Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finding Inner Purpose and Writing an Authentic Mission Statement

"More men fail through lack of purpose than through lack of talent"
- Billy Sunday

If you are clear about your inner purpose you can jump to step II right away. But if you are not clear about your purpose or need to revisit it, here are some steps to help you reflect on your past, present, and future as a guide to connecting with what is important to you and finding your inner purpose. Please also note that self awareness is a journey and you may find your purpose also changing as you get to know your self more. I have given suggestions for bringing self awareness as an ongoing process in my post what is missing in current discussions on personal branding.

This post describes an exercise, not in lieu of, but in addition to other practices for self awareness and purpose.

I Reflections on your past, present, and future to find inner purpose

The Past…

1) Make a list of activities you have participated in the past that you felt most inspired to do so at the time.

(Hint: Think about things you have done in the past, which made you push your comfort zone or extend yourself in ways that you normally do not and you were able to do this because you were inspired. These are activities that make you feel most energized and empowered. Inspiration here refers to an inner urge, belief, or drive and is not related to external motivations related to financial, social, or ego gains, even though the latter may be an outcome.)

2) List people who inspire you and what are the qualities in these people that inspire you.

(Hint: There are many inspiring people in this world but who inspires you tells a lot about what is meaningful to you. Specific traits and talents in these people are important to you because they reflect values that are important to you and are likely to be the ones that will influence your business practice.)

3) Think of the challenges in your life that have impacted you profoundly – what did you learn from those challenges?

(Hint: we learn most from challenging situations because it forces us to find new solutions to deal with them; they push our mental limits. Often the challenges have a recurring pattern because they are meant to teach us something of value that we can then share with others – what have you learned from your personal experiences that you would like to share with the world?)

The Present…

4) What are you naturally curious about?

(Hint: What are the things you enjoy learning about, what kind of documentaries do you enjoy, what kind of books do you read? Answers to these questions point to your natural inclinations and interests. Your ambitions can be influenced by external factors, but your natural curiosity is something inherent to you and it doesn’t lie.)

5) Make a list of things that you enjoy doing most. These could be related to your work or not.

(Hint: Be honest in describing what you enjoy doing with your time and resources. These could be activities completely unrelated to your current work. You could make a good livelihood out of activities you enjoy such as music, art, and cooking. But even if you did not pursue these activities as a career, a comparison across such activities will point to some underlying themes that reflect your inner purpose. For example, I love to read and learn about how the mind works, I love to help people find their purpose, I love to meditate, I love to create healthy and tasty foods, I enjoy finding solutions to unique business challenges, and I love my research. These activities do not seem to have much in common on the surface, but they involve creativity, mindfulness, self awareness, and problem solving and all of these feed into my work of inspiring purpose and finding profitable solutions that are mindful.)

6) What characteristics or traits do you love most about yourself?

(Hint: Ever so often we get intimidated by the accomplishments of others. At times like these, it is important to reconnect with what we love about ourselves and what we can uniquely bring to our work. Again, it is not important that these qualities do not seemingly relate with what we do at work. For example, you may be a nurturing mother, an adventurous cook, and innovative shopper. Now you can bring all those qualities of nurturing, adventure, and innovative thinking into your work Authentic entrepreneurs are integrated people and who you are at home and with your family is the same as who you are at work with your employees and customers.)

The Future…

7) What is the one change you would like to see in this world?

(Hint: What sort of things that you see or read about that make you angry, what is the change that you are most passionate about seeing in this world? The transformations that you want to see are opportunities for you to find your purpose.)

8) If money and any other limitations were not a problem, what work would you dedicate yourself to?

(Hint: Often we set artificial barriers to doing what we truly love. If you could imagine that none of these barriers exist and you are free to dedicate your life to doing one thing – what would it be?)

9) How do you want to be remembered?

(We postpone things that are important to us and before long it is too late. Use this time to reflect on what really matters. How do you want to be remembered as a partner, a parent, a friend, in your community, and as a human being? What difference did you make in the lives of others during your lifetime?)
Once you have answered these questions, highlight important terms and note them down. Look at the noted terms for patterns that reflect what is meaningful to you, what is unique about you, and what is your unique purpose. You are now ready to write your mission statement.

If there is anything that has helped you in finding your purpose or if you liked what you read, please leave a comment.

II Writing your mission statement

A good mission statement helps to build authentic communications with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. It provides a broad framework defining your purpose and values within which you run your business. It is particularly useful in challenging times as a reminder for what the business stands for so people don’t lose sight of what is important. It also provides a unified focus for all members in the organization to move towards a common goal. Communicating your mission statement clearly will help in attracting the right kind of people as your customers, employees, suppliers, and other collaborators.

In order to write down your mission statement, refer to the list you created of terms that reflect what is meaningful to you, what is unique about you, and your unique purpose. Use that list as a guide to write your mission statement. An authentic mission statement has five parts:

1) Your core purpose - the overall mission
2) How will you achieve your purpose - your products and services
3) Who will you benefit - your target market
4) How will you benefit them - specific benefits you provide
5) What is unique about you - your core competencies that make you unique

For a good example see Ben and Jerry’s comprehensive tripartite mission statement including social, product, and economic missions. For a more detailed example, I would like to use the mission statement that I am more intimately informed about because I wrote it for my consulting firm. The mission for iAM Business Consulting reads as follows:

The mission of iAM Business Consulting is to inspire people to recognize their highest potential and give it expression in ways that are meaningful, profitable, and enjoyable (1). We aspire to make innovative marketing and mindfulness tools accessible to all individuals, who may be self-employed or employees (3), so that they can build strong personal brands and market their unique potential in authentic ways (4). Our personal branding services emphasize self-awareness, authentic differentiation, and effective communication using traditional and innovative tools like social networks and social media (4).

Our workshops and consulting services (2) are founded on a combination of research in business, science, and mindfulness to provide new ways of thinking about business challenges (5). While we provide marketing solutions to navigate the external environment successfully, we also promote mindfulness to move with ease and grace in all aspects of our lives (5). We are interested in empowering individuals to live their highest potential (4).

In writing the mission statement, I addressed all five points that are necessary for an authentic and clear communication.

(1) Clearly, the over all purpose is to inspire people to find their purpose and express the purpose profitably.

(2) The specific products include consultancy and workshops.

(3) The target market comprises individuals who may be self-employed or employed in an organization.

(4) The specific benefits to the target market focus on
building strong personal brands and marketing their unique potential in authentic ways. Our personal branding services emphasize self-awareness, authentic differentiation, and effective communication using traditional and innovative tools like social networks and social media. We empower individuals to live their highest potential.

(5) And our core competencies comprise an integrated approach
founded on a combination of research in business, science, and mindfulness to provide new ways of thinking about business challenges While we provide marketing solutions to navigate the external environment successfully, we also promote mindfulness to move with ease and grace in all aspects of our lives.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What is missing in current discussions on authentic personal branding?

In my recent tweeting past I have been reading so much about personal branding and there is much value in what is being said and taught in these forums. Yet, as I read some of this work, I have a strong feeling that something is missing in this discussion. The purpose of this posting is to reflect on what is missing in popular personal branding forums.

Many people have written about personal branding. The credit of spawning the personal branding movement perhaps goes to Tom Peters, who wrote in a famous article in Fast Company in 1997, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called 'You.'" Another contributor to this stream is Catherine Kaputa, author of the famous book, “U R a Brand!” and more recently articles like, Top 10 Ways to Use Your Female Advantage in Business.”

Two speakers that I have been following on this subject in twittersphere are Hubert Rampershad and Dan Schwabel. While there is an overlap in their message, they do have unique personal brands. I love Hubert’s emphasis on authenticity and expressing the inner genius that each of us has. Hubert teaches social media for personal branding, yet his own tweets are repeats promoting his books or his workshops and lack originality and the spark, in my opinion. On the other hand, you have to love Dan for the activity he is generating around his Blogs, videos, and engaging people with social media. Dan speaks to authenticity but his focus, in building a personal brand is slightly different from Hubert's. His definition, “Personal branding is the process of how we market ourselves to others.” speaks to his emphasis on identifying and articulating your “unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal.”

So many tweets and blog posts about personal branding – what is missing in this stream of thoughts and voices? Even though personal branding is about authentic expression of your inner genius, why is the discussion dominated by managing external expression. Even posts dedicated to expressing our “real selves” describe superficial strategies that appear to be a forced attempt at being unique and different. For example, the post, “Break Out of the Social Media Prison,” on Dan’s Personal Branding Blog, is an attempt to get people to be their “real selves.” Let’s look at the author’s suggestions to be our authentic selves:

1) “ONLY leave a comment on a blog IF you completely disagree with the author’s point of view.” So we are talking about being real, but to be “real” we need to comment only when we disagree? What if I agree and love what the person is saying – would I be more real by acknowledging my appreciation or by not commenting so I can be unique?

2) “Go through your Facebook and Twitter profiles, and un-friend/unfollow people who you are not close friends with.” The author find this very liberating and good for him. But does it mean that everyone in order to be “real” needs to follow him? No, we all go to social media sites for different reasons, to learn, to share, to grow, and we can do all that without being “intimate” with each other.

3) “Find a topic in your niche that is HOT. Find one that is very biased towards one side of the argument and write a post arguing for the other side. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with the other point of view, as long as your argument is well thought out, coherent, and makes people want to debate with you. You’ll not only stir up a great conversation online with your post, but you’ll drive more traffic to your blog and gain a new readership.” Notice that the purpose of the post was to bring out the “real” self in readers and we end up with suggestions to increase readership by writing a controversial post that we may not necessarily agree with as long as it is coherent.

I do not mean to pick on this one post, there are ample examples with other leading writers on the subject who I am sure are also writing with good intentions, but I am amazed at the superficiality and even obvious contradictions in these writings. For another example, please also read, Top 10 Ways to Use Your Female Advantage in Business” by Catehrine Kaputa.

If indeed personal branding is about clear articulation and expression of our unique selves, where is the discussion about the “self”? Who are you? And how do you get to know the real you? How do you go beyond what these Blogs, your parents, society, or anyone has every told you about you? Even if your personal brand is an expression of service and compassion to the world, how do you know that is who you really are or was that also a desirable identity imposed upon you? There are many blog posts, books, and workshops on using social media and technology to create a consistent brand identity, an impressive identity, and all of these things have their place, they are important tools, but what about the “unique you” that is dying to speak but has been thwarted by all the voices of personal branding gurus telling you how to be and what to say?

I meet people everyday who have something very unique to offer not only because of the natural gifts they were born with, but also the unique life experiences that have taught them many valuable lessons. I believe each of us has something very unique to offer but very often that gets hidden under many layers of conditioning, fears, and expectations. If we jump to a well-articulated and coherent expression of our personal brand without internal reflection of who we are, will we not be depriving ourselves of living our highest potential and a truly remarkable life?

There seems to be such a focus on our external worlds and appearances within these discussions. Reaching for our goals, a constant strife to get somewhere other than where we are right now is what we are taught. While goals are important and hard work is also important, after 40 years of an amazing life, which includes an amazing family, challenges, several academic qualifications including PhD, and professional success, I am realizing what is most important is self-awareness. As I have learnt to get more in touch with who I really am and get rid of who I am not, I am finding myself more peaceful and energized. I am learning that my inner world is creating my outer world. As I gain clarity internally I am able to more clearly manifest my external reality, not by doing, of course there is doing involved, but that doing is a natural outcome of who I am. I don’t mean to get philosophical on you but am speaking from a very practical, and even scientific perspective. If you are not familiar with the work of scientists like Bruce Lipton, I encourage you to do so because they are now showing scientifically how our inner worlds are shaping our outer worlds.

Suggestions to find Self and Purpose

Well, I hope to blog more about personal branding from this perspective of authenticity and mindfulness. In the meanwhile, I would like to leave you with some suggestions and invite suggestions from you as well, with respect to the important step in personal branding about finding your self. I understand this is a journey and not a destination. That being said, here are some ideas for your journey of self discovery:

1) Ignore everything I just said and everything else you have ever read about personal branding and listen to your own self – who are you? Not who you want to be, not what you want others to see, but who you are you?

2) I offer some suggestions to tap into your inner purpose in an exercise I have written about elsewhere. You are welcome to try that. Doing all the steps in that exercise should surface themes that are important to you in your life.

3) Devote some time (I like to spend at least 30 minutes) every day to being with your self alone – use this time to connect with your self through breathing, walking mindfully, sitting in nature, or anything else that preferably doesn’t involve much doing, but just being.

4) Devote some time to doing things that you love – could be cooking, dancing, sports, etc.

5) Try to bring some new activities in your life in the form of doing something new, or reading, or traveling to new places, or even doing the same thing but more mindfully this time.

6) Join a group that is built around mindfulness or study of the self. Being in the company of people interested in the topic will open up new doors for you to view the world and your self differently.

7) Non-judgmental acceptance and loving your self – We often hide away parts of our selves that are not perceived to be desirable by some standards. Being mindful of how we feel, listening to our body, and thoughts, without judging, just observing can be a powerful teacher about our selves. Next time you feel angry or have any negative emotion, do not rush to hide it, move to a quiet place and stay with your thoughts, simply observing and see what happens when you become the observer of your own thoughts.

These are some of the things I do to find myself a little more each day so I can express myself in ways that serve my highest purpose in authentic and mindful ways. This is my first post inspired to write about the missing element in our discussions on personal branding and I am sure there will be more thoughts about this in the future...

I would also love to hear what you do to find your authentic self....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Word Cloud for Mindful Marketers

This is the word cloud for the Mindful Marketers Blog. You can create your own at: