May 4th, 2021

Written by Katy Winship


/ˈpəːpəs/ - noun

The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

'The purpose of the meeting is to appoint a trustee'

Similar: Motive, Motivation, Grounds, Cause, Impetus, Reason, Goal, Intention

If you haven’t already guessed, I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to have purpose. The coronavirus pandemic has got everybody thinking about, well, almost everything in their lives as we’ve all had a bit more time to ourselves in the last year. Nothing made us appreciate our privilege more than the clapping for carers that we all took part in weekly from the warmth of our doorsteps and many have made some life-changing decisions as a result. Undeniably, this time has made many of us question the direction of our lives and businesses, it’s made us take a step back and assess things and our contribution to society. It’s made us think about our purpose on the earth.

So, what is the purpose of "purpose"?

To quote the song “Purpose” from award-winning musical Avenue Q, “it's that little flame that lights a fire under your ass. It keeps you going strong like a car with a full tank of gas.”

And that’s right - having a purpose gives you a reason to exist and results in us being more satisfied with our lives. As humans, we can suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it. Without it you may suffer from “purpose anxiety” which manifests itself as frustration, depression, anger, low self-esteem, loss of hope and stress.

Having a clear sense of direction about your aims no doubt makes it easier to get out of bed every morning. We have a better sense of self and focus as we work towards our target. Studies have proven that when we feel like we are making a difference or a contribution a higher purpose, we are more content and have a healthier outlook on life.

I for one can vouch for this, as well as working for ACS I recently set up a charity, Lemonade, in honour of my best friend Vicki who died of ovarian cancer in January 2019, aged just 32. The purpose of Lemonade is to educate women about the early symptoms of the cancer as well as raise money for terminal patients so that they can fulfil wishes on their bucket lists. Being part of the charity with the other “lemonadies” gives me more life satisfaction and makes me feel I am making a positive difference.

Mark Manson, best-selling author of “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” says that when people ask, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?” With me, raising awareness is an effective way to use my resources. Many people might consider it noble, but to me it’s just me fulfilling my purpose. And, of course, I want to make sure other women don’t lose their own best friends the way I did.

If you feel like you lack purpose you can find it with a bit of soul searching – ask yourself “what am I good at”, “what do I love to do?” and if your purpose it to help others, “what do I feel passionate about?” It’s important to remember that finding your purpose isn’t always straightforward and many people have more than one thing that brings meaning into their lives.

Purpose in business

Arguably, one of the most famous organisations with purpose is the BBC with its mission to inform, educate and entertain. Because it is publicly funded it must be accountable and be seen to be delivering something more valuable than light entertainment. But why is it important that other organisations have purpose?

With more and more social enterprises popping up there has been a shift in the business world with leaders realising the importance and benefits of having a strong purpose. When this exists the impact on employees, customers and other stakeholders is that they develop a sense of belonging, ownership, and responsibility.

Simon Sinek, motivational speaker, “unshakable optimist” and best-selling author says “people do business with those who believe what they believe. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it”. I think what Sinek is saying is that if your business has a strong sense of purpose, you will have improved customer loyalty and better brand reputation.

Sinek has some very interesting things to say about the importance of WHY, basically, why organizations do what they do. Have a look here

Employee pride is also important to modern businesses. The ethics of a business is becoming a huge consideration for many youngsters when looking for employment; according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, millennials who have a strong connection to the purpose of their organisation are 5.3 times more likely to stay working there. This makes sense to me - when our values align with our employers’ and we are emotionally invested to what we feel is personally important, we are more determined to help the business succeed.

It’s proven that in the changing business world, purpose-led businesses are performing better. No longer can businesses focus on profit alone. Rob Dube, columnist for Forbes argues “for an organization to thrive, business leaders must think beyond numbers alone. They need to focus on people, purpose, and the planet.” And that’s exactly what ACS are doing.

With a common vision of making a positive impact, our business leaders want to see our business as a force for good and have empowered all employees to contribute ideas and ways that ACS can invest into achieving this goal.

If you want to find out more about our purpose at ACS click here.