Meta Purpose and Your Purpose
At a conference I was recently speaking at, I overheard someone say, “I’ll bet I can guess your purpose.”
The party-trickster was essentially guessing by distilling, albeit a little boastfully. For anyone who says this, they’ll guess, within a reasonable set of nuanced wordings, that your purpose could be stated as, “to make the world a better place through self-actualization.”
Here lies the difference between truth and fact. While factually accurate, to say this misses the truth and potency about an individualized purpose.
What this party trickster was pointing out is called a meta-purpose. It’s a higher intention that all individual and organizational purposes have in common, one that taps directly into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs suggests that our highest aspiration is to become our fullest selves while serving others. This well-known Maslow model essentially highlights that we humans need our basic needs of safety, security, food, shelter, and love met before our focused desires are heightened. And once our basic needs are met, we can then live and work to cultivate self-actualization.
Awakened humans want to be better, know ourselves better, and realize our individualized potential. And we want to make the world a better place while on our singular journey. While the entire human race, because we’re inextricably connected, strives for some shared goals, each of us and (our organizations, team, groups, and communities) have a unique purpose.
If the above party-trick guessing is accurate, there wouldn’t be so much talk about the power of organizational purpose or belief-driven brands. In order for a business to realize and live up to its reason for being beyond just profit, it needs a clearer, more actionable, and ownable answer than simply making the world a better place.
A lucid purpose is clear to the organization and the individuals within it because it’s personal and therefore actionable. When it’s personal, it’s exponentially more powerful. When it’s personal, it’s ownable for the business and valuable to the customer. Ultimately, an actionable purpose is about serving someone or something else, usually a customer need, passion, or desire.
Making the world a better place is a goal that feels out of reach and too monumental for even the largest of companies to strive for. Your purpose is valuable only when it feels attainable, even if audacious, and personal to you, your organization, and your customer.