Feeling Stuck? Find Your Why, Not Just Your How.

In a two-part edUcon workshop, strategist and coach Yvette Simpson aims to help attendees discover true purpose in their work.

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       

Attorney, strategist and coach, media commentator, DEI leader, and winemaker — these are just a few of the titles Yvette Simpson has held throughout her career. In her a two-part workshop, “Come Alive: The Power of Purpose and Reinvention,” that started Monday and concludes today, she isw guiding edUcon attendees through the process of igniting their own careers.

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Yvette Simpson urges people to ask themselves: “‘Hey, what about my job really lights me up? What are the opportunities I want to take on in this next year that, in my work, will make me light up more? How do I, when I’m not at work, find things that bring me purpose, joy, and create a legacy?’”

Simpson — who recently launched a podcast, “The Power of Y,” following the publication of her book, On Purpose: The Power of Authenticity and Intention, last summer — says too often conferences for professional development focus on the how of their job and ignore the why.

“When you go to a conference, you’re going [to focus on] skills learning, right?” said Simpson, when she spoke with Convene before edUcon. “You’re going to learn about how to be better marketer and how to do your job better. But what we leave behind is, ‘Okay, I’m a person when I go to work, so how do I connect the work that I do to my greater purpose? How do I make sure that I’m passionate about what I’m doing?’”

In the workshop, Simpson said, participants explore the concept of purpose — how to find it, how to fulfill it — inspired by something philosopher Howard Thurman once said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Splitting the workshop into two parts gives attendees the chance to process what they’ve discussed more deeply so that on the second day they are invigorated to apply it and walk away with an action plan.

It’s a process not unfamiliar to Simpson, who left her job after finding herself unfulfilled early on in her career in big law — a journey she discusses during her TEDx Talk, “Pursuing Purpose: From Making a Living to Making a Legacy.” And research shows she’s not the only one who wants more out of her work. According to a McKinsey study, seven out of 10 employees said that “their sense of purpose is defined by their work” and “two-thirds of US-based employees … surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And nearly half said that they are reconsidering the kind of work they do because of the pandemic.”

“People do reach out to me after, it really does impact people,” Simpson said about past workshops she’s held. “Even though it’s fun and interactive, it causes people to have to go into who they really are, and it gets emotional … because they haven’t stopped and thought about how their work connects to who they are or their purpose and what legacy they want to leave in the world.”

Jennifer N. Dienst is senior editor at Convene.

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