From an outside perspective I had what every young professional wants - I worked on partnerships with music and media brands, I got to go to glamorous events and trendy media industry parties and I had a decent enough salary to enjoy the London life.
Back then, nobody talked about millennials, the buzz word at the time was urbanites - and I was living the stereotypical urbanite life; work hard, play hard, spend hard.
But despite my initial excitement, within a couple of years it became clear to me that I had set off on the wrong path. Neither my job nor my lifestyle were going to make me happy or give me any sense of fulfilment. Life and work felt meaningless, empty and vacuous - essentially I was lacking any sense of purpose.
So I quit the media life and went to work in Government communications, on a THINK! road safety advertising campaign aimed at reducing deaths and injuries amongst motorcyclists.
My work had meaning and I felt fulfilled. I got a huge sense of achievement from the fact I was doing something with purpose, and which had a positive impact.
Eventually I left London to seek a healthier and more balanced lifestyle by the sea here in Brighton, and I started designing a career that fits around my needs and values.
More recently, I have worked a lot in the charity sector and on projects which give me creative freedom. But purpose, and doing work which has a positive impact is still a core part of what drives me.
I am far from alone in this desire for purpose - 75% of millennials worldwide want to work for a business whose values match their own. And they’re prepared to compromise on career advancement in order to achieve a working life that’s purpose-driven.
By 2020, millennials (typically considered to be born between 1980 and 1996) will comprise 35% of the global workforce. So it’s vital for businesses to align their goals with those of this purpose-driven generation.
The challenges I have faced: how to find meaning in a digital world which prizes image above all else, how to find and lead with purpose, how to be more mindful, how to reconnect with my surroundings, how to be restored and revitalised in the face of health issues - these are difficulties that are faced by most of us.
So how do we answer these questions and translate our desire for purpose into meaningful action?
"none of us had met before, and yet by the end of the session we felt like we had all shared a powerful experience."
So I was intrigued to attend School of the Wild’s latest taster session for their brand new leadership programme Leading with Purpose.
For two and half hours, I was thrown together with other purpose-driven business leaders and entrepreneurs in a remote spot near Brighton around a campfire; none of us had met before, and yet by the end of the session we felt like we had all shared a powerful experience.
We worked through a series of thought provoking and challenging activities which required us to connect with our natural surroundings, and to disconnect with the outside world; in the whole session I was not aware of any one of us checking our phones once (how many business or networking events can you say that about?).
Through the facilitated activities and conversations, we arrived at some really important and relevant questions about how we can harness the power of community to have a positive impact on the world around us.
Of course we couldn’t find all of the answers in one afternoon; but each of us has committed to take forward a positive action - ranging from asking the question that emerged from our session with ten other people, to finding other local groups that have purpose - the afternoon has sparked new ideas, creative thinking and collaboration.
- Nature brings down barriers, increases productivity and helps you be more honest
In a more traditional business setting, for example in a meeting or boardroom, like many other people, I have a tendency to put up barriers or to put on a front. I want to appear in control, authoritative and credible. I sometimes say what I think others want to hear, rather than what I really think.
In nature, round a campfire, the barriers and walls I put up around me seemed to disappear. And I noticed the same for the others there too.
Somehow it felt more real, more honest and more authentic to the human experience - after all, for millions of years humans didn’t exist in offices and buildings.
Getting back to that authentic experience was refreshing, invigorating and liberating. Not only that but we were more productive; in just over two hours we achieved a surprising amount - getting to some core questions and deciding on concrete actions to take forward.
Imagine how powerful that could be for connecting teams and resolving business problems.
- Reconnect with your purpose through new experiences
If the day-to-day pressures of running a business mean you’ve lost sight of your purpose, it’s very hard to see the bigger picture and work out what’s missing unless you step away from your usual surroundings.
For me, being in a completely new environment away from my usual day-to-day life, had an awakening effect; I felt much more mindful and present. Similarly, listening to others’ stories, goals and challenges reminded me of the things that are important to me and allowed me to tap back into them.
- Shared experience enables deeper connections
Away from a traditional business setting, we connected on a human, personal level and through shared experience, rather than through each of us promoting ourselves and our businesses.
This meant that the Leading with Purpose session ended up being a powerful form of networking without feeling like it. I’ve come away with a strong network and sense of community with the others from the session even though none of us went there specifically to network.
- Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens
Sadly, in this modern world where most of us live in urban environments, getting outside round a campfire is not something that we do day-to-day, and certainly not in a business context.
This meant that for most of us, me included, the experience of putting ourselves in a remote spot without the usual comforts, luxuries and facilities we usually enjoy was a challenge, and something that pushed us outside of our comfort zones. And we’ve all heard the adage that that’s where the magic happens!
I can say from my experience with School of the Wild that this is absolutely true. A strong group bond was formed; we really listened and responded to each other; we came up with bold, ambitious thoughts, ideas and actions.
Much more emerged from the Leading with Purpose session than I could have anticipated. I’ve reconnected with my purpose and feel more positive about what I’m doing and about making a difference. I've found new energy and inspiration, discovered a deeper appreciation for nature and how it can support me, and met a great group of new people who I connect with,
Who knows what good things we'll create together.
School of the Wild helps leaders and teams address pertinent questions and challenges through our team building and away days. We bring together strands of purpose, mindfulness, wellbeing and nature and encourage team members and business leaders to engage with each other in conversations that matter.