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How to embrace your Will to Purpose

It is not power we yearn for, it’s purpose…

Making a round trip of 8-hours driving is not exactly what I planned to do in the first week of January. However, when I was asked by a client to facilitate an urgent strategy and org design workshop for them in Liverpool, it was hard to say no.

Never one to waste a long drive I decided to reacquaint myself with some of my favourite audio books on Existential Philosophy. (I know what you’re thinking…sounds riveting!)

As I coasted past Birmingham heading north along the M6 motorway Friedreich Nietzsche’s concept of ‘The Will to Power’ started streaming from my car speakers. For miles I tried to wrap my head around what I was listening to. Eventually I concluded that Nietzsche believed that within the human ego is a desire to achieve dominance by projecting our will onto the world around us, thus creating our will to power.

Continuing my drive, the whole concept of humans being driven by power didn’t sit well with me. For over 20years I’ve worked with people at all levels right across the world. Yes a few were power hungry, but the vast majority didn’t want power, they wanted something else.

Pulling into the carpark of my destination I concluded that Nietzche isn’t entirely right. Within the human ego is not a desire for power, but a desire for meaning. We do not have a will to power, we have a will to purpose!

What is a ‘Will to Purpose’?

Humans are meaning making creatures. From an early age we need to know ‘why’. Anyone who’s been around small children knows this. And this need extends all the way from why a situation happens when we’re in the shops, through to why we exist and what is the purpose for our lives. In fact, this yearning for ‘why’ is so deep that when we can’t find an obvious reason, we make it up using terms like fate or Murphy’s Law. This is why I say we have a ‘will to purpose’.

Now for the power part. With our will to purpose, perhaps we can reframe Nietchze’s focus on power by realising that there is immense power in living with purpose. That is, through discovering purpose in every moment, or even for all moments of our life, we gain greater power not over others, but over our own existence.

My conclusion – by embracing our will to purpose, we exercise our will to power!

How do we embrace our Will to Purpose?

There are many people who talk about purpose. Most focus in on us needing to create some form of grand life purpose. Contrary to the frequently espoused slogans, like ‘Start with Why’, for individuals I’m not a big believer in creating a grand life purpose. This is because too often I watch people create lofty purpose statements that aren’t obtainable. And what’s worse, when the distance between their reality and defined purpose is too large it creates a vacuum of actual purpose which leaves them in a state of purposelessness.

Now that I’ve dismissed the need for a grand life purpose, let me give you my actual approach to embracing our will to purpose.

Rather than focus on defining some grand purpose, focus instead on living with purpose.

What this means in practice is learning to become purposeful in every moment of your life, where being purposeful means to:

  1. Be clear on the impact you want to have in that moment, and
  2. Be intentional about how you invest your time and energy to deliver that impact.

This concept of being purposeful can apply all the way from individual interactions through to specific roles you play in life. It is fundamentally about being intentional in the meaning you create and the impact you have.

Living with purpose therefore enables you to embrace your ‘Will to Purpose’ in away that helps you gain power over your own existence through being more purposeful across all aspects of your life. And through doing this you begin to achieve the success and fulfilment you are authentically seeking.

Whilst this is a big concept to consider in the post-festive hazy January, it worth asking yourself…

How could I embrace my ‘will to purpose’ by leading more purposefully in this new year?


Become a Purposeful Leader

Book a call with Rob if you want to learn more about becoming a Purposeful Leader.