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Week 3 Crafting your Own Purpose-in-Career Statement

design purpose working blog Apr 16, 2022

We are continuing our Purpose-in-Career Series. This week I offer you a working blog. Go ahead and get out something to write with and on (or, if you prefer, something to type into). I combined a few methods I’ve experienced and added my own takes. (I don’t have the original attributions as they were either not given to me, or I don’t recall.)  You get to design your own purpose as it plays out in the professional realm. You don’t have to wait for an epiphany.


View this as an easy process. Don’t overthink it. We will start will just getting many ideas down into four categories. You may find that one thing fits multiple types – put it wherever you want or write it twice.


Step one - Strengths. List your strengths, the things you’re good at – talents, skills, abilities, characteristics. ALL of them. Brainstorm – refuse to let yourself off the hook by saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not really good at anything.”. They can be ones you’ve been good at your whole life that come easy or ones that you’ve recently gained with effort. Ask friends, family, and colleagues to enhance the list from their perspectives if needed. You can also consider the $36 CliftonStrengths Assessment or the free VIA Survey of Character Strengths or similar tool. (I'm not an affiliate for either).


Step two - Interests. Write down the things you enjoy. It can be anything - hobbies, tasks, or passions.  Any of the activities you love or that intrigue you the most.


Step three - Causes. Take inventory of the needs that you care the most about. The ones that resonate deeply and evoke emotion – that weight on you.


Step four - Core Values. Reflect and record your top core values. What do you stand for? What drives you forward? Think of times when everything was in alignment for you – when you were most fulfilled. What were core values being met? Think of times you were frustrated or angry. What were core values being offended?


Brené Brown has a list you can download if you get stuck. Don’t look until you’ve tried on your own – because if you’re like me, you’ll be like, “Oh, that’s another good one,” and end up with like 22. She has you narrow it down to 2. I will be easy on you and say up to 6  (but kudos if you get it down to the most essential 2).  If you get stuck with too many, try this: Group similar ones together in 3-6 groups. Circle the most important in each group.


Step five - Discard and Add. Look over your lists. What things did you list because you think they are the “right” or “respectable” answers? Cross them off. What things did you almost write down but hesitated for concern over what others may think? Add those back in. This is FOR you. Suspend the people-pleasing, guilt, shame, and even self-judgment for this process.


Step six - Create. Take five minutes and try to mesh the words from your lists together into your own purpose statement as it relates to your career. Go with your gut. You have creative license to go wild here. Don’t try to fit it into what you are doing now in life. If the lists were in a Venn diagram, where would they overlap? How could that look? Endless possibilities. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You won’t include all the words from the lists. There is no “right” answer. Play with it, edit, rewrite.


When you think you have it, read it to yourself aloud. Does it give you a feeling of being grounded and purposeful? Does it resonate deeply? Maybe you even get chills?  Don’t worry – you can continue to play with this over the next day or two as you let your brain consider the possibilities. 


Step seven - Current perspective. Write out how that purpose is playing out in your life right now. It may not fit everything you’re doing. That’s okay. We have various seasons in life – even in our careers. So what living out your purpose right now looks like may shift over the next several years. It’s fluid. 


I share my example:

Strengths: organization, efficiency, relatable, empathic, clinical reasoning, empathetic, educator

Interests: cooking, running, learning, hiking, people, science/medicine, leadership, psychology, family

Needs I care about: physician wellness, healthcare disparities, improving health via lifestyle, giving people hope

Core Values: health, justice, excellence, kindness, faith, autonomy

My purpose is to help others make meaningful progress toward their goals and improve their overall health in work and life.

How this plays out in my life currently: I coach in academic family medicine to help residents, faculty, and recent grads enjoy a whole, fulfilling life and sustainable, meaningful career. I also partner with patients from all walks of life and economic status to help them realize their best health in clinical medicine while modeling the same.


Anonymous example:

Strengths: teachable, compassionate, making others laugh

Interests: playing violin, meditating, reading, writing

Needs I care about: health, underserved, advocacy

Core Values: justice, service, peace, empowerment

My purpose: is to address the need for the underserved/public health, advocate for them, help them find peace, and find laughter.

How this plays out for me now (or how I want this to play out next): I’m tackling the challenging obstacles to advocate for my patient’s needs, lobby for them in political arenas, teach simple meditative tips to help find peace in their circumstances, connect them with social services, and make them laugh as I join them in helping their overall health.


Review and update your statement each year. You could even consider utilizing a similar idea for your personal life. Or even with your personal and professional lives integrated. I met one faculty member who gets away with his wife periodically and writes and reviews their family purpose/mission statement. 


Next week, we will use this as a basis for a larger topic – navigating all of those demands on your time, energy, and attention. 


Have a joy-filled week!  Tonya


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