This morning, as I carefully walked down a bank of slippery, green steps in the rainforest near my home, I found myself pondering an important question. It’s one of my favourites….
It’s a door opener into deeper conversations about life. It opens people up. It gets us thinking. It exposes our vulnerability. And it often leads to greater intimacy, as it leads us to express our humanity. I was thrilled to read Junxion’s recent post on this very question, because I love asking it of others.
What is this magical question? ‘Of what are you most afraid?’
This morning, standing in the rain, I realized I’m not so good at answering it myself….
As I sloshed my way through the muddy puddles, laughing when spray from the racing river blew up into my face, answers began to flow. Like the river beside me, they were swirling and murky at one moment, and then cascading fast and clear the next.
Am I afraid of not being happy? That was my immediate answer, but it felt imprecise—foggy, like the river mist that surrounded me. Am I afraid of not living a meaningful life? Still not quite right—like a shape shrouded in fog. Then, just as I stepped up onto a big rock at the river’s edge, focusing my gaze on the opposite bank, I knew with sudden clarity….
I’m afraid that I don’t matter.
A surge of emotion rose in me, matching the equally powerful downpour falling all around me. I knew this was my answer. I’m not looking to accomplish great things for the sake of achieving greatness. I don’t crave people whispering my name in awe after I’m dead and gone! But it’s important to me to do something that matters during this precious life.
Work with purpose: You’re fortunate to be able to pursue meaning at work!
I feel the deep privilege of the abundance I experience, the good health I enjoy, and the rich environment in which I walk every day. Most of all, I know I’m fortunate to have the choice to do something meaningful with my life.
One of the things I love about working at Junxion is that we get to work with clients that are doing great things—serving the disadvantaged in their community, accelerating the shift to a sustainable economy, or simply guiding business leaders to build organizations on positive values.
It’s important to me to be with a company that’s doing work that matters, making a difference in people’s lives, contributing to causes we believe in. Junxion is rethinking profit for the common good. We’re a game-changing team. Our work is filled with meaning.
And yet many of our clients struggle to answer this question. What really matters to them—and to their organizations—is at the heart of a conversation that’s bubbling up from all corners of the business community. It’s a conversation about ‘purpose.’
From Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ to a series of articles about unicorns and zebras, (here and here) and permeating every strategic planning engagement we’ve undertaken in the past two years, this dialogue about purpose has become a vibrant, essential conversation among leaders, teams, entrepreneurs, and executives.
Aim high. Step up to make a difference every day.
As I looked up through the raindrops this morning at the magnificent Douglas Firs that towered above me, I recognized myself as just a microcosm in the grand scheme of the universe, just one seven-billionth (or so) of the human race. So, what on Earth can I do that would actually make a difference, that would actually matter, in the great cosmic scheme or even in the face of the difficult challenges faced by many of our clients?
Be curious. Expand your horizon beyond the immediate and the proximate.
It’s a reflection analogous to the one we invite our clients to ponder. When we guide clients through the process of establishing a vision for their organizations, we convene them around the question, ‘How will the world be made better by your work?’ It’s a question that stops many in their tracks—that stops the typical in its tracks—and helps our clients to embark on a new path toward insight and meaning. It sets their organizations (and their work as individuals) in a broader context. Whether they define ‘world’ as their neighbourhood, their sector, their community, or even the world more literally as a whole, this question invites them to think beyond the bounds of their own roles and workplaces, and think instead about ‘impact’ and ‘legacy’—two more terms that we’re hearing every single day.
How will the world be made better by your work?
Looking upstream this morning, I realized that the waterfall cascading down above me is made up of uncountable millions of water droplets, each one contributing to the whole, beautiful river on its way out to sea. As one tiny human being in the great cosmos of life, I too make a small but valuable contribution. To complete every task with love and compassion is to live with integrity, and for me, this is the key to being fully expressed as a human being.
In organizations, this work to define ‘full expression’ typically takes conversations beyond profit. Rather than building a ‘profit engine’ and then ‘giving back,’ why not think more broadly about how purpose can be embedded in your business model? Why not build a brand that’s known as much for the good that it does, as for its financial success?
So, what am I really afraid of? I’m afraid of not living up to my potential, of not expressing who I really am, of not doing my very best. Still standing in the rain, I was again in awe of Mother Nature’s wise counsel! The best I can do is the best I can be. That’s what really matters—to me.
What really matters to you? What really matters in your community—in your ‘world?’ What really matters to your organization? And how will you embed that in your strategy as you move forward?
This isn’t mere philosophy or daydreaming. In the profound and prophetic words of Howard Thurman, mentor to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Charlie James is a Consultant and Executive Assistant, based in Junxion’s Vancouver office.