Maya Moore is an unmitigated basketball superstar. The former University of Connecticut standout has won four national championships in just six years. She's an Olympian, five-time all-star, and was named MVP of the WNBA in 2014. She's the engine of the Minnesota Lynx machine.
Oh, and she just announced she's voluntarily sitting out the 2019 season. Not for injury. Not because of a contract dispute.
She wants to spend the year living out her stated purpose: focusing on family and ministry work. As Moore wrote in The Players Tribune:
"My focus in 2019 will not be on professional basketball, but will instead be on the people in my family, as well as on investing my time in some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years."
For perspective, imagine one of the NBA's superstars--like LeBron James or Kevin Durant--announcing, at the height of their success, they were taking a year off to pursue their purpose.
To be fair, some of the NBA's superstars tweeted their support:
Yes, I understand that the ludicrous male/female pay disparity is on full display in the WNBA, so Moore isn't stepping away from nearly as much money. But how do we know what level of financial sacrifice it represents?
And putting all that success on hold?
Moore offers a simple explanation: "I measure success by asking, 'Am I living out my purpose?'"
There's power in defining and living with your purpose in mind. For entrepreneurs, leaders, any of us--when you know what your higher-order purpose is and keep it in front of you, it provides guidance, perspective, and focus.
In keynotes, I talk about purpose as a guide to decision-making and a source of fulfillment. Nobody ever says "What's my purpose?" is a dumb question. I do hear that defining one's purpose is lofty and intimidating, though.
It doesn't have to be.
I wrote about this in my book Make It Matter. There's a set of eight introspective questions, the answers to which can reveal and help articulate your purpose and help you make better choices on how you spend your time and energy:
1. What are my superpowers?
Everyone has them--things you're really good at. What are your greatest strengths that you can use, like a superhero, to do good for others? Discovering purpose means not only embracing what you were born to do but what you were born to do unto others. I use strengths in speaking and writing as vehicles of servitude.
2. What are my values and beliefs?
What are your non-negotiables? Staying true to them can guide you through even the most intense inner conflicts and can provide clues about your purpose.
3. What would I do for free?
What elements of your job would you do for free? What's happening when you lose track of time?
To help jumpstart your thinking, here are nine groups of basic activities that humans engage in at work. Which are you drawn to? For me, as a speaker and author, it's the third bullet.
- Discovering, innovating, and envisioning
- Nurturing, growing, developing, and counseling
- Expressing, performing, storytelling, and acting
- Designing, planning, building, and making
- Adventuring, risk-taking, and protecting
- Healing, teaching, and managing
- Investigating, experimenting, truth-seeking
- Founding, directing, and organizing
- Guiding and mentoring
4. What part of me isn't showing up at work?
We're living with purpose when we're bringing our whole selves to the workplace. Which pieces do you begrudgingly check at the door? They can provide clues for strengths locked within that you're longing to bring out.
5. What have been my happiest moments?
Your happiest moments, inside and outside of work, can foretell your purpose. Some of my happiest work related moments came when I was coaching and inspiring others.
6. What have I learned from career misfires and triumphs?
Clues to our purpose arise when considering work we didn't enjoy, struggled to excel in, or feel we weren't meant to do. Same for the opposite. I learned equally from both.
7. What deed needs doing?
What problem needs solving? What does the world need more of that you're well-suited to serve? What's your cause? It doesn't have to be an entirely new, unarticulated need. A purpose doesn't need to be unique, it just needs to be you.
8. What would others say I'm meant to do?
What strength of yours shows up so evidently at work that others would feel compelled to speak about it if asked? What would others say your "second profession" should be?
You don't have to take a year off to pursue your purpose. But you can still pursue it all year long by building it into how and why you operate each day.