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.

Brushing teeth.

Compliance becomes ownership when people find purpose.

Why brush your teeth:

  1. Prevent cavities.
  2. Avoid bad breath.
  3. Keep your teeth.
  4. 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

Finding purpose:

You find purpose through loss.

The illusion of invincibility leads to meaningless living.

Toothaches and implants give purpose to brushing.

  1. Lost relationships give purpose to friendship.
  2. Failure gives purpose to achievement.
  3. Loneliness gives purpose to connecting.
  4. 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?

Bonus material:

People Who Feel They Have A Purpose In Life Live Longer : Health News : NPR

How to Find Your Purpose in Life (berkeley.edu)