How to lead a purpose-driven life: 6 ingredients, 21 questions

This presentation covers six ingredients of leading a purpose-driven life:

  1. Purpose: An overarching goal that defines a purpose-driven life. It is like a center, a core where one returns from time to time. Exemplified by the statement: “What were you born to do” … The question needs to be answered in a way that the purpose benefits others. Read more about purpose in this 2017 commencement speech by Tim Cook at MIT –
    “After countless twists and turns, at last, 20 years ago, my search brought me to Apple. At the time, the company was struggling to survive. Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple, and had launched the ‘Think Different’ campaign. He wanted to empower the crazy ones—the misfits, the rebels and the troublemakers, the round pegs, and the square holes—to do the best work. If we could just do that, Steve knew we could really change the world. Before that moment, I had never met a leader with such passion or encountered a company with such a clear and compelling purpose: to serve humanity. It was just that simple. Serve humanity. And it was in that moment, after 15 years of searching, something clicked. I finally felt aligned. Aligned with a company that brought together challenging, cutting edge work with a higher purpose. Aligned with a leader who believed that technology which didn’t exist yet could reinvent tomorrow’s world. Aligned with myself and my own deep need to serve something greater.” #purpose
  2. Passion: “People with passion can change the world for the better” – Steve Jobs. Passion is defined as the activities or thoughts that we return to time and again. When we are passionate, we effortlessly engage in the activity. We do not see the passage of time. We work hard but do not feel the pain of the hard work. At the end, we want to do more and more. We have a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. We feel energized than tired by the activity.
  3. Partnerships: Successful partnerships require sharing a vision. It means you can work with others in an “interchangeable” manner. True partners compliment each other. They get each other automatically. They have a “shared sense of purpose”. Unlike certain partnerships that are marked by deep-rooted mistrust.
  4. Impact: Purpose needs an impact. An impact that is larger than life. That can connect a single individual’s goal to a larger purpose. When the project and vision is big it has a momentum and driving force of its own. This what Mark Zuckerberg said in his commencement address at Harvard in 2017:
    One of my favorite stories is when John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon”. Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.
    People who aim for making impact are the ones who live a more meaningful life.
  5. Work: Doing purposeful work is what gives meaning to most people. Sometimes called “deep work”, at other times, it is called being “in the flow”. Producing a body of work that serves others is deeply meaningful.
  6. Mindfulness: Being fully present in the moment is mindfulness. It means being aware of what is happening – inside, outside, around. How thoughts rise, form, waft. How emotions come and drift. How we act upon our impulses or let them pass. It also refers to deeper reflections on more serious and meaningful aspects of life – dissolving our ego, connecting with a superior force, observing the nature of life. I have described a Buddhism inspired approach to mindfulness in this series.

Chade-Meng Tan: Everyday compassion at Google

In this TED video, Google Engineer and writer of the book “Search Inside Yourself“, Chade-Meng Tan describes how Google developed a course on compassion and emotional intelligence. The course is the basis for its underlying culture and is also used for leadership development.

Here are the key ideas in this video:

  • Happiness has been scientifically proven to be linked with compassion
  • Brain studies of Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk showed he was happiest when meditating about compassion
  • Chade-Meng Tan has a dream of creating conditions of world peace – where there is inner peace and compassion in abundance
  • Compassion is about happiness and fun and it is also good for business – because it helps to build compassionate leaders with character and second, because it builds a positive environment or “economy”
  • He cites the example of Google where compassion is part of the culture
    • It is a culture born of idealism where compassion is organic and widespread
  • Compassion is taught at Google in a leadership course designed by Chade-Meng Tan with Emotional Intelligence pioneer Daniel Goleman
  • Compassion is critical to build highly effective business leaders, and it has three components:
    • Affective – “I feel for you” (empathy)
    • Cognitive – “I understand you” (empathy)
    • Motivational – “I want to help you”
  • The first and second components – affective and cognitive – help to build humility and the third component motivational is ambitious
  • Search Inside Yourself training has the following parts:
    • “attention training” – training in building a quality of mind that is clear and calm ad is able to see as emotiona form with objectivity, clarity and perspective
    • Training in self-awareness and self-knowledge
    • Creating new mental habits, the most powerful being
      • Effective communication of the thought “I want you to be happy” whenever one meets another person
      • This helps in creating an overall positive and compassion environment in which creativity, understanding and balance flourish
  • Chade-Meng Tan finishes with this quote from the Dalai Lama:

If you want to be happy, practice compassion. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion”

To see a Talks at Google video of Chade-Meng Tan talking about his book Search Inside Yourself, click here

Six habits of highly empathic people

Tremendous amount of research has been done about empathy in recent years. These range from understanding empathy, knowing why it is important and ways to develop a higher level of empathy. Empathy is the ability to experience, feel and view things as the other person does. It is different from sympathy or pity, which is judgmental. It is a highly refined skill which requires an understanding that everyone is different and involves an appreciation of that uniqueness.

Roman Krznaric is the bestselling writer of the book “Empathy: Why It Matters and How to Get It?“. He has also written “Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution“. Roman Krznaric is the founder of The School of Life. A popular writer and speaker, he believes that empathy is at the core of who we are as human beings. What is special about his approach is that he says empathy is the “ultimate form of art” and that it can be used as a tool for social revolution. In other words, a highly empathetic society is needed to fundamentally change how we view our issues and solutions.

In this video, he outlines, 6 qualities of highly empathic people or, as Roman Krznaric calls them ”Empathic adventurers” people who step outside rigid norms of society to embrace an alternate point of view:

1) Curiosity about strangers

Empathic people are very curious about others. They ask questions, they understand, they find out more. They do this with an open mind, with a spirit of enquiry. The questioning is not interrogative but to build a common and shared understanding, resulting in a foundation for bonding.

2) Discovering commonalities about diverse cultures and societies

Empathic people focus on what is common and not what is different about others. They focus on the essence of being human. All the differences seem to be on the outside and the similarities are on the inside. Another important aspect of this habit is becoming aware of and eventually giving up biases.

3) Living another person’s life

Not stopping at intelectual curiosity, Krznaric encourages empathic adventurers to actually live other people’s lives. The understanding and sharing of experience does not exist at an intellectual level but is deeper, at the level of actually feeling the feelings, going through the highs and lows. Nothing deepens understanding than this, and it is where the seeds for fundamental change are sown.

4) Practicing listening at the highest level

Active listening, without judgment, is an extremely rare skill in a world everyone is in a hurry to make their point and influence others. It is also a two-way street that requires sharing and opening up. Being vulnerable and sharing frailties and failings openly. This leads to acceptance and change.

5) Inspiring social change

Highly empathic people use empathy as a tool for social change and revolution. This happens by becoming empathic with neglected sections of society, developing a deep understanding of their state, knowing the state of people who are strugglers and outliers and resulting in bringing adversaries together. This also requires teaching empathy to young children so that we are building a more humane and understanding society.

6) Being ambitiously imaginative

This habit is about taking action, based on a bolder vision. It means embracing points of view that we do not subscribe to and developing an understanding with an enquiring, open, accepting mind. Then seeing the merit in those views and based on a strong imagination for a better world, taking action.


Best of 2014: 15 amazing iPhone apps that can change your life

HealthmateThis app tracks daily physical activity like walking, running, heart rate, calories and weight. It uses iPhone’s sensors to track the number of steps walked, heart rate – making it easy and effortless. Goals can be set and the progress is measured against the set goals. There is also an option of measuring progress with […]

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

“This is why alchemy exists,” the boy said. “So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold.

“That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist