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My story to purpose

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On our programmes, we often take a deep dive into the power of purpose and how it drives team behaviour and engagement. Purpose is an often misunderstood motivational force. In fact, according to decades of research, there are few things more important to mental stamina and motivation than having a sense of purpose. To psychologists, purpose is an abiding intention to make a difference that is both personally meaningful and makes a positive mark on the world. Simon Sinek calls it your ’cause’ or your ‘Why’. Purpose driven people almost consistently reflect it through their actions and behaviours. To discover that of my own, watching ‘Connecting the dots’ by Steve Jobs was an eye opener. I also talked to people about it and over time rephrased and sharpened it. Here is my journey that got me into discovering and working from my purpose.

Goodbye career

Back in 2007 some 12 years into a career in ICT at Shell, Siemens and other technology companies, I had lost much of the motivation I used to have for the roles and the business. I felt the environment had become limiting and realised it was time for a change. That was actually quite a scary realisation. I had no idea where to go instead and feared letting go of what I knew. My first coaching experience helped me a lot. Profound questions were explored with no immediate answers. Yet, it opened my eyes and put me on a new path forward. I discovered that purpose was tied into meaning, about making some sort of a difference in a professional form I had yet to shape.

At the end of the coaching process I resigned from my job and joined a consulting firm where we started a practice in sustainable development and CSR. I was inspired by the idea of ‘Business as a force for good’ and met the most amazing people all working towards a more inclusive and just society. By 2009, we moved to Cairo as a family where I was given the opportunity to start a Middle East operation. We took off, but on January 25th 2011, our business collapsed as the Arab Spring unfolded in front of us.

A new beginning

A few months later and unemployed, an Egyptian social entrepreneur and co-founder of Masterpeace Foundation popped the idea of organising a peace dialogue event in the heart of Cairo. Since I had always enjoyed having a good conversation, I hosted my first event in the summer of that year. The project’s name? “Views Unlimited”. It was a public event around Truth & Reconciliation in sprit of South Africa’s peaceful transformation to democracy in the early 1990’s. With some previous moderating experience at the annual Tällberg Forum in Sweden, I got a taste for it and hosted many subsequent conferences, events and team retreats as a freelance business. I never even dreamed of the one event I was lucky to host years later in Amsterdam.

Bad luck

My freelance work life had taken off quite well. But in 2013 a medical set-back following a complex, erratic and lengthy diagnostics process in 2013 put me to the test. After my recovery from chemotherapy 6 months later, I had to start over again. Because my body and some medical experts had failed me, learning to trust again became a critical part of my recovery process. I wanted to understand what happens under stress and how we can build strategies that forge trust in self and in others. A lot of time I spent studying different fields in the behavioural sciences. It made me better understand how the human brain functions and how trust is forged in or between people. As someone who always had some difficulty fitting in groups, it all started to make sense. It is why trust building is so profoundly rooted at the core of my work. 

Into your purpose

Two core questions that will almost certainly help you get closer to understanding your purpose: What is it that truly matters to you and why? You can ask your friends. What is the difference you want to make? Having these questions more consistently top of mind and making them part of everyday conversation can help. It certainly helped me understand that of my own: To forge trust based workplace cultures. It is about enabling people to make sense of and deal with the complex dynamics of their environment, be it social, interpersonal or political. I sincerely wish for you to discover yours and if you need me to, I will gladly coach you uncovering it!