This is a transcription of the Launch Yourself Today podcast interview with Carin Rockind, a leading expert on life purpose, women’s thriving and positive psychology, the science of human flourishing. She is the creator of PurposeGirl; a movement to empower purpose driven living and the founder of Women’s Global Happiness Day, the first-ever worldwide initiative to eradicate the women’s depression epidemic, which had 98 events in 19 countries and 6 continents in its inaugural year, 2018.
Having overcome armed robbery, domestic abuse and divorce, Carin has a way of connecting with others and showing them how to be the creator of their own lives, overcome challenges, grow from trauma and turn pain into purpose. As the former “Happiness Guru” on SiriusXM’s morning show for women, and a keynote speaker for conferences and companies including Capital One, Victoria’s Secret, AAA, BMW, and Progressive Insurance, she has helped thousands of people live to their fullest potential. Carin was one of the first 250 people to receive her master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she then served as adjunct faculty. She is currently on faculty at The Flourishing Center in New York, she is the host of the globally ranked self-help show, The PurposeGirl Podcast, and she is a best-selling author for her contribution in Pebbles In The Pond: Wave 3. Carin is a runner, writer, and dancer who lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, Josh and their labradoodle, Charlie.
Carin, thank you so much for taking time to hang with me today.
Thank you, I’m excited.
So, you call yourself ‘The Purpose Girl’. I love that, it’s very purposeful.
When you use the word “purpose” or “life purpose”, what do you mean by that?
Purpose is so heavy. I find, now that I’ve been studying purpose and teaching purpose for seven or eight years now, when I ask a room of people, “How many of you want to live your purpose?” Everybody wants it. Everybody is raising their hand. So, then I’ll ask, “What is purpose?” And no one knows.
Crickets, right. Some people start saying things like, “It’s the reason for being.” “It’s why I’m alive.” “It’s the thing that’s going to juice me up and get me going in the morning.” “It’s what will make me feel fulfilled.” The way I define purpose is, it is actively impacting the world in your own unique way and in a way that lights you up.
Now, let’s break that down. Here’s the most simple way to think about it; it is being your true self. Which is not so easy in this world. There’s a lot of people who want you to conform and want you to be a certain way. It is doing what’s truly in your heart. When you have an inkling, a desire – for you David, that might be a movie or starting this podcast and really helping people. How many people say, “Oh, I can’t do that. I won’t make it.” Or, other people tell them, “Who do you think you are?” So, it’s really being your true self.
Meaning, you know your strengths. You know your gifts. You know your talents. You know your passions. You have a sense of what you’re all about and you are doing what’s in your heart and therefor making an impact on the world. The world by the way, could be the people right around you; your family, your friends, your neighborhood. For some people, that’s going to be the world at large. There is no hierarchy to purpose. I feel like we’ve gotten really screwed up. I call them “The Purpose Myths”.
I think we’ve gotten really screwed up around purpose. Number one, we make the mistake in thinking that purpose is a noun. People are like, “It’s my purpose to be a teacher,” or is it to be a filmmaker or is it to be an architect? And the answer is, all of the above and none of the above. Purpose is not to be a parent or to be a teacher. Maybe back generations ago, people had one career or they were stay at home or they worked out of the home. But that’s not how we are anymore. We want to do multiple things. Look at you, you’re a filmmaker, a marketer and a podcaster – you have many talents and you want to share them all. So, purpose cannot be a noun. Purpose is a verb or a series of verbs. For example; to encourage, to inspire to support.
The next purpose myth is that purpose has to be huge. I call this “The Oprah Complex”. So, it’s like, be as big as Oprah or impact people in the same way that Mother Theresa does, or go home. Like, “Oh, it’s not going to be worth it if I just do something small.” No, that’s not true. I look at the world like an ecosystem and every single person is needed, making their contribution. My best friend, her purpose is to help people be brave and she is the woman who, with her two sons when they were growing up, all around their bathroom mirror were statements like, “Be brave”, “You can do it”. She turned their toilet seat into a throne for a king. She puts a note in their lunch every day and they’re in their mid-teens. But she looks at what I do and she’s like, “I would never want to be out there like you are.” Each of us is needed, just in our own way. Thirdly, we have this idea that we’re going to find our purpose, like we’re trying to find our keys or find our car in the parking lot at Christmas time. I don’t like to use that word. I like to use the word “uncover”. Because purpose is really inside of you. It is knowing who you are and what juices you up and living that. So, there are all these myths around purpose and I think it’s best simplified as really being yourself, doing what’s in your heart and therefore impacting others. Because the more you are doing what lights you up, you’re going to light other people up. And that’s being purposeful.
I love how you said that there’s no hierarchy when it comes to purpose. I can sometimes feel that way. And I hear other people feel that way, like, “I just don’t do much in life.” Or, “This is not that meaningful.” That’s very powerful. How did you begin to uncover your purpose in life?
When I was a kid, I grew up in the suburbs of Michigan and my parents, bless their hearts, they have been in love since they were 14. They have been married for 54 years and my grandparents were married for 68 years, they were also holocaust survivors. What I witnessed was, happiness equals getting married. Find your husband, live in a house, do the thing that you’re supposed to do. So, I went off into 8th grade where my parents met and thereafter in college to find my husband. And I did. I tried to pursue this perfect life. I thought that was what purpose was. I thought that was what happiness was.
So, by 22, I was married to a tall, dark and handsome lawyer. By 24, we lived in a big suburban house. We had a golden retriever. You can picture it, right? We made thanksgiving dinner. And I’ll tell you Dave, I was really unhappy. I would cry all the time. I just felt so empty inside. Something was in me, wanting to come out. I just felt like something was missing and my husband got sick of me crying. He would say to me, “What’s wrong with you?” And I would say, “I’m not happy.” And he would say, “We are happy. Look, we have season football tickets. We are happy. We have everything we have ever wanted.” And I thought something really was wrong with me, because I did have what I thought would make me happy. All that kept coming to me was, “I feel like I’m here for something. I feel like I have a purpose.” We ended up getting divorced at 26. This is not that podcast; we can do that over cocktails. But I began my journey to understand, “What is happiness?” And one of the things that I started doing was, listening to what would light me up. Someone suggested that I start volunteering, so I called a youth group of high school girls. The next thing I know, I started working with forty high school girls who were just so jazzed about life and looking ahead at what they wanted to do and who they wanted to be. Several of them had eating disorders and several of them felt like they weren’t as smart as their older brother or as pretty as that other girl. I just found this real love for seeing each one of them for who they were. What they found as not that attractive, I thought was the most adorable thing I’d ever seen. And I could just say, “Dave, everybody comes to you for creativity. That’s your thing. Let’s do that.” I just found this love for inspiring these girls and seeing them and motivating them and being in this place of empowering. I was happier than I had ever been and I thought, “What is this? This juicy feeling in my body?” And I went, “Oh, this is purpose.”
I came to understand that this feeling was making an impact and using my own strengths and following my truth. I was making a difference in a way that lit me up. That was purpose. So, then I was like, “Okay, how do I do this?” Around that same time – there were no blogs at this time, it was back in the days of message boards online – this tells you how long ago it was. I found a message board for other young divorced women and I kept responding to women, “You’ve got this.” “We can do it.” Next thing you know, they make me the leader of the board. So, my whole life outside of work, became around women empowerment and girl’s empowerment, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn that into a career.
I tried to fit my purpose into a noun and I thought, “Well, does this mean that my theory, that purpose is not a noun, is wrong?” I started asking myself, “Should I be a high school teacher?” I went and I talked to someone at an admissions program for a Masters in teaching and education and someone said, “What do you want to teach? Math? English?” I said, “Self-love.” So, there was no equivalent. I had Oprah complex, go big or go home. Which is how I realized that that was a myth and I became severely depressed. I couldn’t figure out the path to my purpose and how to live it. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a career and I became severely depressed. If only I had kept following it. I know differently now.
I went back into a relationship with another lawyer, with another BMW. Trying to live the same thing as before. I ended up leaving that unhappy as well. And then one day, at this point I was living in Cleveland, Ohio and I was walking home from a bad blind date. I was laughing about it on the phone with my sister. She lived in California at the time and I was like, “Oh, my God. He was so awful,” and when I go to put my key in my condominium door, the next thing I felt was hot breath on my neck. I turn around and I am nose to nose with a very sad looking young man. He’s got these huge black eyes and he’s looking into my eyes and I said to him, “Are you going inside?” I thought maybe he had a friend who lives in the building or an aunt or something. And then he looks into my eyes and he looks down at my belly and pulls a gun.
I screamed and I fell to floor. I put my hands over my head and I’m saying, “Please don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me.” I look up and the gun is at my left temple and I’m thinking, “Okay, this is it. This is the end of my life.” These moments of my life, like my eight birthday party flashed across my mind and I thought, “Okay, God. It’s been a good life. Tell my parents ‘Thank you’.” And then some other voice came over me and she said very calmly, “Oh, no. You were put on this Earth for purpose and people need you.” So, I said, ‘Okay, God. If you let me live, I promise I will pursue that purpose.” And just at that moment, the man took my purse and he ran. So, right then, I just made a decision.
It sounds kind of cliché to say, “If there was a gun pointed at your head, what would you regret never having done?” But it’s not cliché for me, because I actually lived it. And since then, that’s how I’ve decided to live my life. I know what that’s like and I just made a decision, “I’m going to pursue this purpose no matter what.” I made a list of things, “What do I have to do?” And one of the first things I wanted to do was to get an education in empowering people. Like okay, now I had a cool gun story, but now how do I do that?
Someone turned me onto positive psychology; the scientific study of human flourishing and happiness. I started reading about it. It’s a fairly new field. It was started at the University of Pennsylvania and I just started crying. I learned that they had a Master’s program and I applied. By the grace of God, I got in. I turned in my notice at my six-figure vice president job. I was living in Cleveland and I had a boat. I sold my boat. I rented out my condominium and I moved across the country to become a poor graduate student at 36 and start life over.
Wow. What do you think holds someone back from going down that road of uncovering their purpose? There’s so many people that are just comfortable. Maybe they don’t even think about purpose. Maybe it’s not even on their radar and they’re going, “Hey, I’m just going to work this job. Live this life. Have kids.” Maybe they are happy in the midst of that, but there’s not this greater sense of purpose. What’s the difference between somebody who’s decided that they want to uncover their purpose, versus somebody who’s just comfortable living day to day, nine to five?
Well, I can tell you the research and then I can give you my opinion. So, according to the research, we will never know, “Does everyone has a purpose?” We can’t scientifically know that. What we do know is people who identify as having purpose, are happier and have higher life satisfaction. They’re more resilient to challenges. They are more optimistic and better able to overcome. So, that’s what we know. Does everyone have purpose? I personally believe that we do. What I also believe is that some people – and this may be because of our souls and the depth of our souls, or maybe the age of our soul, but everyone’s always told me I have an old soul. Maybe they’ve always told you that too. For some reason, some people don’t have this yearning or this deep desire to know, “Why am I here?” I’ve got to tell you, I used to envy those people.
Right? Me too. Why can’t we just go to work, come home and watch football on the weekend and then we’re good?
And be happy. What do those people have going on that I don’t? I actually always thought my ex-husband and some people I went to high school with were like that and I envied them. My best friend likes to say that some of us are abyss walkers. It’s like we’re walking through the abyss of life and that’s just how we’re made up. And some of us have a deep sense or a yearning. Now some of it might have to do with socio-economic status and what you’re thinking about. Because if we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if you don’t have food, that’s what you’re spending your time thinking about. So, if we just take the people who say that they’re happy, that’s fine. I don’t need to mess someone’s life up and say, “No, you’re not.”
“You would be happier. You could really be happier.”
“No, you’re not happy!” I don’t need to do that. What I’m focused on, are people – men or women, who feel like they are here for something. They don’t know what it is, and don’t know where to start to figure it out, but they feel that longing. Because when you do feel that longing, it means that there is something in you that’s wanting to come out. Does it mean a career change? Maybe. Does it mean a relationship change? Maybe. Does it have to? Not necessarily. What’s really happening, I believe, is that when we look at kids, kids are kind of just living their purpose. You see kids being their true selves. If they want to dance naked, they dance naked. If they want to sit in a corner and read, they sit in a corner and read. Then there are all of us adults, who know better, who come along and say, “You can’t do that.”
One of my coaching clients, she would sit in the corner and she would read. She would take notes. Whenever she first learned to write, she would make little notes and she just loved to read. As she got older, she would have to do this in secret because her mom would always say, “You’re so shy.” So, she developed this label of “shy”, and this thinking that she’s supposed to be an extrovert. It’s fine to be this whole way that she wasn’t, but what she really wanted was to create her drawings that she was doing in her journal and to create writing that goes with them. Did she end up turning that into a career that she made money on? No. Is she doing it though now? Yes. And is it filling her? Yes.
Another one of my coaching clients, she was always really bright and gregarious. She loved to dance and loved to do cartwheels and entertain others. She’s first generation American and she grew up in a very strict Indian family. They would say to her, “No more dancing. No more cartwheels. Study. Study. Study.” So that’s what she did. And then when I met her, she was a pharmacist. She was actually my pharmacist, that’s how I met her. I love pharmacists, but when you are colorful and you really want to be out there, standing behind a counter in a long white coat, there’s very little color in that. Unless somebody can do it differently.
We don’t want you to be creative in that job.
Right, exactly. We want you to be very analytical. So, she ended up suppressing this passion she had. This is where I think depression comes from, pressing down our true self. As we discovered who she really is and what she’s really about, she ended up actually becoming a model and getting modelling contracts. She could finally be her bright self. She did that fulltime for a while. Now she’s doing something else, but the doing and the job isn’t even as important as the being. It’s both. So, she was being who she was and doing what was in her heart. And when you’re living that way, you’re going to impact others.
I think that we yearn to make a contribution to something larger than ourselves and I think if you have that yearning, you have to answer it. There’s someone I know who also graduated from my graduate program, I was her advisor on her thesis. She created the term “Purpose Anxiety”. A lot of people have purpose anxiety out there, you know that you want to live your purpose, but you don’t know what it is.
It seems like there’s a longing – a yearning, “There’s got to be something more,” and that’s one thing that drives people towards purpose. I use the word “stuck” a lot. People just kind of feel stuck and I think that’s also connected to that longing. Maybe it’s one step before the longing, “This doesn’t feel right. I don’t know what else I could do. I feel stuck.”
I think the other thing that kind of precipitates this journey towards purpose and uncovering purpose, is pain. Whether it’s the loss of a relationship, the loss of a child, the loss of a job, the loss of a dream or a health scare or having a diagnosis. All of those things seem to ignite people in this need to uncover their purpose. Do you find that as well?
One hundred percent. I actually call that “Pain to Purpose”. You’ve just so well identified the different pathways that people use to find their purposes. Like you said, some people have that longing and they’re searching and some people actually want purpose because they saw it modeled from other people. If you want to teach purpose or look at purpose with adolescence, there’s a great book out there by Bill Damon, which really covers the social modelling idea.
And then there’s pain to purpose. Like you said, a lot of people are familiar with the term post-traumatic stress disorder. You go through a trauma, like any of the ones that you just mentioned and you go down into depression and anxiety. In positive psychology, there are researchers; Tedeschi and Calhoun, who have looked at post traumatic growth. We all know people who go through a trauma, like Susan’s Komen’s sister – Susan Komen died of breast cancer, so her sister created the Komen Foundation to ensure that we’d find a cure. Or the founders of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. What happened? A child was lost to drunk driving. So, those situations are examples of post traumatic growth. When we take trauma and it leads us to a new possibility. And I actually think that’s the most powerful thing.
When I work with people to uncover their purpose or what it is that they really want to be and who they are and what they want to be doing, one aspect to look at are your strengths. Which is who you are, how you show up, your strengths of character; creative, kind, natural leader. One is your skills, that’s what you do well. So, filmmaking, speaking, advising. One are your passions; people have different passions. And then the fourth aspect is your wisdom and that comes from your life experience.
No two people have had the same life experience. So, your life experience Dave, moving to California at sixteen and what you went through fitting in and all, that is going to give you a different perspective and that’s part of your unique purpose to live. Then mine, when I was sixteen, I was just entering in a relationship. My first love was with a girl and then she ended up abusing me. So, that gives me wisdom. That’s a big piece of how I think we do pain to purpose.
Just this past Sunday, my wife and I were at church and I was looking at a young couple, they were in their early twenties and I could see there was probably a little bit of a challenging dynamic going on. I came home and I told my wife, “You know that feeling we had when we were in our twenties? Where you felt so unstable? There was this instability and you were trying to figure things out and there was this nervousness and anxiety?” We were just laughing and I go, “I don’t feel that anymore.” I just turned 46, and I now look back on the last 25 years and go, “I have so much more self-awareness having been processing these things and asking that question, ‘What is my purpose and who are the people that I’m walking with in that process?’”
I think as a young person, you have that sense of, “I need to find my purpose.” It can be really painful. Just even asking that question and wrestling through that and asking yourself, “Who are the people I can trust? Is there a significant other or life partner that can journey with me in this purpose?” Not that it gets better over time, but that’s the goal. Over time you grow in your skills, you grow in your self-awareness. You grow in your wisdom through those painful experiences. So, for those of you listening, not that I’m old, but I do think it gets better. It can get better over time.
I agree and we’re all on our own journeys. Some people just stay in that stuck place for twenty or thirty years, wanting to avoid it. And then suddenly they are turning 50 and go, “Oh, God. I don’t know that I can do this anymore.” Or maybe their partner leaves and then they have a waking up. Or their kids are leaving the house and they say to themselves, “Okay, now I finally have to deal with this.” So, at some point it’s going to hit you. One of the things I think about is if we sweep shit under the rug long enough, it’s going to start to stink. Eventually somethings going to come up. So, what you just described Dave, is really using your life to get to that place of self-awareness and self-acceptance, “This is who I actually am and I’m going to live this way.”
That self-acceptance is hard. Especially when it comes to my own weaknesses, I’m super clear on my weaknesses and I hate them. You know what I mean? I hate those weaknesses. I wish I didn’t have those weaknesses. But they’re my weaknesses, if I didn’t have those weaknesses, I’d have different weaknesses. And they’re connected to my strengths, of course. Because our greatest strengths are connected to our greatest weaknesses. But it also means, as I’m living out my purpose, I’m thinking, “How do I set up my life in a way so that I can try to avoid situations where I can minimize my weaknesses?” As I’m living out my purpose, I now know when there’s a scenario that I don’t want to be in because I’ve learned that through self-awareness. I’ve learned how it’s going to impact me. I’ve learned that it’s going to impact my happiness.
Like, for me, I was a pastor ten years ago. I had fifteen people that reported to me. That was the biggest staff that I had ever led; fifteen direct reports. I hated it. I hate managing people. I have a really high bar of expectation because I have a high bar of expectation for myself. So, because of my purpose and knowing myself, I needed to set my life up in a way that I’m not hurting others and where I can focused on what I’m good at, so I can just let other people focus on what they’re good at. But I it takes time, Carin. It’s not something you do overnight. That’s a lifelong journey.
Absolutely, it’s a lifelong journey. And let’s remember, we’re supposed to enjoy the journey. Sometimes I think, maybe our purpose is just to be happy. We do know from the research that people who are living their purpose are happier, but it’s like, “What makes you happy?” And the truth is, that focusing on your weaknesses is never going to make you happy.
It’s the worst.
The worst. Listen, we all have to do things we don’t love, but when your primary work is just something that bucks against your values or you’re in an environment that is against your values or you have to consistently perform tasks, whatever it might be, that you just hate, that’s not why we’re here. I really think each of us was put here to enjoy this life and enjoy what there is. I don’t know how much you know about positive psychology, but in psychology, since the beginning of time, it has always looked at what’s wrong with people, “We’re going to diagnose you as having depressive disorder or anxiety disorder.”
About twenty years ago, a very famous professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Seligman, was president of the American Psychological Association and he said to the field at large, “We’ve done ‘normal’ or ‘regular’ people,” and I say that with quotes because which one of us is normal? “But we’ve done people a disservice. We’ve focused so much on illness, that we’ve forgotten about wellness. And the absence of illness is not wellness.” Just because you don’t have cancer, doesn’t mean you’re healthy. You have to eat well; you have to exercise.
So positive psychology is really like, “What’s the salad for my mental health? What’s the treadmill for my emotional health?” It’s really knowing your strengths and working toward those. Focusing on that instead of ruminating about your weaknesses and what’s wrong with you. I’m a recovering ruminator. I have to train my brain every single day. I make sure to find opportunities to really enjoy life and to be living in a way that’s in alignment with my purpose, so that I can thrive.
Some people say, “But, I’ve got to improve my weaknesses.” Well, you know what? When I was in corporate America, every year on my performance evaluation, it didn’t matter what boss I had or what company I worked for, they would always tell me I needed to be able to manage details better. Okay, you know what? I could work on it so hard and maybe get a centimeter better. But how about instead, if I just know that I’m really great at big picture thinking, I’ll surround myself with people who are really great at getting it done. Now, you can be happy in life. And listen, as a solopreneur, you have to do everything. But maybe you can find a barter or you can find a way to work creatively with a friend to find a way to focus on your strengths and to do the things that light you up. And then you’re going to be living your purpose and you’re going to be happier.
Doing the things that light you up, that’s the key. If somebody wants to uncover their purpose and they’re trying to figure it out, whether they’re feeling stuck or they’re longing for something more; maybe they’ve just come out of a painful situation, how would you encourage them to begin? What are some next steps they could take?
Great question. First of all, I actually have a free resource on my website at www.purposegirl.com. It’s called the Living Your Purpose Guide and it is a mini e-book workbook with a bunch of questions that will start getting you thinking. Anytime we’re stuck, it just means, “I’m not quite happy where I am, but I don’t quite know what I want.” We need to get something going in there. It’s totally free. You just go to my website www.purposegirl.com, and it’s right there on the homepage. You download it and it will just begin by asking you questions so you can start getting into, “Who am I?” Or, “What are some aspects of me?”
I think sometimes, we say, “Well, if you could do anything, what would you do if money weren’t an object?” We become deer in headlights because our brain doesn’t work like that. Rather, we need to do some different exercises. So, an example; think about what I call “Positivity Words”. The way that your brain works, is that when you’re in a place of stress or negativity, you’re in fight flight. When you’re in that place, your brain narrows to focus on the sabretooth tiger at hand. So, you can’t really uncover or discover your purpose in that environment. You actually have to be in a positive place. What we know from neuroscience is that positivity opens your brain. So, as exercise, take a moment every morning; take a few minutes for deep breathing and listen to a song that you love, that makes you want to dance. Or journal out three things, “I’m grateful for… I’m proud of… I’m excited about…” I do this every morning and it really gets your brain into this place of positivity.
Another example, are a couple of prompts you can try. One, you can begin with, “I’m inspired by…” Start taking an inventory of who inspires you. Come up with five or six people and figure out what they have in common. One of my clients did this exercise and every single person on her list was an attorney. Every single one and it was like, “Huh?” And she said, “The truth is, when I was younger, I did want to be an attorney, but my dad thought that was a stupid idea because he owns a big company and he thought I should take it over one day.” So, even though purpose is not to be an attorney, every single person on her list was an attorney by trade, but they were also out there making social impact. So, now she’s applying to law school. Not because she wants to sit behind a desk and be an attorney. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at the same time, she’s been applying for Planned Parenthood. She’s the first woman in Alabama to talk publicly about her abortion. Like, okay, we’re all about social justice here. Inspiration is a great place to start.
Just for fun, I love this prompt; “I love me when…” When do you love being you? What are all the places and all the ways that you love being yourself? Have some fun with it. Anytime you get frustrated, you’ve got to come back to joy. “I’m interested in…” Go for a walk through the bookstore and notice what interests you. Keep your mind off of the nouns. No nouns yet. You’ve got to first be in a place of discovery and the Living on Purpose Guide will help you with that. Doing some of these will help you also.
Another way to do it is, “What do you get jealous of other people over?” Or, “What do you regret in your life?” Typically, whatever you’re jealous of other people over, it gives you a clue of maybe something that would excite you or interest you. It doesn’t have to be your ultimate purpose, but we’ve got to get you into a place of positivity and enjoying life. And then, you will start being more open and receptive to what’s inside. What happens is, like my client who was told, “No more dancing,” her truth was inside, but it had to be covered up because it wasn’t safe in her family to be her true self. So, we’ve got to get you back into a place where you’re enjoying life and where you feel safe. That’s when things can start clicking. Those are just a few ideas, but there really are many more. I love helping people uncover their purpose and how to live it.
I love that. The whole idea of purpose as a noun and I feel like I’m called to be a “blank” or my purpose is to be a “blank”. For my wife, I think she knew pretty early on that she wanted to be a teacher; she’s a kindergarten teacher. And yet, I think that’s just the context that she finds herself in. She really is caring for twenty-four students for a year and all of their families. So, she not only loves and nurtures and cares for the kids, but she loves and nurtures and cares for the whole family unit. She’s really passionate as she’s gotten older and grown, it’s not just about teaching kids to read and write and do math, but it’s caring for that whole family.
I know for me, when I was 18, I felt like I was supposed to be a pastor. After doing that for ten years, I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I really just didn’t like it. But now, over the course of 25 years, I can see that golden thread of all these things that I’ve done. I’ve done all these films and people go, “Oh, you’re a filmmaker.” I go, “You know, I really don’t even care about film. I don’t even care about the making. I enjoy parts of it, but what I care about is the story and that it’s helping someone.” Every one of the films has covered social justice issues and it’s always been about the people. I’m not the guy who’s going to sit down and watch a film and break it down for you. I just love the popcorn and the movie and the dark room. But to make a film for a specific purpose; it’s the story.
I love what you’re saying, it’s not the noun, it’s not the title, but it’s, you be you and then do what lights you up. And then you’ll be helping the world in the process.
Yes, and what I’m hearing for you is, inspiring people through your work. There are these themes and since I think of purpose as a verb or a series of verbs and certainly as we grow and evolve, verbs can change and you can add verbs. But for you, there’s this idea of inspiring people or helping people live a better life and there’s also something there about storytelling. This is storytelling.
I love what you said about themes. That’s another exercise that’s in the Living on Purpose Guide; looking back at your peek experiences. Abraham Maslow, one of the most famous psychologists alive, said that a peak experience is a moment of transcendence and awe. You might think of it when you’re at Grand Canyon. Well, I also think of it as, we’ve all had moments that are like breadcrumbs. Moments when we felt lit up. When we felt in alignment. If you take a look at all your jobs or your life and figure out when you had those moments. Even if it goes back to middle school, it doesn’t matter if you were ten. What were those moments? And like you said, what is the golden thread or the theme?
For me, when I had looked back to when I was younger, I was a summer camp counsellor. So, again, it was always about empowering, inspiring, caring for and nurturing these younger people. When I was in college, I ran sorority rush for the entire university; like 1000 women. I went to the University of Michigan, so it’s a huge school and 1000 women came through rush. Again though, it was this caring for and nurturing younger women to go through this experience. So, there’s always been that.
I think that we can often become afraid of following our passions or we can’t figure out the job title. Start doing something even as a volunteer or do it in a small way through YouTube. There’s so many amazing ways now, through YouTube and social media. You can write and publish your own book. There’s so many ways to be doing that and all you need to know is, what’s the next thing? And the other thing to consider is, “Who do I like to impact?”
So, I know you coach women in a one on one setting, but you also speak in corporate environments. So, if we have people that are listening that are either leading or managing in a corporate environment, sell them on the benefits on helping their employees find their purpose. I ask that question, because I think some corporations want to try to hold onto that employee, because they feel like they’ve spent all this time, energy and money hiring them, “We need to keep them. I don’t want them figuring out something that might not include me.”
Right, exactly. It’s so interesting for my career and what lights me up, because I love both coaching an individual, “What are you really here for?” And empowering them. And then I love going into Capital One – I was the keynote speaker at their women’s conference a few months ago. I love both sides. Both sides are me, and they’re both true. The truth is that the majority of people out there aren’t going to leave and start their own business and they don’t have to. When we get down to, “What wisdom have you learned from your pain?” “What are your strengths?” You can live that right where you are. Maybe not in the exact role that you have at that company or maybe in another way or maybe you could pick up a side-hustle, either inside or outside of the company.
It’s interesting, research has been done by Deloitte and by a couple of other firms, but we know that people want meaning right now more than money. The youngest generation, especially. So, the millennials, who are the youngest in the workforce future, they have identified in research studies, that they prefer meaning over money. Yes, they’ve got to pay their bills, but this is a particular group of people who really want to know that your company has a higher purpose. They want to know that you give a darn about something. And they want to know that the contribution and the work that they’re doing, even if it’s pushing papers, is contributing to something larger. So, it’s really important. It’s ultimate important right now for companies to be focused on purpose.
The other thing is, I think we’re kind of in a purpose crisis at the moment. What I’m seeing is people of every generation want purpose right now. So, millennials want meaning. We’ve got the boomers, who are still in the workforce because they’ve got still a lot of life. They have longevity and they’ve got a lot of life ahead of them. They want to stay active and want to stay in the workforce. And then we’ve got Gen Xers, like you and me, and we’ve learned from our parents, we’re supposed to do the right thing. We’re supposed to have this job and to do it. But we’re also learning from the younger generations, that even though we did what we were supposed to do, we ended up unhappy.
So, every generation right now is seeking purpose and a company can do two things. One, they can ask themselves, “What is our overall purpose beyond making money?” I was leading a half-day executive retreat for Victoria Secret recently and I’m with all their executives and said to them, “Write on a piece of paper, what do you see the purpose of your business as? What is the higher reason you’re here?” And then as a group, I said, “Let’s now get down to, what do you want customers saying about you when they walk into the store and when they walk out? What do you want your associates feeling about working here? What do you want the communities that your stores are in to think about your presence?” One man, he led the creative team for a particular business unit, he was in tears and he said, “I want every woman who walks in to feel beautiful. I have a 17 year old girl and I don’t know that she feels that right now.” It was like this moment of, “We’re not just here to sell perfume and a bra. We’re here to make women feel beautiful.”
“Okay, now, what does that mean in terms of how each employee shows up?” And it got them thinking in a different way and they got to do that together as a group. It was so powerful. This man was crying and thinking about his 17 year old girl. Once you have this idea, include other people in the purpose. It gets you to those questions, “What do you want people to feel and experience and know about you? What do you want the industry saying about you?” Now you can take it to the individual and when you are in performance review, you can get into these aspects. I love teaching companies how to do this. To support someone in knowing their own strengths and their own passions and their wisdom and how then their purpose can align with the company purpose is really powerful.
Many people are willing to do something on the side. And maybe that’s planning all the employee get-togethers or it’s creating the company newsletter. Some of these tech companies will give their employees 24 hours to work on anything. These employees are wanting to stay all night to work on something and they’re not being paid extra. The best ideas come from that. So, your employees really want to live purposefully within your business. Give them the chance to do so.
We will obviously point people toward the free resource that you mentioned as well the opportunity to connect with you via coaching. I’m assuming you coach people via Skype, so they don’t have to live in your area?
Absolutely. I only have one local client, actually. It’s always a pleasure when she comes, because I get to hug her and say “Hello”. But people can find me at www.purposegirl.com and of course on any social media; Carin Rockind.
Carin, thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom and energy and vibrant perspective on purpose. Thank you so much.
It’s been my honor. Thanks for having me Dave.