Maintaining a constancy of purpose is the foundation for a successful life. The process of defining and understanding purpose is the starting point of achieving self-actualization and a life of satisfaction. I want to share with you some of the ideas and concepts that I have come to understand over a lifetime of inquiry that may help you to live a life of purpose. This is not a secret strategy. Indeed, many have talked about and demonstrated the value of having a constancy of purpose for both leaders and followers. The precise words of these commentators may be different, but their admonition is consistently the same.
Like most children, one of my early exposures to the idea of purpose came from the story of Alice in Wonderland written by Lewis Carroll. The story is about a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by a collection of creatures including the Cheshire Cat who admonishes Alice regarding the importance of knowing where you want to go and what you want to do.
A basic foundation of my beliefs about a life of purpose came from a fellow by the name of Zig Ziglar. His ability to encourage, uplift, and inspire audiences made him one of the great motivators of the age. To quote Zig, “You will have everything you want in life if you help others get what they want.” There is so much wisdom and power in the very simple concept of getting what you want and need in life through helping others.
The importance of purpose is the first of the seven habits of highly successful people described so well by Stephen Covey. His advice to begin with the end in mind makes so much sense, but you have to wonder why so many activities and enterprises begin with no concept of the goal or ultimate outcome. As a veteran of the Vietnam War this admonition hits very close to home in my life.
In the midst of the crazy days of the 1970’s and 80’s American industry was falling behind the world in quality and productivity. The leaders of many of our great companies were caught up in the combined traps of arrogance and ignorance of what was happening in the rest of the world. They were saved from their self-indulgence by a statistician from the census bureau who had spent many years working with Japanese manufacturers. Dr. Edward Deming led the way out of the wilderness with his book Out of the Crisis and a simple game involving red and white marbles. The first of Dr. Deming’s 14 points was, “Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive, stay in business and to provide jobs.”
As an avid reader of biographies of the business tycoons who created the modern American economy I learned about a fascinating fellow by the name of Andrew Carnegie. Among his many claims to fame 43 of Carnegie’s employees became millionaires working for him. Asked how he found 43 millionaires who were willing to work for him he said it was like mining he went looking for 43 people who would work for him who wanted to be millionaires. And then he developed them.
Carnegie believed that the process of success could be outlined in a simple formula that anyone would be able to understand and achieve, He challenged Napoleon Hill to take on the task of interviewing over 500 successful men and women, many of them millionaires, in order to discover and publish this formula for success. He became one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal-success literature.
More recently the words of Rick Warren have influenced my understanding of not only the importance of purpose but the meaning as well. Rick tells a compelling story that reminds us of the idea that purpose centers on character and values.
These are seven of the great thought leaders on the idea of purpose. I tell their stories to channel their thoughts and introduce some of their writings. Living a life of propose is more than having a comprehensive to-do list of things that need to be accomplished; a life of purpose a is value based existence that defines our character and ultimately our success.