Elevate Purpose to Improve Performance

Avoid the comfort trap. I recently read a post by Steve Keating titled The Benefit of Living an Uncomfortable Life. The post reminded me of my own bipolar relationship with comfort. I’m bipolar because I want comfort, but I also want to make a difference. Steve reminds us that comfort doesn’t change anything. We must be uncomfortable to make a difference.

Comfort is a Poor Goal

I realized comfort is a default goal. A pursuit of comfort squeezes out all but our most elevated goals. Comfort will even take our highest goals if they’re too low, or if we reach a saturation point. For example, if money or leisure is your goal, at some point you’ll reach a saturation point and comfort will take over.

"Comfort is an expense no organization can afford." Steve Keating

Our highest goals serve others. Servant leadership, especially that which is based on our own best character, puts other people and their needs ahead of our own. We serve a team rather than an individual. Notice how the number of people served immediately elevates any goal. Want to help someone else? Great! Want to help many others? Even greater.

Our most elevated goals demand our best energy. When you help your team focus on their highest goals, they find new energy. When any of us are engaged in something important to us, something where our personal stakes are high, we find new energy and enthusiasm. Energy follows value. If we value a goal or a dream, we find energy for it.

But we also get distracted. That’s why we need to create habits to remember our goals. Often our most important goals get forgotten because we become absorbed in urgent matters, like screaming customers or bosses. Without discipline and strength, the urgent drowns out the important.

Our highest goals align with our greatest values and make the biggest impact for the most people. A customer service person can view their job as simply answering questions. Or they can view it as helping people. They can see their work as handling complaints or making lives better. The view and the perspective affects our attitude.

Elevate Your Goals

A quick exercise to elevate your goals:

  1. Brainstorm verbs and phrases about what you do for 15 minutes.
  2. Write down everything that comes to mind.
  3. Take a break. Get involved in something else for a few minutes or a day.
  4. Review the list and ask yourself which of those entries resonate most with you. Why?
  5. Are any missing? If so, add them and rank them.

Did you forget your family, your legacy, and your long-term goals? If so, go back and do the exercise again. Once you’ve completed the exercise, notice where you spend most of your time and energy. If you notice a disconnect between what you value and what you do, make the adjustment. Place reminders for yourself to spend time every day, week, or month on the top goals.

Comfort is Your Warning

Let comfort be a stoplight for you. When you sense a team member or yourself pursuing comfort, consider that a challenge. Take the challenge and refocus on your elevated purpose. As you identify and focus on your highest goals, or when your team members do as well, you will find new energy. Connect your values, goals, and your daily activities to increase energy, engagement, and performance.