Why you can Focus Better when Aligned on Purpose

Photo: Darius Bashar

Most of us have Difficulty Focusing

Do you feel reactive and distracted?  Does everything seem like it is top priority?  Do you have the nagging feeling that time and resources are being wasted?

If your answer to any of these questions is, “Yes, probably!” then you may be experiencing difficulty focusing.  If you can’t focus, continuing to create value without sacrificing your wellbeing may become difficult.

You are not alone.  That is why it is useful to reflect on your purpose, i.e. answering the question, “Why am I here?”  Being consciously aligned with your purpose is a first step in improving your ability to focus.

Purpose is Popular

On Amazon today, there are 10,000 books with the word “purpose” in the title.  There are sixteen books on purpose to be published in 2021.  Simon Sinek’s famous TedTalk and book, Start with Why, is already nine years old!  

There are three books that have helped me with my own purpose. In Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, I find the question, “What is my Work?”, with a capital “W”, particularly useful.  I also appreciate Frederic Laloux’s approach on evolutionary purpose which is presented in his book, Reinventing Organizations. I also recommend Lance Secretan’s book, The Spark, the Flame and the Torch.

Most probably you have read a book on the topic of purpose.  Many of you have written purpose statements in a workshop or as part of a journaling exercise at some point in your life.  Have you answered the question, “What is my purpose?” in the last six months? 

I invite you to consider another business case for having a succinct, clear purpose statement.  You will be able to focus better.  You will be on your way to cultivating the right balance between attention and distraction.

Why?  Because when your purpose is clear, how you create value for the world, for yourself, is also clear.  The best example that I can think of is the emergency physician.  I will assume that this doctor’s purpose in life is to save the lives of other human beings.  She wakes up every morning wanting to save lives at work that day.  She is laser focused on the patient in front of her, in the moment.  If she is distracted, she risks saving that life.

Imagine if your purpose, every day, was as clear as the purpose of the emergency physician?  Would you still have difficulty prioritizing tasks?  Would you still feel reactive and distracted?  At the end of the day, will you have wasted a lot of time?  I highly doubt it.

Today I can offer a practical exercise to formulate or update your purpose.

The Why-Be-Do®

This summer, in the pandemic of 2020, I rewrote my purpose statement.  I had the good fortune of becoming a student of and collaborator with Dr. Lance Secretan, the world renowned, Canadian leadership expert and author of 27 books.  Lance developed the Why-Be-Do® exercise. It is clear and simple, but not easy, to complete.

In this exercise, first you articulate the world problem that you would most like to support fixing.  This is the terra-threat.  Examples include poverty, inequality, violence.  The terra-threat I care about helping to solve is DISCONNECTION. Next, you articulate the terrafix, the opposite of the terra-threat.  For mine, the opposite of disconnection is CONNECTION.

This results in my “Why” statement which is, “To create a more whole, connected and balanced humanity.”  This is my purpose statement and underpins everything I am delivering as part of my work.

The Why-Be-Do® exercise continues to help you arrive at a statement about how you want to “be” as a human in this world.  Finally, you articulate what you are doing to “do” in the world, in your work. This summarizes the gifts you bring to the world.

So, the culmination of the Why-Be-Do® exercise for me is:

“I am here to help create a more connected, whole and balanced humanity.  My character is to be open, sensing and inspiring.  In my work I will share wisdom practices through consulting, writing, teaching and speaking.”

How does this help me focus better?  It brings clarity to how I define value for my clients and for myself. It allows me to determine which activities contribute to my purpose.  Then I know how much time I need to block for focused work.  This, in turn, enables me to avoid, outsource or minimize activities that are more logistical in nature.  All of that saves time and improves effectiveness.

In the MindEQuity journey, Focus Better Now, the first of five pitstops is the Focus pitstop.  Here participants begin to understand focus and attention, purpose, the definition of value, and the value creation portfolio.  Then participants are able to play with a prototype of their future of work that enables focus!

Join the December Focus Better Now journey.