Three numbers that should change the way you think about your career.


PurposeThe first number should wake us up:

Only 11.1% of managers feel ‘highly committed’ to their work or organizations, according to a 2004 engagement survey covering 50,000 employees in 59 companies.

Our careers, taken as a series of promotions and pay-raises, storybook fashion, seldom result in happiness or anything close to it.

The truer version of happiness, or of fulfillment, comes from challenging our mind toward a series of meaningful, highly personal, goals. A paycheck doesn’t do it, nor do impressive titles. The starting point is understanding what drives us. 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council, mostly made up of senior executives, were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop. Their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness.

Here is the second number that wakes me up:

Less than 20% of business leaders can express their individual sense of purpose, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review.

Why is this important? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer of the scientific study of happiness, writes that when we focus our attention on a consciously chosen goal, a purpose, the experience can be immensely enjoyable, and effective.

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Purpose is the synthesis of your passions, your talents, your character, and your values. People who have it know why they do what they do. They make conscious career decisions. They define success and write the script that gets them there. Purpose stems from who we are, and comes in all shapes and sizes.

If you are one of the 88.9% of managers who are not “highly committed,” try drilling down into your purpose.

Here’s the third shocking number: $150 billion. U.S. companies spend upward of $150 billion every year on development and training. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of it. Ask yourself: Did it get me closer to where I truly want to be?

Back to the drawing board

If you were investing in your own development, your spending would probably be a lot different. You would assess successes, failures, strengths and passions. You would take time for deep personal reflection. The work would refresh you, reconnect you to that sense of purpose. You would take the path that takes you there. This is why a group of us created a career ‘redesign’ workshop for executives we call SpringBoard.

Having a purpose doesn’t guarantee success. But most highly effective leaders have purpose.

For thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. His conversations with thousands of executives have shaped his perspectives on life and work. He is Managing Partner of CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Global Mindset and Purpose-driven Careers. Connect on LinkedIn. Follow Michael on @michaelbekins.

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