‘Purpose’ is driving the new economy. Your professional purpose – or BIG WHY – acts like your internal compass that keeps you finding ways to serve and thrive financially, no matter how much instability and upheaval is going on around you.
It’s not often that a book comes along that feels like a real game-changer, but that’s exactly how Aaron Hurst’s book THE PURPOSE ECONOMY (Oct, 2016) felt for me recently. His book felt like a welcome confirmation and validation of everything I’ve been observing and witnessing over the past several years, and his ability to clearly articulate what I’ve been sensing for a long time felt so significant that I wanted to share it with you.
You might have seen this happening around you too: People are increasingly craving more MEANING in their work. It’s no longer enough to simply go to work to pay the bills, or to view work as a means to an end. We spend such a large percentage of our waking lives working that more and more people want to ENJOY their work at the very least, but preferably ALSO experience these three things in the workplace too:
1. Authentic self-expression and personal growth;
2. Nurturing relationships and connection with others (community);
3. Engaging work that’s impactful; we want to feel as though our work MATTERS.
And this is where Hurst’s book comes in: THE PURPOSE ECONOMY – HOW YOUR DESIRE FOR IMPACT, PERSONAL GROWTH AND COMMUNITY IS CHANGING THE WORLD. In his book, Hurst describes how as a human species we’ve evolved through various different economies in the past few thousand years and how this evolution has created the era of PURPOSE that we’re experiencing now. I’ve summarised the evolution of these different economies briefly below.
The Agrarian Economy
Starting out as hunter-gatherers for many thousands of years, we eventually learned how to farm and cultivate the land in ways that allowed us to produce more stable sources of food and to stop moving around. An economy began to develop, centered around our agricultural interests. As the farms grew, so did the first villages and towns. This also marked the beginning of land ownership, social classes and specialised trade. Wealth and freedom were tied to owning the land and the ability to optimise its output.
The Industrial Economy
With the invention of the first commercial steam engine in Britain in 1712, a new wave of industrial innovation was born and the new Industrial Economy emerged in which wealth was tied to the large-scale production of goods and services and value was placed on increasing efficiency. Many industries needed more and more specialised labour and saw education expand to develop the talent needed. As people moved from farms to factories, vocational services were introduced. Modern democracy merged. International trade boomed, connecting cultures around the world. All of this came at enormous cost to the natural world, with widespread pollution and the mass extinction of countless species.
The Information Economy
By the middle of the 20th century, the marketplace was dominated by large corporations and institutions. The bigger the organisations became, the greater their need for improved communication and information systems. In the Information Economy, the commodity of value was information and the ability to develop it and transmit it quickly and efficiently. We’ve been fully immersed in the Information Economy for at least the past 30 years. And we’re now standing on the rising tide of the Purpose Economy.
The Purpose Economy
What is the Purpose Economy?
As Hurst says: “The Purpose Economy describes the new context and set of ways in which people and organisations are focused on creating value and defines the principle for innovation and growth; the quest for people to find more purpose in their lives. It is an economy in which value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers.
The emergence of purpose as the new organising principle of our economy is a product of our current moment in time, based on where we stand in history: our current culture, values, education, technological abilities, social organisations, political realities, and the state of our natural environment.”
These are the global forces shaping the emerging Purpose Economy:
- Our increasingly interconnected global community. The Internet has allowed people all across the globe to connect, communicate, and collaborate, independent of our physical location. As a result, we’re collectively more aware of global issues and how our actions impact the world around us.
- Our evolution upwards in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Many people around the globe have reached a level of personal fulfillment and now desire to transcend our own needs to prioritise the needs of all society and future generations, seeking more connection and self-actualisation.
- Longevity. The average lifespan in 1796 was 24 years old. Just 100 years later, the same person could live to be 48. And now 100 years later that average has almost doubled again. And given the aging population, we won’t be able to retire at 60 and live off our savings and pension anymore. We’ll be required to work until we’re much older, which means we need to find something that feels purposeful and that we ENJOY doing, or life will get very tedious!
- Changing families and evolving roles. Both parents in most families now work, and we’re hiring people in record numbers for the jobs highest in purpose – caring for our kids and aging parents. We want to know that our carers feel a sense of meaning and purpose in their work too, since we’re trusting them with our precious people. AND since we’re giving up our precious time with our families to work, we want to know that our work MEANS something and has an impact.
- Environmental, economic and political turmoil has created great instability, upheaval, and uncertainty worldwide. The pace of change in our lives is ever-accelerating as large institutions and organisations restructure, collapse or merge in order to stay relevant and survive. People are seeing this upheaval and turmoil and desire to do something to help.
- A rising desire by many to have a positive impact on the world somehow.
All of these factors have caused major changes globally that were magnified by the ‘Great Recession’ in 2008. The global instability has drastically changed the fabric of today’s professional workforce. We no longer have a single employer for our entire career and the average tenure in a company has dropped steeply, with the average employee staying at a single job for a mere 4.5 years today. As Hurst says:
“We’re all becoming defacto freelancers, on our own and navigating great uncertainty in every direction. The global shift has placed MEANING AND PURPOSE at the heart of the contemporary workforce. Purpose, rather than career longevity, now provides the stability we need.”
In the new Purpose Economy, WIN-WIN SOLUTIONS are the new commodity of value. People increasingly respect companies that provide a product or service that creates a positive net benefit or outcome for other people, nature, and the economy. There is no longer any respect or room for exploitation or selfish aggrandizement.
If your business doesn’t create positive value to ALL stakeholders, it won’t survive. There’s a rising need and requirement for businesses to lead the way and show how to not only create a win-win solution but to THRIVE because of it.
Here’s why I’m personally so passionate about PURPOSE:
I quit my corporate career of fifteen years in 2011 to start my own business in a completely new field (career coaching), because no matter how many changes I made or roles I took on in my previous career as an environmental engineer, I just couldn’t find or sustain a real sense of fulfilment, satisfaction or JOY in my work. And my health and relationships suffered terribly as a result. I felt completely lost and off-track. It wasn’t until I made the decision to quit my career to follow something more aligned with my strengths and passion that my health started improving and my life started feeling better and better. Ever since then, I’ve been on a mission to understand why some of us seem to easily find a professional path that we love, while some of us really struggle with it.
Through talking to people, coaching many clients and doing in-depth research on the topic of career satisfaction, it seems that there’s one thing that separates someone who really LOVES their work from someone who feels just “meh” about their work, and that is:
A clearly defined sense of PURPOSE.
Once I was finally able to clearly DEFINE and CLAIM my own unique purpose, everything fell into place and my life took on a whole new level of meaning and joy, both personally and professionally. Over the years I’ve pondered the topic of ‘purpose’ extensively and developed my own definition for it. It reads like this:
Your PURPOSE is the path or vocation that allows you to express yourself fully and to contribute your unique gifts in service to something you care about, while making a positive difference and earning you an abundant, reliable income.
I discuss in detail how to find your joyful and purposeful professional path and purpose in my related blog article: PATHFINDING – HOW TO FIND YOUR PROFESSIONAL PATH & PURPOSE.
In summary, there are four different and very critical components to your purpose, as shown below.
When you manage to get these four different components working in harmony in your professional life, work feels GOOD and deeply fulfilling.
Last week I came across a beautiful example of a ‘purposeful business’ when I was looking for furniture for our new home. I was so excited and uplifted by this business that I made a short video about it which you can view below. To find out more about this thriving, purposeful business, creating win-win solutions for people, nature and the environment, go to STORIES ON THE WALL.
So how do set yourself up to THRIVE in the new era?
To adequately prepare yourself for the Purpose Economy, it’s essential that you take the time to do some deep self-reflection and take stock of your biggest asset – YOU. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my particular skills, strengths, and unique abilities and how can I leverage those more fully? #naturalgenius
- What is my authentic personality and which environments or activities fully support and nurture my authentic self? #truenature
- What kind of organisation, profession or business idea will allow me to more fully express myself authentically? #authenticselfexpression
- What do I actually care about enough to want to dedicate my time, energy and resources to it? #passion
- How can I contribute my unique gifts and talents to something that I care about deeply? #service
- How can I make a positive difference and make an abundant, reliable income? #financialabundance
- What is the positive impact I personally want to make and how? #impact
- What is my unique purpose and my BIG WHY? #purpose
Getting clear on your PURPOSE is an essential step to thriving in our society going forward. If you need help answering any of these questions, be sure to get your copy of my FREE E-Book PATHFINDING – HOW TO FIND YOUR UNIQUE PATH AND PURPOSE.
As always, I love hearing from you, so please reach out at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International