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Can This 1 Simple Exercise Truly Remind You of Your Purpose?

Purpose may well be a habit instead of a destination

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BY Lian Kyla Dyogi - 11 May 2017


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In the flurry of pursuit—of fulfillments, goals, and proverbial success—one can lose sight of your driving force in the first place. Whether you’ve taken a page from ONE Championship Founder Chatri Sityodtong in this Inc. Southeast Asia article and found your Ikigai, your reason for living, or found a problem you care about deeply and want to solve, as Paul Rivera from Kalibrr advises, sometimes one gets lost.

“There were times when I was running my social enterprise and many things were not going in our favor. We faced multiple challenges and it was slow and difficult to get things done. I wondered if we were actually going to be able to make an impact,” says Valerie Pang, student and social entrepreneur.

So what to do in times of purposelessness? Ayse Birsel in this article suggests doing the Heroes Exercise. 

The Heroes Exercise

As Birsel details in her article and her book, Design the Life You Love, the Heroes Exercise is a four-step process. First, grab pen and paper. Second, imagine your work heroes, or as Birsel puts it: “these are not superheroes but simply people who have qualities that interest you or that you want to emulate.” It can be anyone from a friend to Sheryl Sandberg. 

Third, list their names, draw a symbol that represents them, and write down a list of their qualities (as many as you want). Once you’ve finished, take a look at all that you’ve written down. “These are your values. The qualities that inspire us in others are actually our own values, those we have and/or aspire to have. We notice these qualities because they're "value-able" to us,” says Birsel.

Lastly, cross off their names and add in your own. Birsel suggests taking out this list whenever one feels uncertain to remind oneself of your values and of what matters to you most. 

Does this Work?

Pang thinks the Heroes exercise can help remind entrepreneurs of their values.

While Eugene Tan, co-founder of Malaysian roadside assistance app Carput, says “I think entrepreneurs react differently as they are different people, and there's no surefire way that will remind 100% entrepreneurs of their purpose. The exercise is great to understand what values are close to your heart, but, like horoscopes, it isn't a cookie cutter thing.”

This exercise won’t work for everyone, as Tan mentions, but it’s certainly a useful tool to keep in one’s arsenal. Purpose then—more than something one “arrives” at after months of searching and digging—is built and strengthened through the habit of reminding oneself of one’s purpose, whether through exercises or not.

Says Tan when asked how he reminds himself of his purpose: “One of the ways I stay focused is by having regular chats with mentors and advisers. This way, I'm able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, as my mentors are well versed in seeing the big picture.”

Adds Pang, “I remind myself of my purpose by thinking about the positive impact on society that I want to have in my life, and visualizing how that would look like. I also think about the issues in society that I care about, and how there is still lots of work to be done. This keeps me motivated to keep moving forward.”

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