How to Define your Purpose to Gain a Competitive Edge

A few months back, I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the Illinois PGA Spring Meeting. There were about 300 PGA Club Pros in attendance, and they had had a long morning. I met some great folks that day, and was confident that I connected with them. The 30 minutes after the presentation is always fulfilling, because you find out how you did…even if no one comes right out and says it.  I had the usual handshakes and “thanks for coming,” “loved your message,” and even a “wish you would have talked about the Cubs more!”

Then it happened. It always does.

Unbeknownst to me, a future coaching client was approaching, and he was dialed in with conviction. Let’s call him Jordan.

Jordan extended his hand, and had this huge smile on his face like we had known each other for years. We played six degrees of separation, which turned out to be three degrees. Anyway, he told me his story how he was done with the PGA Club Pro lifestyle and wanted to make a change. Jordan wanted to coach high school basketball. After hearing him out, we decided to grab lunch the following week and work through some things.

Now, keep in mind that the message of my presentation was about the similarities of coaching college basketball and being a club pro. I told them that “they are both great games, but can be a crappy business.” Everyone wants a piece of your time, expectations are high and often unreasonable, work/life balance does not exist during the season, different roles you have can become overwhelming, and sometimes doing all the right things the right way is not good enough.

As I sat listening to Jordan’s story at lunch the next week, I had a feeling about what was coming, but I kept listening intently. Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture when you are inside the picture frame. For Jordan, it was important for him to sort things out as soon as possible. Golf season was fast approaching, his assistant pro had quit, and his family starting to dread how much he would be away from home during the season.

You see, what happened to Jordan happens to all of us at some point in time. In the craziness of his life, trying to be all things to all people and his health suffering because of it, he lost his sense of purpose. So I asked him two questions:

  • What is your purpose?
  • Are you living out your purpose to the best of your ability every single day?

You can guess his answer to that second question!

What was really cool was how Jordan’s eyes lit up, and you could see the light bulb go off when he started talking about what drives him. I love watching clients get what I call the look. That is when I am confident they have that cool feeling inside. Some call it butterflies, I call it fire. Regardless, things started coming into perspective for Jordan in a big way.

The first thing Jordan and I worked on together was attaching his purpose to his goals. You see, in any industry I would bet that folks in Jordan’s same position have very similar goals. Whether they be sales metrics, retention, new clients, or championship wins. But goals and numbers alone do not drive success. You heard me right — goals and numbers do not drive people. People with a purpose drive the numbers and achieve goals.

Having a purpose behind your goals is the fuel that keeps you going during the tough times.

The purpose (which is a result of your passion) will sustain you over time. I am not suggesting to not pay attention to goals and metrics, as those are how you measure your performance. The more powerful your purpose, the greater your performance.

Now — I am going to ask you a couple of questions for you to think about, and I urge you to put pen to paper and write down your answers. Don’t just type up your responses, or drop them in your Notes app! Get an actual pen and pad of paper, and go through this exercise with me.

Here is why:

Neuroscience has proven that when you write something out that takes deep thought (like your purpose and goals), you build over 10,000 new neural pathways in your brain in one sitting. Whereas when you type on a computer, you are only building 600 new neural pathways.

If you do the basic math, that means you are building 16.6 times more new neural pathways when you hand write your goals out compared to typing them on a computer. That also means that you will get significantly better results when it comes to keeping your goals on the forefront of your mind!

That also means that you have a significantly better chance to achieve your goals than those that just type them out on a computer.

Do you have your pen and paper ready? Write down your answers to these questions:

  • How do you define success? What does success look like to you?
  • What is your purpose? Why do you “do what you do”?

We are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. Whether it be a team, an organization, a company, or family. It is critical for us to identify what success means to us and what it looks like. This provides us a connection to our purpose. Having a purpose which is greater and more enduring than ourselves drives our intrinsic motivation.

New York Times columnist Daniel Pink argues that “purpose maximization is taking its place alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle for businesses around the world”.

That is why we leave well-paying jobs for purpose-driven ones. That is why we volunteer. And, that is why we choose to raise kids and put the needs of our family ahead of our own.

Having a purpose gives you a competitive edge and it also is the drive you need to keep you focused on the reasons why you do what you do, as opposed to dialing in to all the things wrong with your career.

I’d love to hear in the comments…What is your purpose? Is your purpose driving what you do every day?

Please share your thoughts!


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