Have you ever stopped to think about the concept of doing something “on purpose”? Many of us might associate this phrase with simply being intentional, but there is so much more to it, especially when it comes to building a team culture that is driven by purpose.
For me, purpose and authenticity are intertwined. Finding my own personal purpose was a journey of self-discovery that allowed me to step into a new level of authenticity that I had been seeking for years. Before that, I spent over 20 years of my life not living on purpose, constantly grappling with the idea of who I truly was and what my purpose was in this world.
It’s almost uncanny, isn’t it? How we can spend so much of our lives not truly knowing ourselves and what we were put here to do. But then, one day, it all clicks into place, and you realize, “This is who I am. This is why I was put here.”
Recently, I was asked about how I found my personal purpose during a podcast interview. I’d like to share my story with you, in the hope that it might inspire you to embark on your own journey of Purpose self-discovery.
“It all started when I left the military and traveled to Asia and Indonesia. I’ve always been determined to make a difference in the world, and I believed that the best way to do that was by becoming the CEO of a large corporation. After all, if you’re in charge, you can have the greatest influence on the direction of an organization and its people, right?
I spent the next decade working my way up through various large corporations, finally landing a role as a General Manager. I was on track to become part of the executive team and lead the company to even greater success. It wasn’t all rosy though. Each day, I would put on my “suit of armor” and head into battle; somehow feeling like I wasn’t being true to myself. Despite my efforts, I struggled to get the results I wanted, and my work didn’t bring me joy or allow my inner light to shine.
You see, I believe that each of us has a light or energy inside us, and the universe is made up of energy. For things to be easy, authentic, and on purpose, that energy needs to flow freely. To be seen as authentic, your light needs to shine bright and not be obscured or covered up.
But how many of us go to work and put on a suit of armor, wear a corporate mask, or dress a certain way? We put on makeup to look a certain way or act a certain way because we feel like we need to protect ourselves. But being authentically seen requires vulnerability, and it can be challenging to do so in some work environments.
When our energy is blocked, it can’t flow outwards, and we can’t receive energy in return. If we’re not letting energy flow out naturally, we can’t experience the wealth, success, happiness, abundance, joy, and satisfaction that we truly desire. We’re blocking the energy by putting on a suit of armor, instead of allowing it to flow freely.
Back in 2017, I found myself deeply unhappy, despite having all the trappings of success — a beautiful waterfront house, nice cars, and all the toys. I was unfulfilled and lacked purpose, and I couldn’t see the reason for it all, other than making money.
I was struggling with depression and was surviving purely through willpower, without any joy in my life. The harder I tried and pushed, the less I seemed to achieve.
So I decided that I needed some sort of dramatic change. I’d also pretty quickly realized that actually, even if you’re the CEO of an organization, you’re not necessarily in charge of the organization. So became a little bit disillusioned with that path. I could literally feel the light inside me dying because I felt like my (incorrect) Purpose of being a CEO was gone. When in actual fact, I hadn’t discovered/uncovered my true purpose yet.
So, I decided to take a step back and reassess my life. I left my GM position, packed up my belongings, and moved back home to live with my parents. Letting go of all the possessions and burdens that had become a part of my identity was painful but also liberating. I was faced with a blank canvas and an opportunity to think about how I could make a difference with the tools and experiences I had gained. After 20 years in the workforce, I felt like I was floating rather than drowning though.
During my time of reflection, I realized that my true purpose was to make a difference. But not as a CEO, but in a different way.
Fast forward 12 months and whilst I was traveling through Latin America, I was approached by some organizations I knew to help them build some high-impact leadership programs and facilitate workshops. My background in neuroleadership, facilitation skills, and my MBA and ex-corporate GM title made me a good fit for these opportunities. This was when I started to explore the idea of consulting and supporting leaders in making changes within their organizations more seriously.
What I discovered during my work was that many teams were struggling to reach their full potential. A lack of trust and connection between team members was one of the main barriers to their success. Teams were shielding themselves from each other, and the energy wasn’t flowing. Many teams were formed or restructured during the COVID-19 pandemic, had new leaders, or had changed their remit in the time since. Sometimes, they had new strategies that not everyone understood or nobody was really sure who did what. The aspirations of these teams (and their leaders) were huge but the performance was flat.
So, I started asking myself, “What if I could show these teams how to have meaningful conversations that could improve their work dynamic and results?” I believed that by reducing stress levels, reducing burnout, and helping team members feel more comfortable with each other, the energy would flow more freely, and the team would work more effectively.
I also realized that many leaders needed external support to facilitate these conversations. Sometimes they didn’t know how to start the conversation, and other times, it was more effective for an outsider to lead it. This is how my purpose and my business, JBL and Ways of Working, were born.
I truly love running workshops for teams and seeing the positive impact it has on their performance and their relationships. It’s not just about the numbers, but the people.
Watching people connect at a human level and feeling the energy in the room is an incredible experience. It’s like being an electrician for humans, crawling around inside their hearts and brains, running new wires, and turning on their lights. When you can see the light in yourself, are proud to let it shine — that’s authenticity. When you shine it on something you truly believe in, that’s Purpose. When you can do it with others, some people call that magic, I call it a high-performing culture!
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