Narrowing your focus is critical. Have you found your "first purpose"?



Guest post by Chuck Nutt


A few years ago, I came across an interesting statement about “first purposes.” It was actually on a coffee cup. It was made by John Gowans, General of The Salvation Army (1999-2002). It read:


“I am more and more convinced that the [Salvation] Army needs to return to its first purposes. The Army was invented to save souls, to grow saints and to serve suffering humanity. Anything that doesn’t contribute to one of these three things more or less directly is not very interesting to us.”


I love that phrase, “Anything that doesn’t contribute to one of these three things more or less directly is not very interesting to us.” It empowers me to say, “No.”


Our world – and our organizations – present us with a myriad of needs and activities we can be involved in. As leaders and development professionals, we can easily find our “first purposes” redirected to a current urgency, or to edicts and procedural red tape from up the organizational ladder.


Especially in this light, the idea of a narrowed focus has its appeal, and perhaps, it is even critical to the long-term sustainability of our organizations and our personal success. Marcus Buckingham, in The One Thing You Need to Know, has put it this way:


“Today you must excel at filtering the world. You must be able to cut through the clutter and zero in on the emotions or facts or events that really matter. You must learn to distinguish between what is merely important and what is imperative. You must learn to place less value on all that you can remember and more on those few things that you must never forget.”


With all this in mind, though with less flair, I have come up with my own adaptation of General John Gowans statement. There’s much more to the story, but the CliftonStrengths Assessment has helped me immensely in boiling this down. It’s applicable for my personal life and work, and the organizations with which I am privileged to be engaged. Here’s my take:


“Motivated by my strong beliefs and convictions, I endeavor to maximize strategic actions that create a preferable future.”


So. What are your first purposes? How are you doing at filtering your world? Are you cutting through the clutter? Have you figured out those few things you must never forget?


Just one caution. Sometimes it’s a long and winding road to our personal first purposes. Don’t be discouraged. Just make sure you take the trip.


Charles “Chuck” Nutt currently serves as the Director of International Resource Development for The Salvation Army World Service Office in Alexandria, Virginia. Previous experience includes fundraising leadership roles at local and divisional levels for The Salvation Army, chief development officer at private educational institutions, serving as fundraising counsel and conducting campaign readiness studies for nonprofits from Alaska to Florida. Chuck is also an ordained minister, serving in pastoral and staff ministry for more than 30 years.

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