"Purpose" has become the latest business buzzword. Millennials are leading the charge, as a generation that wants to love what it's doing. However, as our society evolves, we all start to edge up further in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow, a noted psychologist, stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people are those who are fulfilled and doing all they are capable of. But as entrepreneurs, are we really finding it?

When it comes to purpose, you might think most entrepreneurs are ahead of the game because, well, they are creating businesses on their own. However, you may want to pause and ask yourself, "Is my work really providing daily fulfillment?" If the answer is no, then you should make finding it a priority on your to-do list--for the greater good of both you and your business.

How? Well, purpose is a tricky thing. What provides it for one person doesn't necessarily for another. What I have discovered is that understanding and applying one's purpose to work is not as hard as it seems--it really boils down to asking yourself one question.

But before I dive into that big question, I want to first define purpose. Purpose, in my view, is what gives you fulfillment. It's connected to the impact of your work. I remember when I worked for a credit card company, we would regularly say "We aren't saving lives," which was a reference to the lack of personal connection we felt to the impact of our work. In reality, everyone can't be saving lives--but everyone deserves to feel as though the work they are doing is contributing to something meaningful, to them. That is where we get caught up with purpose. When you aren't clear on your own purpose, you start to think you should be doing things that are more obviously changing the world, such as volunteering in a shelter or helping starving children in Africa.

While there is nothing wrong with saving children's lives--quite the contrary--often that is a Band-Aid solution to the real problem. The problem being "I don't feel fulfilled with my day job, so I need to do something on the side that makes me feel like I am a better person."

I want to present another solution. Uncover your purpose and instill it into the majority of your work tasks. Here is the question you need to ask yourself:

What was the core challenge you faced in your life?

While we have all had varied challenges that we have faced and conquered throughout our lives, there is always one that is recurring and has significance in our lives. You need to do some digging. Think through your childhood, teenage years, college, and then all the jobs you've had or currently have. Once you figure out what that challenge is, you have the makings of your purpose.

The key is to ensure that you are in some way helping others with that specific challenge. For example, take Tim. Tim was naturally orientated around maximizing his potential. He was ambitious from an early age and was a quick learner and hard worker. He worked in his father's business and was always looking up to him for advice and support. However, his father never gave it to him. Tim was the kind of kid, and now adult, that is motivated by feedback and support. Over the course of his life, he found the support from other people that he never got from his dad. Now, Tim is fulfilled when he is able, in turn, to help people see their potential and then support them in a way that will help them maximize it.

Tim was able to take his core challenge and then turn it around and help others with that same challenge, thereby finding purpose in places he wasn't aware of before. Tim is now able to see that if he is mentoring people on his team, or others, he has a deep sense of purpose in his life and in his work.

The key is taking an awareness of a challenge you have experienced and helping others with it. The impact of helping someone else, with something that you feel a personal connection to, provides an endless sense of fulfillment.

Try it. Find that core challenge and then see how you can weave that into your existing work situation. If you struggle, then get support. Knowing your purpose and being able to create fulfillment whenever you want it is the key to accessing a kind of motivation that has no end. Who could say no to that?

Published on: Oct 1, 2014