Thursday, August 10, 2017

Did The Purpose Driven Life fail?

In 2002 a book called The Purpose Driven Life was published. Within five years, it had sold 30 million copies. I remember being surprised at the time by the vast popularity of Rick Warren's book. Were so many people really searching for something bigger than themselves? Did 30 million people really wonder what on earth they are here for, as the subtitle reads? Yes! Yes, and in fact, the book was used to end a hostage situation when a woman read from the book to her captor in 2005. (source)

Since we spend more hours of our average day at work than anywhere else, it makes sense that the search for purpose would include careers and workplaces.

Fifteen years later, I wonder if everyone found what they were looking for?

Did the 30 million people who bought the book complete the 40-day exercise? Did 30 million readers find their purposes? Are 30 million people thriving 15 years later in their personal and professional lives?

My guess is no. No, the exercise was not complete. No, 30 million people did not find their purposes. No, those 30 million are not thriving in all aspects of their lives.

If they were, surely the engagement survey results, trust barometers, employee morale, and workplace cultures would indicate it.

Let's not be too hard on the purpose seekers. Here are two factors to consider:
  1. Our individual purpose changes over time. My purpose as a new entrant to the workplace at 22 was different ten and twenty years later. Our purpose evolves, and our search for it needs to as well.
  2. Our purposes are intertwined. If you work along side people who see the greater meaning of their work, you probably will see it too. The opposite is true too. The 30 million readers of the book 15 years ago have been joined in the workplace by a new generation, and we're all working together with our diverse purposes. The variety impacts organization culture, especially when the leaders are aware of it.
The All-In Way™ is about bringing your whole self to work: purpose and all. Let's see how we can incorporate more of our whole selves into our workplaces. Check out a new forum starting in Kansas City this fall: Living the Spirit at Work.

If you are looking for your purpose, or you have found it and want to incorporate it at work, join the forum to discuss and reflect on it. Our purposes evolve, and this forum supports the search. (Mark your calendars for September 21, 2017 and watch for more details soon.)

Obviously, some people read the book and continue to attribute great life changes to it. If you have such a story, please share it.