The Sweet Spot Framework: How to Design a Life Around Purpose

Purpose. It sounds simple when applied to an object or a popular concept. The purpose of school is to educate people, the purpose of a glass is to hold liquid so people can drink it, the purpose of a car is to transport people from point A to point B, you get the gist. But, when you’re talking about a human being, the answer isn’t as straightforward: Why do you exist? Who are you meant to be? What are you meant to do? These are all BIG questions – ones that many of us tend to shy away from or ignore altogether. Why? Everyone’s reasoning is different, but most excuses come down to the fact that not addressing them feels easier (and far less scary) than facing the truth. Because if we were to ask ourselves these questions, it would bring to light all the ways in which we are currently selling ourselves short or settling for a life that is less than fulfilling. You are “FINE”, after all, and that’s good enough right? Mwah, not really. What will you gain from continuing to put up with a less-than-full life? What will the people around you gain from a half-ass version of your brightest, most empowered self?

As a consultant, I have developed quite a love affair with frameworks. Whenever I encounter a problem or a big question like this, I instinctively start breaking down the challenge into smaller, more manageable pieces. That is how the Sweet Spot Framework came about.

When it comes to the purpose of a human life, I like to use the following definition:
Your purpose is the sweet spot where your passions, your strengths, and your potential to contribute collide.

Put simply, pursuing your purpose in life comes down to figuring out how to contribute to the world around you in a meaningful way by doing something that you love, and something that you happen to be pretty good at. That’s your Sweet Spot. (I say “pretty” good, because if you’re anything like me, you’re your own worst critic and will most likely be the last person on earth to recognize something as a personal “strength.” Can we all agree to get over that already?)

Let’s unpack this definition. First of all, your passions are the things in life you can’t help but be drawn to. It’s the stuff that makes you lose track of time. It’s the stuff that someone can wake you up for in the middle of the night. It’s the stuff you can’t shut up about. It’s the stuff you spend too much money on (but it’s always worth it). It’s the stuff you are endlessly curious about.

Your strengths are your superpowers. The God-given talents that come naturally to you, as well as the hard-earned skills you’ve honed over time. Because we don’t always recognize (or admit to) our own strengths, the best place to look is outside of yourself. What do other people ask for your advice about? What do they rely on you for? What have people complimented you on? In addition to the hard skills (i.e. your culinary prowess, your legal expertise, your organizational skills), consider the softer skills too (i.e. your ability to listen, your ability to make someone feel instantly at ease, your strong sense of intuition). We tend to undervalue these softer strengths in ourselves, even though it’s the first thing we acknowledge in someone else.

The final (often overlooked) piece of the puzzle is contribution. This refers to the impact you have on the world and the people around you. Contribution is essential to purpose, because humans are designed to thrive when we’re acting in the service of something greater than ourselves. We crave feeling useful. We crave feeling needed. While a lot of purpose-oriented articles or frameworks touch on passions and strengths in a variety of ways, very few consider this critical aspect. In my humble opinion, however, only when you apply your passions and your strengths to a cause that is meaningful to you, do they translate to purpose. And I am referring to “cause” here in the broadest possible sense of the word—it does not have to be a specific non-profit. No purpose is more worthy than another, so do NOT feel bad if your purpose doesn’t have a clear “save the world” ring to it. Rather, what are the issues that keep you up at night? What tugs at your heart strings?

For me personally, I cannot stand seeing people who suffer from low self-worth and struggle to embrace their full potential because of the stories or conditioning they’ve been subjected to. It kills me to see a 60-year old woman “give up” on herself because her kids have moved out and she has lost her sense of identity and purpose; or a 28 year old who is an incredibly talented creative, but succumbs to the pressure he feels to have a “normal”, secure desk job that will impress his parents and peers. I have met hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are settling. This drives me crazy, because I know they are robbing themselves and the rest of us of the gift(s) they were meant to share. How much more vibrant and diverse would the world be if we all found a way to identify and live in our Sweet Spot? Following the framework, I identified the ways in which I could apply my passions (writing, teaching, connecting with others) and my strengths (breaking down complex problems, emotional intelligence) to this particular cause and started Purpose Playbook. It’s important to note, however, that while Purpose Playbook may be the most direct reflection of my purpose, I find myself operating in my Sweet Spot in many other capacities as well – whether as a sister, as a daughter, or as a consultant to Fortune 500’s. Once you define your Sweet Spot, it becomes a lot easier to identify opportunities to live on purpose.

So now it’s your turn.

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