When you think about groups of people that you are connected to in some way, be it a networking group, a church of volunteer organization, or a school, do you stop and reflect on what your purpose is? Often, people attend out of obligation, desire for status, or to gain something (education, fulfillment, clients, etc.). What are you really there for?
I took an unconventional path when it came to education: when I was about to graduate with a double major on a full-ride scholarship, I chose to drop out in order to join a punk band. I think that’s partially due to not knowing my real purpose. When I eventually returned to the world of higher education, I changed majors (to business management) and came in with a different perspective: I wasn’t there to get a piece of paper as proof that I had learned something. I was there to build community, a network. That purpose completely changed by actions and attitudes towards my student career.
Instead of only seeing students and faculty, I saw current and future leaders in their respective fields who could possibly provide a valuable introduction or work in the future. That meant that whenever group work was assigned, I always volunteered to be the leader by keeping people accountable to deadlines, developing the presentation, and managing all of the work. That meant meeting with faculty from every class to talk about career aspirations, suggest case studies to discuss, and to ask for recommendations. That even meant writing articles for Huffington Post and other news outlets to express how the school program could improve. In other words, it meant providing value to everyone around me. This turned out to be far more valuable than the degrees I earned.
Some people are so obsessed with hustling and showcasing a carefully curated highlight reel of their life through social media that they forget what their purpose actually is, why they show up. Others only engage with cynicism, spewing negativity instead of approaching with generosity and compassion (and many do this without realizing it at all)! If every interaction is only inwardly focused, who will miss you when you don’t show up? If you only criticize without making things better, if you are only showing up to get what you can out of others (that degree, higher status, etc.), if you are simply miming the actions of others, then perhaps it is due to lack of purpose.
Here’s one simple action: take an audit of your interactions with any kind of group (online or offline). What are you doing for others in that group? How much time do you spend talking about yourself/your own deeds or tearing others down rather than building them up? If your life was to be only judged by your words (and not just your intentions), what would they say?
Begin with that purpose, understanding why you want to show up, and then let your actions and attitudes reflect that purpose.