5 Powers of Purpose: Lessons from a Toothbrush
Yesterday, with the toothbrush in my mouth, I asked myself, “Why do you brush your teeth?”
‘Why’ connects purpose to action.
Why brush your teeth:
- Prevent cavities.
- Avoid bad breath.
- Keep your teeth.
- Look good.
Other reasons matter, but I brush because I want to keep my teeth.
5 powers of purpose:
#1. Purpose is the way you live your own life.
You complained and complied when mom said, “Go brush your teeth.”
You live someone else’s life until you find purpose.
Compliance becomes ownership when people find purpose.
#2. Purpose lowers resistance.
Purposeless commands elevate resistance.
I don’t resist brushing my teeth because brushing fulfills a deeper purpose. I don’t want to be toothless.
#3. Purpose gives meaning to mundane activities.
Think of something you hate doing, paperwork, taking out the trash, or brushing your teeth.
When I think about a toothless gap in the front of my mouth caused by careless tooth brushing, I brush vigorously.
Purpose is energy.
#4. Purpose does it right.
When I think about losing my teeth, I brush where people can’t see.
Smiling and eating are side benefits of keeping my teeth.
#5. Purpose strengthens grit.
I usually think that brushing is inconvenient. Tomorrow morning the time it takes to brush my teeth won’t be so frustrating. I’ll think about losing my two front teeth.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Nietzsche
You find purpose through loss.
The illusion of invincibility leads to meaningless living.
Toothaches and implants give purpose to brushing.
- Lost relationships give purpose to friendship.
- Failure gives purpose to achievement.
- Loneliness gives purpose to connecting.
- Emptiness gives purpose to serving others.
Rather than turning from loss, listen for purpose.
How might leaders find purpose?
How might leaders help others find purpose?
People Who Feel They Have A Purpose In Life Live Longer : Health News : NPR
How to Find Your Purpose in Life (berkeley.edu)
How might leaders find purpose? Asking themselves what’s missing? The pebble or the stone.
How might leaders help others find purpose? Connecting with individuals as a leader and guiding others with options to see what is available to them, someone needs to broaden the horizon for the sun to rise.
Thanks Tim. “… someone needs to broaden the horizon for the sun to rise.” Wow!
Helping people see what’s available can be life changing. Too often we sell ourselves short.
I think, brushing your teeth, eating, taking a shower, working out,—are all the little actions you take to prepare you to do your BIG PURPOSE.
Dan, I believe your big purpose or major mission is helping people become more effective, efficient, and productive managers, leaders, and individual contributors.
So how do leaders find their big purpose? I think you need to work backwards. Do a lot of things. Identify the ones you most enjoy. Identify the ones you would do even if you didn’t get paid. Then reflect on why you most like those activities. That helps you begin the process of identifying your mission or purpose.
Thanks Paul. “I think you need to work backward.” That’s so powerful. We spend too much time waiting for purpose to find us. We need to go out and find it by doing stuff AND reflecting during and after.
Your comment brought the idea of energy to mind. Where is the energy?
I agree. What gives you energy is getting you closer to your purpose.
Dan, one of my friends asked me to help her 11 year old. She is preparing for an exam and her grades have dropped tremendously. She’s just not performing as she was before. We use the English school system so we have to sit an exam to move from primary school to secondary school. I am going to meet this young lady at a Starbucks soon and was wondering how I could approach purpose and explain the consequences of a lack thereof. And then I read this. Thank you for your approach and perspective always Dan…you are appreciated!
Wow! Thanks Giselle. I wish you well.
I really appreciate your practical / pragmatica approach, very much reflective, in my opinion, of American culture. This reflection about toothbrishing may extend to many other everyday actiities we do, that in the long run allow us to continue pursuing our purpose.
About working our way back and the idea of “You find purpose through loss”, the ultimate test comes from our understanding of our legacy after we lose our ultimate gift: our lives. Our need for transcendence, the how we leave this world after we’re gone is the ultimate fuel for pursuing a greater purpose.
Thak you for this piece, it triggered a lot of reflection and came about the right time that I was talking on this subject with a friend who is struggling fuinding her lifes purpose.
Hi Juan. It’s a pleasure to trigger some reflection. We often are too busy or too distracted to reflect on important issues.
Your thoughts about frailty and brevity lend weight to this topic. I believe an awareness of our brevity is motivation to clarify purpose.