To find your higher purpose

Canterbury Cathedral

Passion is about the optimal self-realization – doing something because it’s the right thing for yourself. Thus, if the passion brings a sense of self-esteem and self-satisfaction, then the higher purpose is something beyond oneself. To follow your higher purpose comes with a duty – towards your company, your relatives, your country or your God.

This does not make the power of the higher purpose and the satisfaction of following it less – rather the opposite. Finding your higher purpose and then following it can give enormous inner satisfaction. The higher purpose is always based on one’s values ​​and thus enhances the internal ethical compass.

Both as a human and creative leader, it is important to fill your life with meaning, but also to strive to convey a higher purpose to your employees. This can both increase their inner motivation and reduce stress during periods of high workload. The importance of a higher purpose for motivation can be illustrated by the following story:

On a hot summer day, a wanderer comes by a large construction site. He passes a man who is masoning big stone blocks on what appears to be a wall. The man looks troubled and sad. The wanderer stops and asks how it goes. The mason replies that it’s mostly shit. “The work is heavy and badly paid. I’m tired and sweaty in the strong sunshine and my back aches. The building will take many years and it’s not even sure to be completed in my lifetime.

A bit further away stands another man who is also masoning large stone blocks, but this man looks happy and satisfied and is whistling while he is working. The wandere also goes up to this man and asks how everything is. “It’s great” answers the man. “Can you imagine, I’m building a cathedral! Certainly, the work is heavy and badly paid. I’m tired and sweaty and my back aches. I may not even be alive when it’s completed, but imagine here I am and building a cathedral. Better than that, it cannot be.

Your higher purpose is always linked to your own internal motivatio, and this gives you stamina to continue even when it becomes tough and difficult (as it always will be from time to time). The purpose is often higher and greater than yourself – you feel that you are useful and makes a difference and that you can be proud of what you accomplish.

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Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

4 thoughts on “To find your higher purpose”

  1. Such a fantastic story and very relevant dear Karl. My father told me this story when I was very young and it has been a principle for me since that. Looking at scientific studies and motivation it has been shown that there are different motivational desires in different people. Some are motivivated by power, some with affiliation, some with acknowledgment ,etc. but there are a group who are motivated by meaningfulness. Those are the one thinking about higher purpose. However in my humble opinion it should not be taken for granted that people with this attribute should be the one carrying the workload constantly and be expected not to complian. In today’s work environment almost no one man job exist. A good outcome is dependent of interaction and collaboration between individuals. To my sad experience those who are not doing what they are expect to do are the ones who are attention to too often and drain the motivation of hard working and motivated people. How a leader act is essential in protecting the well willing co- workers and employees. Even if people with higher purpose work without complaining too much a good leader should also have in mind to acknowledge and prize them in order to keep this people att stay motivated.
    Very best wishes
    Aftab Jasir

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Aftab, Thanks for your reflections. Yes, isn’t this a beautiful story. It is important to have a higher purpose in life and at work. And building a cathedral is indeed not a one person job. But a combined effort of the many persons involved. Some being the hard-working masons, some the visionary architects, others the artists or the clergy. To see the end-result everyone’s effort is needed
      I think, bringing motivation and painting a higher purpose is the task of a leader, but in the end the higher purpose would need to be found in the heart of each individual. One could do a job for the pay check, which is as good a reason as any, but if topped with a purpose the job well done will give a much higher meaning and satisfaction.


      1. JFK and the Janitor: the importance of understanding the WHY that is behind what we do
        At beqom we provide a solution to make your people happy. We firmly believe that 3 of the key tenets in employee happiness are:

        Clear Direction – Understanding the corporate vision
        Alignment – Knowing your part
        Motivate – Understanding how you will be compensated
        At a company meeting I overheard someone describing the JFK and the Janitor story to a colleague. I had never heard the story of JFK and the Janitor before, but immediately after reading the story for myself a couple of ideas clicked together. The idea of understanding the vision of the company linked in my head with Motivation 3.0 theory of purpose the desire of people to be part of something that is bigger than they are. Total Compensation, Motivation & Productivity are all tightly linked.

        If you don’t know the story here it is:

        President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”
        The janitor got it. He understood the vision, and his part in it, and he had purpose. While looking for the JFK and the Janitor story I found another similar story: “Perhaps you have heard the story of Christopher Wren, one of the greatest of English architects, who walked one day unrecognized among the men who were at work upon the building of St. Paul’s cathedral in London which he had designed. ”What are you doing?” he inquired of one of the workmen, and the man replied, “I am cutting a piece of stone.” As he went on he put the same question to another man, and the man replied, “I am earning five shillings twopence a day.” And to a third man he addressed the same inquiry and the man answered, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral.” That man had vision. He could see beyond the cutting of the stone, beyond the earning of his daily wage, to the creation of a work of art—the building of a great cathedral. And in your life it is important for you to strive to attain a vision of the larger whole.” – (Louise Bush-Brown,
        I like this story as well. One by one it touches on all of beqom tenets of employee happiness – what’s your part, how will you be compensated, and what is the corporate vision. Two of the men only understand one of the three tenets but the 3rd workman that gets the whole picture. Both the JFK and the Janitor story and the story of Sir Christopher Wren are illustrative of our ideas around employee happiness and personally both stories brought a smile to my face. A quick injection of happiness! I hope you enjoy them as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks Delia! I’ve read the JFK story. I think it was in Simon Sinek’s very thought-provoking book “Start with why”. Not heard about Christopher Wren, but I agree that this story gives an additional dimension to how we see our purpose, and what really counts. Thanks again both for reading my blog and providing these thoughtful comment. Really appreciated. Wishing you a good weekend, a good 2018 and a good life. 🙂


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