Doerr Institute brings ‘purpose checkup’ to Rice

As a light drizzle fell on Rice’s campus on a gray Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 19, a group of students, faculty and staff were privy to an inspiring “purpose checkup” with one of the world’s foremost experts on finding meaning and satisfaction in life, Richard Leider.

World-renowned author and career coach Richard Leider told attendees of his Rice presentation that exploring and pursuing purpose is not a self-serving or self-absorbed quest. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

“What ultimately shapes our life are the questions we ask, fail to ask or never dream of asking,” Leider writes in his international best-seller “The Power of Purpose.” In his talk at Fondren Library’s Kyle Morrow Room, Leider, a veteran career coach, shared a few tricks of the trade and provided attendees with a handy tool to answer the question, “What should I do with my life?”

This all matters because regret, Leider said, is a powerful sentiment, especially for people in their retirement years. Leider, who has developed LifeReimagined.org for AARP, found that if people could do their lives over again, they would be more reflective versus “busy,” take more risks in relationships and at work and find meaning and purpose, which is not a “luxury for the affluent” but fundamental for health, happiness and longevity, he said.

“The most regrets had to do with work,” Leider said. “If you’re doing something that you don’t love to do, it’s going to take its toll.”

Leider, a protégé of Viktor Frankl, the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” has developed a handy napkin test. He grabs something to write on — maybe a napkin on an airplane — and jots down “G+P+V=C” and passes it to whoever he’s talking to. He then explains: G stands for gifts, P for passions and V for values. Together they form your calling, C.

“Gifts” prompts consideration of one’s strengths. “Passions” is essentially asking what you care about; are there issues or communities that resonate with you more than others? And finally, “values” are all about one’s lifestyle and personality. What is non-negotiable about the way you work? According to Leider, applying your gifts toward something you are invested in and in an environment that suits your values will lead you to your calling.

Leider suggests assembling a sounding board of friends as advisers as you strive to explore meaning and purpose, and following some simple daily practices, one of them being the “mattress test.”

“Wake up and for the first two minutes in the morning, pause, take three deep breaths and picture your upcoming day and one person’s life you can impact that day rather than just jumping up and going for your cellphone,” he said. “No cellphone. Just pause.”

Leider’s presentation was hosted by Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders, the country’s first professional leadership development program offered at no cost to all undergraduate and graduate students. Tom Kolditz, the Doerr Institute’s executive director and a retired brigadier general, introduced Leider and recounted his own experience receiving coaching from Leider at a critical time during his career.

“Richard is an action agent,” Kolditz said. “When people ask me who in the leader-development business has directly impacted more people than anyone else, I never hesitate to say it’s Richard Leider. He has understood how to do this.”

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.