Change Growth Life Purpose Values

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

You will be the best possible version of yourself and an authentic and inspiring leader when you have set your purpose right for yourself. 

In 2014, CVS pharmacies in the United States decided to stop selling tobacco. It was a bold move that initially cost them a lot of sales but gave the brand a boost in awareness and public empathy. It may have taken them long to offset this revenue decrease, but they recovered much faster than expected. People switched pharmacies because of this decision.

Here’s a quote from a statement celebrating when they were five years tobacco-free:

“We did it to be true to ourselves as a healthcare company and for you and your family. And while quitting tobacco was a momentous step, we didn’t stop there.”

CVS pharmacies

The statement continues to elaborate on their steps to help create a tobacco-free generation. 

Many retailers selling cigarettes to their customers have had similar conversations throughout the years about stopping their tobacco sales. Some did, most didn’t. One of the arguments often heard by those opposing the bold decision to quit selling tobacco?

“If we don’t sell it, somebody else will.” 

When supermarket chains decide to stop selling cigarettes, the first shops that pop up around the supermarket locations are small outlets selling tobacco.

One could argue that you’re shifting the problem somewhere else. So why not keep the revenues for yourself?

Well, because this is not who you are.

That’s what CVS decided. They decided that selling cigarettes was no longer a proper representation of their purpose as a health brand. Who they were (purpose) and what they were doing (selling cigarettes, amongst others) were no longer in alignment.

When you want to grow in concert with your purpose, you must make bold decisions and choose who you want to be.

Let me turn it over to you.

Could you work for a cigarette company? Could you work for an oil company? Could you work for a cosmetics company that tests their products on animals? Could you work for an (online) retailer that systemically kills small businesses?

When you work for an airline company, you could argue that your company helps connect people to other people by flying them from one location to another location. But you’re also working for a significant polluter.

Does it matter to you whether your personal purpose is connected to the purpose of the company you work for? Do you have a personal purpose? Or is work primarily about making a living?

Do you know why you are doing what you’re doing?

Is money the primary driver, or is having fulfillment in your life that driver? Money does not make you happy, but it does help you to live more comfortably and not have constant stress when there’s not enough. 

I’m not suggesting we all should become more catholic than the Pope. 

If I can express it that way, Catholicism itself has struggled to connect its purpose with some of its more vigorous advocates.

I understand why people work for cigarette manufacturers, oil companies, cosmetic firms, and retailers. I worked for a retailer myself. My personal purpose was connected with the retailer’s purpose, be it that we did sell cigarettes and unhealthy products.

The world is not black and white. Many areas are grey and not easy to assess objectively. Your context plays an important role. 

On top of that, the world is evolving. 

What was acceptable ten years ago is no longer acceptable today. Plastic straws were common. Today, they’re banned in many countries. Coffee shops no longer have plastic covers for their coffee and charge extra when you want to have your coffee from one of their single-use cups.

Holding your ground in a world that is constantly changing and changing faster is difficult. The question is no longer how you manage change but how you live and change. How do you adapt continuously? Change is not a project; change is life.

Imagine you sitting on a bench watching a stream or a river. While you may think you’re seeing the same, you don’t. The water is not one moment the same. It’s the same story with snow. Not one snowflake is the same. It’s a constant flow of change. Nature adapts itself. Nothing is ever the same.

Change is about adaptation and acceptance. Resistance is a waste of energy and sometimes money. Three hundred thirty billion cells in our body are replaced every day. That’s about 1% of our total number of cells. Roughly in 80 to 90 days, we have replenished all the cells in our body. 

We accept it. Well, most of us. 

Producers of anti-aging creams are earning insurmountable profits by keeping the hope alive of millions that you can stop the aging process. You can’t. You can’t even slow it down.

Change is about acceptance and adaptation. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. 

You need an anchor to weather the winds (for some storms) of constant change. That anchor is your purpose in life.

A solid purpose helps you make decisions and difficult choices. If your purpose is to help build a better and sustainable world, working for an oil company is not a great fit.

The principles of purpose are simple. You decide what gives your life meaning and which values align with that purpose. You decide what your compass and your true north are.

It doesn’t mean you always know exactly how you get to your destination, but you know the direction. You know when you’re moving in the right direction or not.

Great questions to ask yourself regularly are the following questions:
  • Am I moving towards or away from my purpose (my true north)?
  • Am I living and working coherently to my values?
  • Am I fulfilled most of the time?
  • What choices should I make if I answered the above questions with a No?

You will be the best possible version of yourself and an authentic and inspiring leader when you have set this foundation right for yourself. 

That’s how you maximize your chances for success and fulfillment. Whatever those may mean to you.

Your turn: Why are you doing what you’re doing?


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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