Communicating on Purpose
Purpose is a trendy word in business today, but it’s not just another marketing ploy. Humans are hardwired to perform better when they are focused on purpose. It also seems that having a sense that one’s life has purpose significantly supports the health of the central nervous system. Purpose has been found to soothe inflammation and protect neurons. What if finding purpose in your life could reduce your risk of dementia or stroke?
Purpose in Life (PIL) is a recent focus of study for research, but it has been of interest to researchers, philosophers, physicians and scientists for hundreds of years. Apparently, the brain has a relentless obsession with extracting meaning from everything. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who spent 3 years as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps observed in his seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has meaning.”
When examining a healthy sample of human minds using techniques such as brain imaging and EEG, this quest for meaning has been found in all kinds of people regardless of status, education, or geography. In our own work, we have found that purpose is hugely important to creating powerful communication – that “the why” makes a difference for both the communicator and the audience. However, the word we choose to work with purpose is “intention.”
We use the word intention because it is defined as “an aim that guides action,” and as such is Purpose with a plan. Our focus on intention is influenced by the practice of Sankalpa in yoga. Most westerners who have taken a yoga class will remember being asked to “set your intention” at the beginning of class. This is a form of Sankalpa, “a statement you can call upon to remind you of your true nature and guide your choices.” And it is more than just a nice focus for the practice session. It is a meditation on one’s deepest desires and has been found to have a profound effect on one’s life. Scientists are beginning to see that the reason for this is not magical thinking but has to do with our ability to train the brain. Recent findings in the burgeoning field of neuroplasticity outline our neurological capacity to change our beliefs, behaviors, and habits, and working with intention is one way to do this. Another is practicing, such as when learning a musical instrument. Either requires not just thinking about purpose but activating it.
There is a lot we don’t know about how setting intention works that research in PIL and neuroplasticity will continue to reveal. Meanwhile, in our work at Vocal Impact, we have seen the powerful effect of using intention to answer the why of communication. We guide our clients to create statements that become a focus for how they show up, act and speak, even what words they choose. This alignment with purpose in their communication is palpable:
“But the real aha moment was the first practicing of the intent, where I could actually tell the difference in energy and engagement when I practiced that technique before presentation than when I didn’t.” WS
Try it. If you’ve worked with us, pull out your Personal Statement of Intention and ask yourself, “If I show up as this person at the meeting tomorrow, how will it change the conversation?” Then use it to guide your choices in how you participate, converse and even how you enter the room. If you have not created a Statement of Intention, take a moment to consider the next meeting, presentation or conversation. What are you wanting to accomplish and how will you get there? Create a short, concise statement that answers that question, and write it down. Let it guide your actions.