What do you do?

What do you do? It’s a simple enough question, however, it’s one that many people can’t answer. Because when you get right down to it finding clarity of purpose is hard. Articulating purpose is harder still.

Hand typing on keyboardMost of us will say that we want clarity in all things. We want clarity in our relationships. We want clarity in our jobs. We want clarity in the instructions that came with the still unassembled baby crib in the next room. We want clarity of purpose.

I believe we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to know that we are spending our time doing something that matters, but most of us, we when you get down to it, are too willing to settle. Besides, the status quo is usually more appealing that clarity, and easier to live with too.

The status quo feels warm and cozy, which gives it the illusion of safety. And most people will trade almost anything they have to feel safe. A recent survey asked participants what they valued most, the top answer was “safety.” The number one answer to the same survey used to be “freedom.” But as the old saying goes, harbors are safer than the open seas, it’s just that ships were not made for harbors.

So what is it that you do?

Maybe you were never given a formal job description. Maybe the job you do is nothing like the job you were hired to do. And now you’re just maintaining and not creating like you had always hoped you would.

Like I said before, we all want to know that what we do matters, you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. But to know if what you do matters, you must first know what you do.

So can you answer the question? What is it that you do? Or perhaps we should ask the question on a larger scale. Why does where you work exist? What is it’s purpose? Many people spend their days without direction or sense of purpose because their job has become a paycheck. They’re just punching the clock.

I had the opportunity to meet with the board members of a local private, Christian school, as well as the school’s director. In the course of our time together I asked them to take three minutes and write down why their school exists. Or asked another way, what was the purpose of their school. The only rule to this exercise was that they were not allowed to write down their mission statement.

There were five people from the school in the room and three minutes later I had five different answers. And I mean five very different answers. They were not even close. There were hardly any common words. It was almost like I was meeting with representatives from five different schools. There was nothing from their published literature and very little from their website on those pieces of paper. Everyone had their own vision for the school and at the same time nobody seemed to understand the school’s mission.

This is important if you’re trying to grow something. You can’t promote what you don’t understand

So here’s the rub, there are people leading organizations who can’t articulate the why they exist. I would venture to say that they have never truly thought about its purpose.

One of the best things ever shared with me is that in order to succeed I would need to answer two important questions; Who am I? and What is my purpose?

Let me rephrase those two questions in a way that gave them greater meaning to me; Who did God create me to be? and What did he equip me to do?

I think those two questions are amazing and demand that you be honest with yourself, perhaps more honest than you usually are. I know I had to be to get the answers I needed. If you answer them based on what you want the answers to be instead of what they are you’re just wasting your time.

Progress requires honesty.

Ryan North
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Ryan North

Ryan North is the Executive Director of Tapestry, the Adoption & Foster Care Ministry of Irving Bible Church in Dallas, Texas. As Executive Director of Tapestry, Ryan also leads Empowered to Connect. He frequently writes and speaks on connected parenting and ministry leadership.
Ryan North
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