What is your support? What is your guiding principle in life?

In times of turmoil, it can be easy to focus on the life challenge itself. But during those times, how often do we look back to our foundation for guidance?

Most of the time, it just feels better to have something solid to stand on during any time in our life and higher purpose is an excellent place to begin. I was challenged in grad school to define my higher purpose and values in a critical thinking class during my first semester. The theme of the GreenMBA program I attended was “Transform yourself, transform the world,” and transform myself I certainly did! (Now I’m working on transforming the world!) One of the ways I did this was by creating what I like to call a higher purpose tree.

Identifying your main ideal at this time in your life is the first step. An ideal is satisfying one’s idea of what is perfect or a standard attainment. This is the main driver behind all of your actions.

Below that, write the top three values in your life. These are standards or principles considered valuable or important in your life. Some examples are freedom, to serve all or equality.

There will be one higher purpose connected to each of the values with an opportunity statement and problem statement attached to each. The higher purpose starts with a subject and ends with a predicate, so it doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. Identify a personal higher purpose, professional higher purpose and community higher purpose. Here’s an example of a personal higher purpose: “To understand why I think and believe what I think and believe.”  

"All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted." - Saint Teresa of Avila

The opportunity and problem statements are where the magic happens. These statements reveal your opportunity and the problem statement connected to each one signifies the next actions you’ll take to make it happen. So for the opportunity statement, of “I want to learn more about myself” the problem statement could be “I have no framework to do this” and therein lies your task – create the framework!  

During times of frustration, when you need to make an important decision, or if you’re just feeling stuck – those are the times to take a close look at your higher purpose tree and see where you can re-incorporate these guiding principles back into your life.


Kate Goyette has an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise, works as a program officer for the federal government, has volunteered far and wide, and loves hiking, biking and meditating her way through the world.

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