What’s the purpose

Never eat alone (copyright: donjd2)

Working independently means you are in control of your time and what you do with it. A lot of the issues that are relevant for everyone in their work, like motivation, keeping focus and direction, being worth what you charge, feeling like you make a difference, learning etc. come to the surface with even greater clarity when you are independent. There tend to be more external structures to keep you in line when you are employed, your boss tells you what to do and when to work your hours, they might even pay you when you are sick and can’t come to work (ah, and being independent you can never lie to your boss – yourself – that you are sick just because you want a day off…). But basically, all of us, if we want to make sense and have a direction in life instead of just being tossed around by forces bigger than we are, need to deal with these issues.

Sometimes I find that the simplest tools are the best and most powerful and one thing I am doing a lot lately is to make a list of: “What’s the purpose? What do I want to get out of this?” I write these lists on the Metro driving to a client meeting, on the plane going to a conference, before going into a 3 day facilitation marathon and they give me clarity of purpose and direction. And don’t get me wrong, not all of the items on the list are about taking and getting stuff, I often add purpose around giving and connecting. And when I went to the Sunbelt Conference in Florida, one of the things on my list was: relax on the beach…(alas, it rained the whole week…) But I need to know why I go there so that I can focus on making these things happen.

If a main reason for going to a conference is to network, I will make sure that I never eat alone. If I realize in this engagement I want to learn as much as I can from a senior and admired colleague I make sure I ask her the questions that I am struggling with and observe how she does it. Being clear about my purpose feels like being wide awake instead of going places in a passive dream-state. It tells me a lot about my assumptions and makes me just a bit more active and go-getting than I naturally would be. And in the evening I can have a look at my list (in the metro again, my third office) and see: Did it all happen? What else happened? What were good or bad surprises? Would I do it again? And how?