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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Purpose makes Practice (more likely to be) Perfect


The old maxim"Practice makes perfect", doesn't amount to a flea's breakfast without a sense of purpose fuelling it. Perhaps it should be compulsorily married to another time-served phrase, "What's the point?" Because 'What's the point?' is basically asking us about our target. What's the point on the horizon you are steering your ship towards? Without a point, we are rudderless, aimless and moribund. In other words, stuck!

As a coach for over the last 30 years, first giving golf lessons as a fledgling Assistant Golf Professional, then as a Swimming Teacher, and latterly as a Career Guidance Practitioner and Executive Coach, I have come to respect that without a specific bearing point on the map to aim for there is no direction. No drive to fuel the practice, no vision to visualise and no decision making muscles exercised. And in many cases, the cause is lost before the journey even commenced. Golf's got an obvious target with a flag-stick on a green and neatly mown fairways to indicate your path to success, but in life, although equally relevant, the pathways are not so obvious.

So there can be no doubt that time spent practising your sport, your craft or your vocation is a worthwhile investment, but understand first what it is that you're investing your focus, effort and time in achieving. This is why, here at The Purpose Foundation, and our sister organisation, The Talent Engine, we respect the key ingredient to any coaching success is seeing 'the point' clearly and how sport correlates so perfectly. If you're still asking "what's the point?" - then there isn't one! You need to set your goal. Your purpose needs to shine on the horizon like a beacon which compels you to tune into your inner compass and align all of your positive attributes. Otherwise, it's pointless!

Since inception in the 1950s by billionaire insurance salesman William Clement Stone, 'Positive Visualisation Technique' has become the keystone to high performance and spawned millions of coaching businesses around the world. In Rhonda Byrne's smash-hit movie 'The Secret' she attributes 'clear sight of success' as The Secret to having anything we desire in life - if only we first see what it is that we want. It is only then that 'The Law of Attraction' will work for us. She has so many of the world's greatest proponents of 'positive thinking' lend their crystal clear metaphors to the film's subject - "...a glimpse of a great secret!"

My deep belief is that so many sufferers of stress-related illness can be cured in the moment they switch-on to a purposeful goal in their lives. Even better if they can envisage a goal that interconnects the 3 pillars of holistic wellbeing in their life: psychological / sociological / physiological. Here again, even for the amateur, sport is a wonderful channel for your investment of effort.  Not only is it great stress relief from the ardours of modern life, it is a great focal point, commitment, dojo and laboratory for practising positive visualisation techniques. Tellingly, is a Japanese term which literally means "place of The Way".

I have born witness to inspiring transformations across all departments in many people's lives just by setting a sporting goal on the calendar to aim at. Hence, my long distance swimming spills-over into my professional life so perfectly as I function so much better day-to-day when I'm committed to a date on the calendar horizon to which I aim to hone my skill, build my cardio-vascular fitness and test my stamina. My training sessions at the times when I don't possess a visual goal tend to be empty by comparison and this is a symptom I work hard to legislate against.

These sporting metaphors translate so well into the workplace too. It is no coincidence former Olympic gold medallist swimmer Adrian Moorhouse's consultancy business is called 'Lane4'  because this is the lane he swam in when he won his gold medal. And why British Gas, one of the largest energy companies in the world, sponsor British Swimming and use elite swimmers to deliver motivational training to their personnel.

So in modifying the maxim to 'Purposeful practice promotes perfection' we start to transmit a far more empowering message to the world in that we have thought our options through, made an informed decision, valued our goal-specific attributes, fuelled our motivation with drive and chosen to discipline our actions with purposefulness. The net result of this knowing state is that it connects-together all of the dots in our life. The more clearly we see our purpose the more joined-up we feel and the more attractive our performance is to others. After all, 'charisma' means both 'a compelling attractiveness or charm that can confer devotion in others' and 'a divinely conferred power or talent'.

This is The Key to success in our working lives too. This is why understanding our career attributes and the faculties we possess within is vital. In my new book 'Every Person's Path to Purpose - Everyone's Work Manifesto' I introduce a new kind of energy called 'Vojo' (Vocationally Generated Energy). 'Vojo' has almost supernatural powers that I believe only a very few people possess. So few are in possession of 'Vojo' because so few people are truly in possession of purpose; possibly as few  as 5 to 10% of the working population experience the joys given to them by 'Vojo'.

You can spot people with 'Vojo' because they are the charismatic people who never work. They are the people who discovered a job that they truly loved. A job which sees every one of their career attributes in perfect alignment; dovetailed beautifully into The World of Work. As if it was always intended to be that way. I argue in my book that society desperately needs more people dovetailed into their perfect work and managing well-planned careers because they have so much to contribute to the wellbeing of society. No longer can we strip employment of its meaning in pursuit of profit and dividend paid to an ungenerous few.

'Every Person's Path to Purpose' is a blueprint for an interconnected, congruent and sustainable working world where all workers are encouraged to contribute to the betterment of their fellow humans. It talks about the nurturing powers of 'Work Aesthetics' where by honing skills over time workers construct meaning not only in their own lives, but those who pick-up on the resonance and purity of great work around them.

Progressives / Proutists such as myself see a future where not only is there enough resource in the world to go around equitably, but everyone extracts the benefit of living well and prospering with the egalitarianism borne out of personal effectiveness, merit, living well, being spiritually connected with our surroundings through the imperatives of ecology, cooperation and sustainable living.

Although too easy to forget in an increasingly greed-driven and engorged world, social cohesion relies on each individual wanting to give to their fellow citizen, unconditionally. For each of us to express our individuality through creativity, our quest for spiritual enlightenment - the answering of questions - and our perpetual pursuit of growth - yet contributing to - the greater good of the community we live in. Be that through maximising our potential, skills mastery and/or the fulfilment of our 'Hierarchy of Needs' (Maslow) in the culmination of self-actualisation. If we are not proceeding we risk being in decline, stagnating at at risk of falling foul of low self-esteem and entering into the minefields of mental illness and self-doubt.

As the aeroplane's wings need to be at just the right attitude in order to take-off, so purpose relates to the fulfilment of potential and growth in the individual. Drive - the fuel of maximising one's potential - must be intrinsic. It cannot be given to another. The push and pull of personal development and growth can be taught, mentored, guided, supervised and coached, but without a purpose, it is a pitiful waste of energy, resource and time. This is why when we wake each day we can measure our individual effectiveness simply by gauging the clarity with which we can visualise our purpose and our relationship to the goals we have set ourselves on the horizon. In this way all the time we devote to honing our craft as we pursue our individual potential will be guaranteed to pay the bearer a healthy return the investment! (Coincidentally, 'vojo'  is Esperanto for 'The Way'.)