The more time I spend with leaders of all ages and stripes, the more angst I feel in their spirit. Many hold positions of leadership but are not passionate about this season in life. Others, young and idealistic (in the good sense of the word) are willing to take risks and explore new ground, but have so many options they worry about the kind of experiences they should explore.
Each is in search of something deeper – something that goes to a gut-level, soul-filling place that grabs them and will not let go.
They want a cause – whether at age 25, 55 or 75! They want to start something that keeps their blood pumping and that, when finished, will make them feel like they just summited Everest. Is this too unrealistic?
Here are a few criteria for finding a cause you can sink your teeth into
- It keeps you awake at night and gets you up in the morning
In your idle moments your mind goes there. Strategies and ideas come flooding in and sometimes you cannot turn off the adrenaline. Keep something to write with near the bed. O capture it on your smartphone. If you have a news flash at 3 AM, jot it down and you won’t miss the moment.
I have awakened a time or two in the wee hours, mind spinning and heart stirring. After 2020 and now beyond, it seems so much rides on the leadership culture we create. Churches, political parties, social movements, businesses, educational institutions all suffer in part or in whole from having a dysfunction – even destructive – leadership culture. I wake up thinking about how we can change that.
- It borders on the impossible, the insurmountable, or the unconventional
When I launched my coaching and consulting work I had very few clients, no office, no formal products or services, no help and no shortage of challenges. But all that motivated me. It seemed unlikely and impossible (and still does at times) but I realized what I was attempting to do has value, and believed that someday the idea will take root and I’d be off and running.
Gratefully, here I am, pursuing the lofty goal of transforming the culture of leadership – globally. Insurmountable? Perhaps, but definitely inspiring.
- It cannot be completed alone (it’s bigger than your skills or gifts can handle)
Like many of you I needed to build a network, find mentors and get some guidance. When you want to change the world you must start small – one life, one leader, one meeting, one consultation, one call at a time. What appear to be “big splash” launches are very rare, and often the result of lots of hard work and many “micro-failures” along the way.
During that time leaders discover how much help they need and how little they know. So they raise the white flag, get humble and ask for help.
- It creates a burning discontent – You simply cannot tolerate the present reality any longer. Something must change.
Sometimes the trigger moment is the result of utter frustration, anger or disappointment that makes you cry “ENOUGH!” But I also find that it may not always be that dramatic. Most of the time there is a steady gnawing in the gut or a troubling of the soul. You say to yourself, “This has to be right – I know I am headed down the right path…I just cannot see it yet!”
Some of these moments just grow on you. You take a few steps, stick your toe in the water, or try a few probes. I had about 6 “irons in the fire” before I found where I needed to focus– developing transformational leaders to build a healthier, more durable leadership culture in groups and teams. Do your best to narrow it down to 2 or 3 that you work with and explore. But resist the urge to juggle too many irons. Eventually, one will stand out.
- It’s not just “stimulating” – it’s a compelling challenge worth the effort with real significance.
Your cause cannot be just “mildly exciting” because that will wear off at the first sign of hardship, rejection or failure. Make sure it is something challenging, where you encounter the reality of failure, frequent mistakes, learning in the school of hard knocks, and constant re-evaluation, redesign and re-launching.
When you get hold of a cause worth fighting for you’ll find something unexpected takes place. As YOU change the world changes. Your transformation is essential. The daily struggle will strengthen your resolve and shape you as a leader, more than you ever imagined.
The real you – with your ego, idealism, passions, hopes and fears – will be tested and revealed. And you will have to face yourself even as you face the challenges that come with your all-important cause.
I hope that happens for you. It is happening for me – and despite the frequent frustrations and recurring fears, I have never been more motivated.
What is eating away at you? What makes you restless? What is holding you back? Where can you take a courageous risk?
It’s time to find your cause and go for it!