision and who will hold you accountable for progress on your priorities.

The LifeMap Premises
Throughout a year of living purposefully, we begin to see certain themes repeat themselves. Here are six fundamental premises on which the journey of purposeful living is based. Contemplation of these premises will enable you to find out simply and directly what appropriate response to life is in any given moment. These premises, when used as tools to inquire into what we’re actually doing, penetrate through confusion and obscurity like lasers.

1. Authenticity
Authenticity is essential. A masterful life is an authentic life. Mastery rests on a foundation of courage and transparency to yourself and others. Knowing your own essence is essential to peace of mind, happiness, and vitality.

2. Purpose
Purpose is a focus on why—“Why do I get up in the morning?” Find meaning. Live longer, better. Having a clear reason to get up in the morning is essential. The path of purposeful living requires that we name our purpose and take full responsibility for living it.

3. Vision
Vision is our story, a metaphor, a clear picture of where we are headed in the future. Masterful living comes through holding an image of what succeeding looks like to you.

4. Values
Values guide a life of purpose and vision. Mastery and solid relationships require letting go of things that are beyond our control and making day-to-day choices based on our values.

5. Focus
A year of living purposefully depends on declaring your intentions and moving toward specific goals at a pace that creates energy and results.

6. Mastery
A successful life comes ultimately from making our deepest creative contribution to the community around us—for the sake of the whole. When we make our full contribution, we feel fulfillment. When we don’t, we don’t. The single objective of the LifeMap is to help us live the next year purposefully for the sake of the whole.

A year of living purposefully, done in earnest, promises to bring us to a place where the life that we live is free from fundamental contradiction, a place where our persona becomes a clear expression of the power of purpose moment to moment.

The Purpose Game
Purpose helps us understand what is core to our life, what we care about in our actual day-to-day living. Our world suddenly makes sense to us.

There are purpose moments that we could all take advantage of by extending ourselves into the world. When you want to give yourself a lift, you can play the “purpose game.”

Here’s how the game is played. Look around, wherever you happen to be, and see what or who needs your touch. For example, while driving, maybe you could let other cars in front of you while driving all the way to your destination. Another possibility is to tell your spouse or significant other a new reason why he or she is important to you. Or you could buy coffee for a friend for no reason; create an end-of-day celebration because you lived this day; get up early to write an e-mail or handwritten note of gratitude to someone.

The important idea is to play consciously in life, giving your gifts or serving others. You want to do little things that make you feel on purpose. We often put a lot of energy into doing the big things, but we want to feel on purpose “all” the moments of life. There are “purpose moments” everywhere, every day that we could fill up with ourselves. When we are watching, ready to play the purpose game, the possibilities are endless.

Make a list of purpose moments you could play tomorrow that would be unexpected and make you feel good. What are your favorite games of purpose?


To learn more about The Inventure Group’s LifeMap or to order the LifeMap kit, visit our store.


Finding meaning through the busy routines of work and life is not easy. Our daily routine often lacks a sense of purpose and appears to serve no apparent end.

We need to reboot our operating systems to see beneath the surface to the place where we know not with the mind but with the heart. There are steps we can take to enhance our ability to reboot. This article suggests one radical step that will help you reboot and overcome hurry sickness.

But first, lets look at the cost of hurry sickness.

The Problem: Hurry Sickness

Often when I reflect upon the necessity for reflection in my workshops, I get the response, “Who has the time? I’m too busy!” That is the precise problem. Hurry Sickness—always going somewhere, never being anywhere—is numbing our conscious awareness of what is happening in and to our lives. Our very sense of humanity—our full presence in our own lives—is being hijacked by busyness.

This was brought home clearly in a provocative YouTube video sent to me recently, “No Time to Think,” by David Levy, a professor in the Information School at the University of Washington. The video offers a disturbing wake-up call, showing how American society has become enslaved to an ethic of “more-better-faster” and is losing touch with the capacity for reflection and presence.

Levy’s research focuses on why the technological devices (such as my Blackberry!) that are designed to connect us also seem to disconnect us. Twitter may be the next level of connection, but surely there is something strange and ironic about the acceleration of twittering as our human moments of presence dwindle.

Instead of connecting us, our devices are isolating us. Isolation is becoming the norm. E-mail, voicemail, instant messaging, cell phone, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and of course the World Wide Web all serve useful roles. But these tools for connecting also crowd out deeper “purpose moments” in our relationships.

According to Thomas Eriksen of the University of Oslo, author of Tyranny of the Moment, the digital environment favors “fast-time” activities—those that require instant, urgent responses. Such activities tend to take precedence over and shut out “slow-time” activities, such as reflection, play, and “courageous (deep) conversations.” The right-now is trumping the timeless—high tech is hijacking high-touch. And to boot, we are becoming numb and fatigued in the process. Deep, down behind the eyeballs, fatigued.

The Solution: Reboot

Being focused and present requires regular rebooting of our internal operating systems. One important way to reboot from hurry sickness is to take a 12-hour “media fast”—a time during which you turn off all technology. When we take a media fast, we unmask illusions. We confront what parts of our busyness are expressions of our real purpose.

When we lose touch with our core, we lose our purpose perspective. We gain back our perspective by turning off technology and by letting our intuitive voice guide us.

Sometimes we are open to rebooting; at other times we are not. When crises drop into our lives, we are forced to reboot. At times when things seem to be going smoothly, we may not sense the need at all. The truth is pay now or pay later.

Taking a media fast may seem strange, yet it can help us pay now. So, how do we reboot?

How to Reboot

When we’re connected to everyone, we don’t really know anyone. In order to know people, we have to listen to their stories. We live in an age when we rarely have the time to hear each other’s stories. So, we live on assumptions. We’re busy people, after all, and we want our friendships easy and stress-free.

Take the “purpose test”—go without media or gadgets for 12 hours! No cell phone, computer, TV or radio for 12 hours—a “media fast.”

A break from techno-busyness forces us to confront core questions about life. “Do I see friends more often?” “Do I really know their stories?” “Am I accessible to them?”

In the morning, get up a little earlier. Before you get involved in anything, just sit quietly for ten minutes and take three deep breaths. Breath one–present. Breath two–grateful. Breath three–on purpose. Then envision your next twelve hours. Picture the activities of the day without technology. Picture the potential “purpose moments”—times where you will have face time with people.

Turn off technology and choose one friend (or a colleague) and get to know their story. Throughout the day, look for purpose moments—opportunities to connect with people through a question, a kind word, an extended hand. In the purpose moments, ask people what they are truly excited about, passionate about, a learning adventure that was exciting for them—and listen.

What is the mood of these purpose moments? My hunch is that you’ll sense the mood that most of us yearn for—someone in our lives who “gets us.” We want someone to push the pause button on technology and listen to our stories. We’re hungry for deep connection.

The essence of rebooting was captured clearly by William Deresiewicz in an essay entitled Faux Friendship: “Exchanging stories is like making love. It is mutual. It is intimate. It takes patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill—and it teaches those qualities too.”

Rebooting our operating systems is powerful. It slows us down to the speed of story. It teaches us that patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill and sharing are fundamental qualities to finding meaning in a stressed out world.

Say Yes to Life

An initial title of Viktor Frankl’s classic book Man’s Search for Meaning was, “Say Yes to Life in Spite of Everything.” His powerful message was put to the test on September 11, 2001.

Tom Burnett, a passenger on United Airlines flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, called his wife from the hijacked plane, aware by that time that two other planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. “I know we’re going to die,” he said to his wife by cell phone. “But some of us are going to do something about it.” And, because he did, many other lives were spared. This purpose moment inspired us to do something about it.

“I know we’re going to die” is almost a consistent thought for many people. But the lesson learned from Tom Burnett came from his second sentence, “But some of us are going to do something about it.” That sentence is a core message of the newly revised and updated international bestseller, The Power of Purpose.*

We were born for a reason. We are going to die. So, what are we going to do about it? The thesis is that meaning is fundamental to human life. It is what makes us human. And, meaning comes from “saying yes to life” and choosing to “do something about it.”

At The Inventure Group, we observe many people seeking meaning and purpose in the next phase of their lives. This “inventuring” phenomenon stems from the convergence of a number of powerful trends including longer life spans and shifting attitudes toward work, relationships and spirituality. With this quest comes a new sense of hope and energy and new quest-ions. People on the inventure path are seeking insight into themselves and tools to navigate key life transitions with confidence and a clear purpose in mind. Their lives are longer than their parents’ lives were and they think about “what’s next?” in ways their parents were often not privileged to consider. They are not chasing “the next big thing.” Rather, they yearn to become “their next best self.”

The quest for meaning is a megatrend of the 21st century. The question is not why or what is the meaning of life, but who or how are we bringing ourselves to life? And, the answer must be chosen by each of us everyday moment-to-moment. Purpose moments are all around us. They are found in the listening presence of a friend, the outstretched hand of a stranger, a kind word, the extra mentoring of a teacher, or daring to do something about what we care about. The purpose gene is deep in our nature. Choosing to “say ‘yes’ to life in spite of everything” is the ultimate key to a meaningful life.

Excerpted from Richard Leider’s newly revised book, The Power of Purpose, special 25th anniversary edition.

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