Let’s talk about the definition of purpose. The way I define purpose is, “The reason you are on the planet.”

Let me give you an example: Take two people who are both attorneys. Attorney #1 (we will call her Susan) goes to law school because she wants to make the big bucks. She graduates at the top of her class and becomes a very successful lawyer. Attorney #2 (we will call her Jill) is a lawyer who decided in law school that her purpose in life was to help other people. She graduated at the top of her class and is with a large law firm. What is the difference between Susan and Jill? Jill feels like she is doing what she was “meant to do.” Susan has a restless, gnawing feeling that something isn’t right and she just works too many hours, but boy, the money is fabulous, so she stays. The difference is that Jill knew and defined her purpose early in her career and Susan didn’t and still doesn’t.

What right do I have to talk about this concept of purpose? I was a person who, for the first 30 years of my life, struggled to find my path.

When I was 10 years old I was lying in bed one night and I was crying. My mom came into the room and asked me what was wrong I said, “I am ten years old and I haven’t achieved anything!” I seemed to somehow understand that I was meant to do something and I had the audacity at 10 years old to think I should already have begun doing something significant. It was about purpose.

I attended college, declared a major in Theater Performance because I was convinced my purpose was to entertain people and to act. The last acting class in my senior year I came to a stunning conclusion, I didn’t want to act. I realized that one of my professors (who was a British Academy Award winner) couldn’t make a living acting and he had to teach in order to make a living. I realized if this acting genius couldn’t make a living then I would struggle, and I wasn’t willing to starve for my art. So I graduated with a B.A. in theater performance never to perform in the theater again. I exited school with my compass out searching for a direction and a purpose.

Searching for and finding your purpose is hard work and is a process, not an overnight decision or a sudden revelation.

I decided that I would give retail management a shot. It seems like a completely foolish idea now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I spent two incredibly long horrible years in retail management, knew that it was not the work I was meant to do. I was doing work I couldn’t stand without meaning or purpose. I would get up in the morning dreading work and go home at night dreading the next day.

I went into sales and I spent six years in sales and I was good at selling because I was a “people person” and could communicate with people in a way that was convincing. I liked sales but didn’t love it. One morning the fickle finger of fate stepped in and my phone rang. It was a call from the company I worked for wanting to know if I was interested in becoming a trainer. I took the job, after some research, and it changed my life in ways I am only just now beginning to understand.

I have been a training professional for some time now, and it is my life’s work. I believe my purpose is to have a positive impact on other people’s lives. I get up in the morning knowing why I do what I do. The pay is nice, and the people are very nice, but the payoff for me is knowing that I have had an impact on someone’s life. Once you know your purpose, the workflows, the motivation rises and productivity reaches an all-time high.

Shawn Doyle is the President of New Light Learning and Development (www.newlightlearning.com) a company specializing in Leadership Development. He has also authored 13 books on leadership sales and motivation. His latest book, The Manager’s Pocket Guide to Training, will be published by HRD Press this fall. sldoyle1@aol.com