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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - An alternative look on seeking purpose: focus on reciprocal contributions

CEO Advisory

An alternative look on seeking purpose: focus on reciprocal contributions

Anne Duggan
Anne Duggan (Image courtesy: CEOWORLD magazine/FILE PHOTO.)

In today’s society, the search for purpose is a ubiquitous and often overwhelming concept. From a young age, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up, what our goals are, and what our passions are. We are told that we need to find our purpose and that without it, we will be lost. However, the traditional approach to finding purpose, which focuses on individualistic goals and achievements, may not be the most effective way to find fulfillment.

It is perfectly alright, from time to time, not to have a clearly defined purpose.  You will evolve towards an appropriate purpose as long as you know what value you are trying to create and have taken the time to strategically set goals to achieve this.  ‘Purpose’ can be a vague construct at times. While one can argue that purpose could serve as a precursor that governs what we do and how we behave, it is also possible to argue that having decided on a purpose is not enough. 

We therefore shift our focus towards the concept of reciprocal contributions. This means that we find purpose in making meaningful and positive contributions to the world around us, and in turn, receive fulfillment from the reciprocal benefits that come with contributing to others.  These can have profound value for you and for those around you. 

Reciprocal contributions focus on the idea that we are all interconnected and that we can have a positive impact on others, even in small ways. It involves recognizing that our actions have consequences, and that we can choose to make positive contributions to others through our work, our relationships, and our daily interactions.

One way to practice reciprocal contributions is through shifting our focus towards how our actions contributes to the greater good, instead of focusing solely on individual achievements. By recognizing the impact that we have on others, we can find purpose and fulfillment in knowing that we are making a positive contribution to the world.  Rather than focusing on purpose therefore, the focus is on intentionality and making a contribution with zest.  

It has been shown through history that it is this intentionality (including in practicing reciprocal contributions) is the key to success.  This has been shown over and over again when looking at the corporate successes such as Ferrari, Apple and Spanks and the actions / approach taken by their founders.  For example, Steve Jobs never spoke about purpose, but rather had focus and intentionality in the actions that he took.  From Sarah Blakey’s perspective, reciprocal contributions in her life from others, were key to the creation of her empire and the launch of Spanks.   

Therefore, even in seemingly small ways, we can make reciprocal contributions. It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone, or listening to a friend who needs support. These small acts of kindness can have a significant impact on others, and can also provide us with a sense of purpose and connection.

In addition to the benefits of finding purpose through reciprocal contributions, this approach also has a positive impact on our mental health. Studies have shown that contributing to others can reduce stress and anxiety, increase feelings of happiness and life satisfaction, and even improve physical health.

Furthermore, this approach can help us move away from the pressure and anxiety that often come with the search for individualistic success. Instead of constantly striving towards personal goals, we can find fulfillment in the act of contributing to others and creating positive change in the world.

Of course, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone has the same opportunities to contribute to others, however, we can still strive towards making positive contributions in our own unique ways.

The traditional approach to finding purpose can often lead to feelings of pressure and anxiety. Instead, we can shift our focus towards reciprocal contributions, finding fulfillment in making positive and meaningful contributions to the world around us. By recognizing our interconnectedness and choosing to make positive impacts in our daily lives, we can find purpose, connection, and fulfillment.


Written by Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - An alternative look on seeking purpose: focus on reciprocal contributions

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Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan
Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan are co-authors of Courageous Invitations: How to be your best and succeed through self-disruption (Hambone Publishing $32.9)). Dr Yu-Jen Chen is a full-time faculty at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, and founder of Forward Notion Advisory. Anne Duggan has over 25 years of experience in leading vast multi-disciplinary teams, in Senior Executive roles in complex and challenging environments.


Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan are opinion columnists for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen through LinkedIn here and Anne Duggan here.