***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Harvard Business Review Press in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for the inclusion of any links for purchase found in this review or on any other page of The Voracious Bibliophile which mentions the HRB Guide to Crafting Your Purpose, its author, or its publisher.***
If I’m being honest, I approach most self-help and/or personal growth books with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s not that I’m a Negative Ned or a Pessimistic Paul, per se. It’s just that the market is so saturated with hundreds (probably thousands) of these titles that contain basically identical content that I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever I see a new one hit the shelves. Even the anti-self-help, cool, trendy, swear word-laden titles have started to reach critical mass. At first it was cool to read these because you could be like, “Look at me! I’m bettering myself but in a cool hipster way. F$&$ yeah!”
Even worse than the typical fare one finds in the Personal Growth section of bookstores are the ones that purport to help you find your true purpose in life. Purpose. Such a heavy word. Just listen to anyone who’s achieved a modicum of success in any given field and they’ll tell you all about how they found their true purpose in life. For the rest of us, these people serve as shining examples of our own glaring mediocrity. If only we could find our purpose, maybe we too could enjoy the level of personal and professional fulfillment that these people have.
The truth, however, is a little more complex than that. I recently got the opportunity to read and review the HBR Guide to Crafting Your Purpose by John Coleman, published by Harvard Business Review Press. In it, he managed to dismantle some of the skepticism I’ve accumulated over the years through the careful analysis of his own research, plenty of evidence from other reputable sources to back it up, and more than a few real-life examples to provide illustrations for the concepts he lays out in his book. All in all, I was impressed.
Coleman begins his book by discussing the “crisis of meaning” modern society is currently experiencing. Many (if not most) people go to work simply to earn a paycheck. They find no meaning in the work they perform and their days are filled with drudgery and the overwhelming sense that nothing they do matters or provides value. Because of the proliferation of information technologies which allows them to be accessible at all times, they also have no work-life balance. When life is all work and no play, misery quickly ensues.
One of Coleman’s main assertions throughout his book is that purpose is not something inherent or static. It is fluid and malleable. More than anything, it is something that can be crafted by each individual to provide meaning and happiness in each area of one’s life. It is not always something that one finds, but rather something that can be designed to fit the needs and desires of each individual based on their backgrounds and values.
Another thing I liked about Coleman’s book are the numerous exercises he included to allow the reader the chance and space to put to work the concepts which he discusses. Whether someone is fresh out of high school or college or already somewhat (or even mostly) established in their chosen career field, I can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t benefit from Coleman’s wisdom.
The HBR Guide to Crafting Your Purpose was released by Harvard Business Review Press on January 11th, 2022 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.
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