Defining purpose requires the asking of the most fundamental question, why?
In business the answer is not, ‘to maximise shareholder returns.’ When raising a family, it is not, ‘to perpetuate my genetic code.’ Neither are going to fuel the drive that pulls you out of bed to get to an early meeting or cuddle a crying baby.
In business you can get purpose right – differentiated, simple, compelling and aligned to the world’s needs and desires – then shareholder returns will follow. Google is a great example, their purpose being to ‘organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.’
Purpose is long-term, shared, immovable and irresistible. It is the beacon that shines through changes in leadership, market fluctuations and temporary initiatives. Purpose defines brand and culture. Without it a business loses its identity and has nothing more to offer its employees and customers than a transaction.
Both business and family need something more to answer why. They need a purpose that reflects who they are and what they value. A reason that leads them through the tough days and nights. And when this purpose is shared, across a couple, family or organisation it is an incredibly powerful thing.
So how do you define your purpose?
Purpose needs to transcend the mundanity of what you do to get the crux of why you do it.
What impact do you have on the lives of your customers and the world more broadly? How do you make a difference? These are the questions that need to be asked and answered. The answer must be grounded and avoid being bombastic and empty whilst also being aspirational and transformational.
At Axis, our purpose is to ‘enable teams to fill the world with brilliant ideas and make better decisions.’ We believe in the power of collective thinking and decision-making. And we want the process to be inclusive, open and effective. By providing a digital platform for running workshops and meetings (what we do) we enable teams to work differently. It is our customers who generate the ideas and make the decisions. We are here to help them.
How do you define your family’s purpose?
Unpack your shared values, sense of self and articulation of what really matters. What are the things that you won’t compromise on and define your idea of a life well lived? Think through the impact you want your children to have on the world whilst remembering that they will ultimately carve their own path.
Maybe start with a family motto, for example: love, wisdom, integrity and joy. Perhaps use a classic design thinking method and imagine a newspaper headline about your family in 25 years. Or use round robin: write down an idea, pass it to the next person who challenges it and then pass it on to improve it by responding to the challenge.
You could take inspiration from a quote you love: one of my favourites is Maya Angelou, ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Once you have your family purpose, what do you do with it?
Live it. Every day.Tell your children about it and how it connects them to you. Paint it on the front of your house, put it on your business card. Get a tattoo. Never forget it.