The quest for professional advancement causes each of us to cross paths with numerous people, each of whom seem to be asking the same questions. What motivates you? What are your goals and aspirations? What are your skills and talents?
The questions are useful and necessary, but they fail to get to the heart of the most important issue.
In my conversations with career transition coaches, corporate recruiters and academic advisers I’ve never been asked what I believe to be the most important question of all: What do you believe is your purpose in life?
Has anyone asked you? If not, I’m asking you now.
Over the years I’ve discovered one simple question which, if answered correctly, can reveal your life’s purpose and lead to a level of fulfillment yet to be imagined. What’s the question?
“What is the greatest compliment you could ever receive?”
For the record, not all compliments are created equal. While there may be an infinite number that can inflate an ego, there’s only one compliment that will truly feed your soul.
It's different for each of us, of course, but it's out there waiting to be discovered.
When I ask my clients this question their response is usually the same: “I never thought about it before.” That’s not surprising. We live in a society that extols the virtue of humility, and justifiably so. We’re conditioned from youth to minimize and deflect praise, even to the point of uncomfortably rejecting it outright.
That makes the pondering of praise almost unimaginable.
I promise this question doesn’t violate social norms. The correct answer won’t drive anyone to stare proudly at their own reflection in the mirror with a sense of superiority. Quite the opposite.
The correct answer to this question – once discovered – will inspire you to gaze skyward and feel thankful for being relevant. Moreover, it doesn’t even need to sound like a compliment when offered.
I’ll share with you, as an example, the greatest compliment I could ever receive from anyone: “Michael, that’s interesting. I never thought about it like that before.” Is that even a compliment?
To me, an author and instructor, yes. When I hear those words I perceive an epiphany moment in which a person’s perspectives are broadened and a world of hidden possibilities has been revealed to be acted upon. If those actions effect a positive change in someone’s life, my purpose has been fulfilled.
In many cases it’s simply a matter of giving voice, through the use of words, to thoughts a person already had but hadn’t found a means by which to express it to their satisfaction.
When you discover your own personal answer to the “compliment question,” a few amazing things will happen almost simultaneously.
First, a mental blueprint of the future reveals itself. It will inspire you to launch yourself into life each day, driven by a sense of purpose and focused on a path of relevance.
Next, an explanation of the past reveals itself. You’ll discover threads of commonality woven through seemingly unrelated actions and events, and perceive the underlying motivation (purpose) that drove you to participate.
Finally, the foundation for your legacy question has been firmly established: “How do I want the world to remember me after I’m gone?” When you wake up each morning and embrace life with this question in mind, everyone you touch feels the positive impact of your purpose and focus.
So, let me ask you now: What’s the greatest compliment you could ever receive, from anyone?
What answer will inspire you to humbly feel thankful and relevant? What answer will inspire you to embrace life each day with a sense of purpose? What answer will inspire you to create such a positive impact on others that history will remember the difference you made?
When you discover the answer, act on it.
The world needs your purpose and relevance now, and the unwritten history of the future will ensure your positive impact is never forgotten.