What’s my purpose?

I’m reading an outstanding book about women in leadership – How Women Rise. It’s showing me the behaviours that can stop me from progressing and getting what I want in my professional life. I can see lots of parallels about how it can also stop me living my best life out of work too.

Most of them are self-explanatory. I’ve listen them below in case you’re interested in learning what they are:

  1. Reluctance to claim your achievements
  2. Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions
  3. Overvaluing expertise
  4. Building rather than leveraging relationships (focusing on forming close relationships at work instead of relationships that can help achieve a goal)
  5. Failing to enlist allies from day one
  6. Putting your job before your career
  7. The perfection trap
  8. The disease to please
  9. Minimising (examples of this being when you say ‘I just think…’ ‘ I don’t know but maybe…’)
  10. Too much (harnessing your emotions at work in a way that is tempered with experience and intention)
  11. Ruminating on the past
  12. Letting your radar (ability to read so much into the subtext of a situation) distract you

If any of these make you feel uncomfortable (i.e. “I strongly disagree with that, I could never harness relationships as that seems so underhand”) I’d encourage you to read the book.

I bought it for 99p on my kindle so it’s not a pricey read.

I can see myself in some of the chapters.

I’ve put down the perfectionism and ‘disease to please’ but know I don’t leverage relationships enough (the thought of that makes me uncomfortable) and can see myself in the last three chapters. Not knowing how to be a person with emotions in the workplace. dwelling on situations where I wasn’t my best, being so in touch with subtext that I get distracted from going after what I want.

It’s really challenging me and making me think hard about how I am in the workplace.

It’s also affirming that I can be me – a strong female who is in touch with her feelings – and still fly in the workplace.

It’s encouraging to hear the authors advocate for small, incremental changes to modify behaviour instead of pushing for epic changes which get abandoned after a few days or weeks because it’s all too much.

They noted that a great motivator for these changes is to work on my pitch – my ‘greater purpose’ for doing what I want to do – and look to make changes that will help me to get to where I want to be.

This has been really helpful, but also challenging because I don’t really have a detailed purpose.

I have drive.

I have ambition to do great work, work which has greater impact.

I have a desire to keep on learning and developing.

But no greater purpose.

I don’t have a calling to work in housing to reduce the amount of homeless people – although I’d love to see that happening and play a part in it.

I can’t see myself going into policy to reform early education – although I’d greatly desire to be in a position to influence this vital time of childhood development.

I don’t have ‘preventing irrevocable climate change’ as the thing I will do, although I can see myself playing a part in this through the individual and collective choices I make.

So what is my purpose?

Here are the things that spring to mind:

  • Enabling others (through coaching, connecting, ideation) to be the best they can be
  • Creating and building capacity for organisations to tackle issues in different ways – i.e. managers gaining in effectiveness
  • Enabling wide-scale change of societal issues through facilitation or different approaches, like user-centred design

These things seem to touch on what I want to do, but they don’t quite hit the spot. They don’t mean that I can say ‘so I want to work on ‘X’ so I can get to where I want to be.

Or moreso my response doesn’t mirror the book where people have a reason for being at an organisation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love where I work (for the most part!) but I don’t love it because I want to rise up to become Head of HR or a director. I work there because the leaders inspire me, I have space to grow and develop and master. It allows me to balance other things that are important to me, like travelling, spending time with my family, working flexibly.

Despite not having a purpose as defined in the book, I feel that I do have a calling – to keep on learning, developing, growing. And that’s my personal calling which makes this book so intriguing to me.

I want to learn to be an effective leader.

I want to learn to work with people who come from different viewpoints of my own, both to appreciate their differences and to learn how to communicate my thoughts in a way that resonates with people who are different from me.

I want to take on all the opportunities I can to expand intellectually.

I want to learn to embrace all that I am and to step into my magnificence and brilliance.

I want all these things to happen so that I can make a difference in the roles that I am in, wherever they are.

That’s my purpose. For now at least.

Help

I was at a friend’s house yesterday. She’s got a little boy the same age as Jenson and has really hurt her back. She’s in agony and I’ve come over to help her during the day.

I’m not saying this to get brownie points for how awesome I am, I’m sharing this because it’s given me a lovely glimpse into what a gift it is to accept the help of other people.

When she was in the most early agonising moments of her injury, I offered to come over to do what I could do help her and she was reluctant to accept the help. She said she couldn’t accept my help. Like me, she’s a strong, independent and giving person who is more used to being the helper and is uncomfortable needing to lean on other people.

She’s probably even more strong, independent and giving than I am. I’ve practically lived at her house since our boys were born and she has invited Gregg and I over for dinner so often. Honestly, she’s cooked for us more than I have cooked at all since giving birth to Jenson! She’s been super thoughtful in sourcing special breastfeeding remedies for me to help with the troubles I’ve been having and is one of my biggest cheerleaders on my journey as a Mum.

So when she injured her back, I wanted to support her as best I could. And it was, to be honest, really frustrating to have her reject my offers of help due to her discomfort at needing to lean on other people.

My help was a gift I could give back to her in the face of all the kindness she has shown me and I was delighted when she messaged me to take me up on my offer of help.

It was a lovely day. Catching up, talking about our hopes for the boys, dreaming of travels and helping her, here and there, to lift her son or soothe him when he needed a jig around the room.

Helping someone I want to help is a pleasure.

So if I turn this around and think about how I often turn down help because of the discomfort I feel being ‘needy’, I see that I’m depriving people of a chance to feel special, to give back in and to get closer to me as they see me vulnerable and in need of a helping hand.

I’m sure this experience isn’t going to bring about a massive shift in me overnight and I doubt I’ll feel absolutely at ease accepting help going forward. But at least I’ll have a very good example to draw from about how good it feels when someone allows you to help them and I hope it will allow me to say ‘thank you so much, I’d love to accept your help’ more often.