If you question your career choice, try this formula

3-simple-sentences-twenty-hats-volunteer-managersBack when I managed volunteers, there were days – and I know you’ve had them, too – when juggling staff, volunteers, and an ever-growing pile of to dos absolutely fried my energy and brought me to the edge of burnout.  And all for a salary way lower than other jobs.

Those kinds of days make you question why you ever decided to do this job in the first place.

On days like that – instead of scanning the job listings or contemplating grad school, I wish I had created my own personal mission statement to put the day-to-day in context and see the bigger picture. I wish I had tried something like Adam Leipzig’s Life Purpose Formula.

Adam Leipzig is a thought leader who attended his 25th college reunion and noticed that just about everyone was successful – but not everyone was happy.  The happy alums were the ones who chose a profession that truly aligned with their values and their sense of purpose in life. The experience prompted him to create a three-sentence formula that summed up what he did best and how it made a difference.

I used the Life Purpose Formula during the practice and live sessions of Advancing Your Volunteer Program for the AL!VE & Better Impact Hybrid Conference. That’s because we need to be very clear on what makes this work meaningful if we are going to take on the challenging role of advocating for our programs.

It’s too easy to throw in the towel if we don’t understand what drives us forward.

The Life Purpose Formula is super-simple, and rather than repeat it here, I encourage you to watch the TED Talk and discover it for yourself.

What I DO want to show are the incredibly varied and inspiring statements that my conference participants created.

  • Take this statement, from the volunteer manager for a museum. He needed only one sentence to explain how a volunteer docent does so much more than describe exhibits.

I teach docents the skills they need to meaningfully engage the public in the issues of our time so the public may better understand their place in American society and what they can do to effect positive change.

  • Or consider this statement, from a volunteer manager in county government, who understands how important her role is in fostering positive change for all of her stakeholders.

I am a motivator and leader of volunteer administration. I love to develop people and programs to benefit other professionals and the community. I do it for volunteer managers, social workers, and community partners. People need encouragement and direction. People and program transform based on their gained knowledge, current trends and results.

  • Or look at this simple statement, from a box office volunteer coordinator, who is motivated by a love for the arts.

I serve patrons for the purpose of sharing the importance of the arts – so they can experience the passion, mindfulness, and magic the arts impart.

  • Or reflect on this statement, from a professional who sees her work tied to a broad social picture.

I am a community planner, who loves to create visions and scale programs and teach others to share and build inter-generational, inclusive communities to drive positive change and create lasting results for all levels of our society.

You probably noticed that only two of these statements mention volunteers. Connecting your life purpose to volunteer engagement is not the point.

The point is to get connected with what’s most important to you, and to see if your work brings you greater meaning or pulls you away from your purpose.

Consciously or unconsciously, we are drawn to nonprofit work because we want to do BIG things in our lives.  We want to eliminate human suffering, restore the planet, elevate creativity. And we want to make a direct contribution to change – not stand to the side, writing a check or signing a petition.

When we work with men and women who give their time and talents for a cause, we nurture that same impulse to make a direct and positive impact on the world. If you find yourself proud and inspired by the actions of your volunteers, then you may have found the path to your own purpose.


Tweet this Post! If you are inspired by the Life Purpose Statements, feel free to share this message:

When #volmgmt stress gets the better of you, use this formula and re-connect with your purpose, https://goo.gl/CZ7Lkl @THNonprofit