An entrepreneur’s “why” doesn’t usually change. But how that purpose plays out to live a fulfilling life certainly can.
As entrepreneurs, there is strength in uncovering why we do things and leveraging this to build a business and life by design. A purpose clarifies what we’re good at while helping us achieve fulfillment. It serves as an essential filter; we should only do things that fit our why and avoid those that don’t. And as the Japanese concept of Ikigai demonstrates, aligning what we do with who we are—and pursuing it passionately—can even make us healthier.
But while a purpose is part of our DNA, lives and goals evolve based on the stages of entrepreneurship and where we’re at in life. A 25-year-old startup founder focused on conquering the world has a different perception of success from another entrepreneur with 20 years under their belt.
This is why introspection and self-analysis are an ongoing process that’s crucial to living life by design.
Defining (and redefining) the meaning of success
What is success to you? For some, it means making a lot of money, though money is usually only a means to an end. Others want a “lifestyle business” that largely runs without them, enabling its founders to focus on other pursuits. Still others do it to create a lasting legacy or retire comfortably. And there are always those who need a bunch of things going on—often, multiple businesses—to stay busy and satisfied.
My ideal life has changed a few times, but figuring out what it was became clearer when I discovered my why. I had decided to run my first business, Fit2Go, because entrepreneurship was always a passion, and I craved being the master of my destiny and the opportunity to build something from the ground up. Of course, making money was also a big factor, though I eventually realized that it was merely a tool to live the life I wanted to lead. But then I uncovered my purpose, and it radically shifted how I spent my time, along with my objectives.
My why is to empower others to live a life by design. And after I figured this out, I shifted my focus from process, product, and margins to empowering my team members to achieve their own personal and professional goals. Doing so resulted in achieving many of the other business goals I’d been chasing—but not quite catching—for years.
Operations ran smoother as individuals were empowered and stepped up. Helping others renewed my energy and engagement with the business, also freeing me to focus on what I’m good at. Ultimately, this purpose helped the company succeed and, yes, make money. But eventually, my ideal life felt different from what it was when I started the business. When I decided it was time to move on, I sold the company to some of the people in which I’d placed renewed effort. And I was happier and more fulfilled along the entire journey because I helped them achieve their ideal life. Now, it was time for me to find my new ideal life aligned with my purpose.
My purpose also drives my current business, as The Profit Recipe is dedicated to helping other entrepreneurs succeed. My idea of success is doing what I love with people I like, making a good living at it, and being able to spend time with my young kids. Of course, my life isn’t perfectly ideal (no one’s is!), but this shift helped me get closer to what I was looking for. And I feel happier than ever with the amount of impact I’m having and the relationships I’m cultivating.
Nevertheless, I know this ideal can and probably will change at some point.
But my purpose won’t!
Hitting a moving target
As entrepreneurs, we’ve got to evaluate our stage of professional and personal life to know what makes us tick.
An artist driven by perfecting their craft may pursue that end in some form or fashion for an entire life. A salesperson who gets a charge out of ‘making it rain’ could go after big deals for decades. So could people who love building teams and thrive off of the energy of others. But whatever form a purpose takes, it’s only half the battle toward fulfillment. We must also understand where our why can take us.
In short, a purpose is about what we love to do, whereas an ideal life is where we want to be right now and where we’re going. When these two elements are fused, entrepreneurs get a very clear sense of their target.
As I’ve worked with and observed hundreds of leaders go through their purpose discovery, many always want to stay where they are at that moment. They might start and sell that first company, followed by another and another; the challenge keeps them energized and fulfilled. Some individuals do that for decades but then decide to focus their energy and time on their family or travel. Others end their business careers but decide philanthropy is a great way to stay engaged and align with the purpose of helping others.
The key is to recognize why we do things—and what aligns with our superpowers and motivates us—and tailor this motivation to the stage of entrepreneurship we’re in and what we want. These elements serve as an exceptionally clear guide and filter for how to spend our time and energy.
In the end, humans are designed to be perpetual motion machines. And some of the unhappiest people I’ve ever met are those who sell a successful business but spin their wheels over what to do next. Instead, find something that motivates you and put in some work to identify what makes you tick. Know what a fulfilling life looks like for you—and go after it!
What’s my ideal life?
Right now, it’s doing what I’m doing, but more of it. At my age, I’m still looking to build. I’m aiming to scale the impact I have—not only with companies I work with directly but by mentoring and coaching others to do the same. Along with a family focus on weekends and a health focus in the early mornings, my ideal life is a balancing act of empowering entrepreneurs and leaders to evolve so that together, we can change our communities one company at a time.
This perfectly aligns with my purpose and moves me closer to an ideal life every day. But as satisfied as I am with my present course, I know this could eventually change. Heck, I know it will change as I get to a certain age—though I’ll always want to devote my energy to empowering others.
Understanding the why is job number one; it serves as a north star throughout our entrepreneurial journey. But the other piece of the puzzle remains determining where we are and where we want to go—defining and redefining what success means to us at specific stages of entrepreneurship and life.
What comes next may change along with your evolving goals. But as long as the next step aligns with a fundamental purpose, the journey will be a good one.
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