Purpose Mindset with Dr. Akhtar Badshah

Reading Time: 11 Minutes

In this episode with Dr. Akhtar Badshah, we discuss what purpose mindset is and why to focus on it.

Takeaways We Learned from Akhtar…

Show up.

Understand the person that you’re actually talking to first, then think about leading. Effective leadership starts with a deep understanding of the individuals you work with, allowing you to communicate in a way that resonates with them.

Purpose introduces the why.

Purpose goes beyond personal growth and extends to benefiting the community as a whole. By aligning your purpose with the greater good, you can make a meaningful impact.

Start recognizing your strengths.

Shifting your focus to your strengths allows you to leverage your unique abilities and make a greater contribution. Emphasize personal growth in areas where you excel.

Craft a simple purpose statement.

Articulating your purpose involves aligning what impact you want to create (purpose), why you want to do it (values), and how you’ll make it happen (strengths). This statement should come from your heart and reflect your true essence.

Share and discuss purpose, values, and strengths in small groups.

Engaging in conversations about your purpose with others helps deepen your understanding and gain new perspectives. Collaboration and sharing insights can lead to valuable growth and clarity.

Align personal purpose statements with the work but maintain individuality.

Your personal purpose and the company’s purpose should not be identical but should complement each other. Strengthen the connections between them to find fulfillment and avoid frustration.

Discover your purpose beyond work for a more fulfilling life.

Many people struggle to articulate their purpose because they haven’t explored it beyond their career. Understanding that life is multifaceted and not solely focused on work can lead to finding meaning in various aspects of life.

Regularly reflecting on your values, strengths, and purpose.

You can align your actions with what truly matters to you and cultivate meaningful relationships in all aspects of your life.

Build atomic habits.

Purpose can be found in everyday actions. By focusing on small, achievable habits aligned with your purpose, such as practicing kindness daily, you can create meaningful impact and foster personal growth.

Start by identifying your strengths.

Then reflect on the impact you want to make in the world. By articulating these elements, you can clarify your purpose and begin to align your actions with your aspirations.

Discover your purpose.

It is not just about problem-solving, but about envisioning the life you want to lead. By focusing on your vision and aligning your actions with it, you can create a fulfilling and purpose-driven existence.

About Dr. Akhtar Badshah

Dr. Akhtar Badshah is Chief Catalyst at Catalytic Innovators Group, where he advises organizations and individuals to catalyze their strategy focused on social and philanthropic investments.

Akhtar conducts Purpose Mindset Leadership Workshops with organizations to help individuals articulate their strengths and values, and craft their purpose statement.

He is an accomplished artist, a doctoral graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an active philanthropist in the Seattle area.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast, I am your host and Executive Coach Allison Dunn. Today, we are going to be diving into the topic of what is purpose mindset. We have with Dr. Akhtar Badshan. He is the chief catalyst at catalytic innovators group, an accomplished artist, a doctorate from MIT, a doctorate graduate from MIT, and has just released a book by the name of purpose mindset, how Microsoft inspires employees, and alumni to change the world. Thank you so much for joining us here today.

Akhar: Thank you very much, Allison, for having me.

Allison: Absolutely. I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners today?


I want to be a good leader, you must have a deep understanding of who you’re working with. So the best way to talk about leadership is show up. Show up and understand the person that you’re actually talking to first, then think about leading.

Allison: And I think that’s a fantastic tip. I feel like often, we’re too focused on oneself versus who we’re actually communicating to, and to have people really hear us we need to be talking to who they are. Right? Exactly. Yeah. So you run workshops that are around purpose mindsets, can you just kind of give me your definition of what that means.

Akhar: So we, you know, all of us, over the last 20 years have been driven by this focus on a growth mindset. A transactional mindset, I’d be moved from a fixed mindset, which was rewarding what you know, to a growth mindset, which rewards how you do and how you learn. But I always felt that God was very much selfish, that it was between you and your work that you knew yourself and injustice, duality.

Purpose introduces the why you show up and introduces the trinity of the community. So you grow, your work grows, your community benefits.

So to me, the introduction of purpose is to move people to go from that focus on the me to the collective be, and the workshops that we do get people to really start articulating, not how they want to exist, but why they want to exist and then apply their strengths and values towards the why. And then the How will show up.

Allison: Leading a workshop and leading people to identifying their why and their values. What are some of the exercises and or process that you guide people through to achieve something that’s reflective essence of who they are with the week in mind.

Akhar: So it deals we actually do a very simple exercise. We give people 20 words that describe strengths, and 20 words that describe values. And we asked them to actually select three from each. Okay, and we have more than three swings, we have more than three values, but for the purpose of the exercise, it is just select three. And the first thing that we try and get people to change their frame is to start recognizing our strengths. Rather than just focusing on a weakness.

We just saw built into actually focus on our weakness and constantly improve that we forget that we have strengths and values that we can bring.

And then we get them to craft a simple purpose statement by using the purpose is what it is that you want to see as an impact. values are, why do you want to do it? And strengths are how you’re going to do it.

And then we get people to craft that statement in about five minutes. Okay. And the basic thing is that you don’t need to refine it, you can go back and refine it. But it is really something that should come from your heart from deep within you, and not just from your mind. And then we break people up into small groups and get them to go discuss their strengths, the values, the purpose, and then share with each other and dive a little deep. And because we do it with organizations, whether it is a company or a nonprofit, or a government agency, big organized educational institutions, we then ask them to really think about how they will apply it to their work. And come up with a collective statement for that little group. And then we come back and share.

And then the next effort that we do is we actually take those statements and turn it into a singular purpose statement for the organization, or for the group, because most organizations have a mission vision statements, they don’t have a purpose statement.

And then we get people to align the personal purpose statements to the work with the caveat, that your purpose and your books purpose should not be fully aligned.

Should or should not be, should not be kidnapping, okay? Because if it is, then you’re a robot that we get purpose from outside of our work to Yeah, but the recognition that there are these connections? And then how do you strengthen those linkages, and strengthen those muscles so that during times of tension, they will still hold, and you will not get frustrated? Because there are things that you’re doing that you can clearly see applies to both your purpose and the company’s purpose. So that’s, you know, it’s a two hour workshop, we kind of get, and people just love it.

Allison: I appreciate the distinction or the about the fact that shifting from a growth mindset to a purpose mindsets. In developing a purpose statements for a group or a team or an individual? How different can it be, then the actual missions or vision statement of the company?

Akhar: So we actually don’t touch the mission and vision at all? Yeah, we basically say, okay, that’s begun. So let’s try and get you to kind of go a level higher. Because the purpose is the why mission and vision is the water in the house. Right? So to you have your water in the house. But what is your why? And why is that important? It is because we’ve seen over the last two and a half years, so many people leaving jobs, because they want to search meaning in their work. But they haven’t figured out what meaning they want from life. So how are they going to find it? So they go from job to job, and then don’t discover it because they believe that it should be fully aligned? Versus really understanding that we live our lives completely? And not everything is just focused on our work.

Allison: Actor or would you be willing to share what your purpose statement is?

Akhar: Yeah, so might have a little, you know, I mean, it’s taken me a long time to kind of keep refining it.

So it sounds more fancy than it should really be. But my purpose is to bend the arc of humanity to my writing, teaching and art to make the world a better place.

Allison: Can you say that one more time Tibet in Tibet.

Akhar: Purpose is to bend the arc of humanity. Okay, who am I writing, teaching an art to make the world a better place?

Allison: And it does sound very fancy, but I get the gist of of where you’re coming from on that. That’s, that’s wonderful. Do you do you have a sense that most people would be able to articulate their purpose if asked pretty quickly.

Akhar: So when we go into a room and ask people what is your purpose? Most people have absolutely no idea. Okay.

Allison: Why do you think that that is?

Akhar: Because I don’t think that you spend time. I mean, you know, we start off even with our kids, we don’t ask them who you want to serve. You basically ask them who you want to be. So their immediate answer won’t be an engineer, they want to be a doctor. Right? I mean, when you go into a conversation, we first ask who are you? Right? We, I mean, our conversations are very different. So we are not trained, the muscles are not trained to actually react that way.

But we’ve now done these workshops with over 45 Different organizations around the world, people have written the purpose statement in Japanese and Arabic and Spanish in English, we have people from across the world all the way from Japan, to the US, going through this young people, elderly people, Dean’s of universities, CEOs of companies, ministers, and government agencies, young kids. And of all of these exercises that we have done, we’ve only got two people of the 4000 people that have gone through our workshops, only to people who could not write the purpose statement. Okay.

Allison: And chipper, we’re challenged to actually finalize it and convert it actually never wrote it. Okay, they never wrote it.

Akhar: One was a student and in Egypt, and the other one was the person that was actually doing it, one on one. And they just could not get over the fact that I don’t have a purpose. And

Allison: I understand the benefit, but I’m asking the question of what would be the benefit of someone working through the challenge of trying to identify their why in a statement that they can articulate in own.

Akhar: So part of it is to be honest. What you eventually write the words, good, constantly change, like our strengths will change, our values will change, our purpose should not change all the time, but it will change. To me, the important thing is that are you focused on it? Are you constantly spending time looking at you and your values, your strengths, your purpose, and using it as a way to prioritize what you do that then creates a healthy relationship that you can have with yourself, you can have with your family you can have with your community you can have at work.

So it is just this ability to open up a different filter through which you focus on yourself. So in some ways, I see this as a self healing activity. I see this as a real region germination activity.

Allison: I would imagine that if you have a very clear purpose, it also helps guide the things that you the directions the things that that you say yes to and the things that you say no, no to right.

Akhar: Yeah. Good. That’s how people are prioritizing.

Allison: Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. So once, once someone has their purpose statement, what what do you see people doing with it? Once they have it? How do they act on it inside of a team inside of a business?

Akhar: That’s been the challenge. That’s the challenge because we are still so ingrained with how we just gone through our life. Right, that I mean, you know, we do these workshops, people love it.

People are energized, the teams love it, the managers love it, we actually leave behind a a purpose mindset journal, where we tell people that you know, they should actually note down how they utilize their purpose, their strengths and values for themselves, for their family, for their community, and then for their work.

So think about it as four rings of responsibility which a friend of mine actually came up with. And, and then noted down and then start your team meetings with just five minutes of people sharing how they use their purpose. Because the idea is to build these atomic habits. Small steps, just write down one thing. The purpose doesn’t have to be that you’re going to solve world hunger or poverty purpose can just be I’m going to I’m just going to be kind, every single day. It’s hard to be kind every single day. It requires a lot of work. So it’s how you can get people into forming these habits.

And that’s really what we’re trying to encourage people to do form these habits, not every day you will use your purpose, or your strengths and your values. You know, life is life. But Purpose allows you to show up for life in a way in which you are fully present.

Allison: Do you have any resources or tools for anyone who’s interested in either looking at doing a workshop and or doing a self-guided process for themselves on creating a purpose statement?

Akhar: Yeah, so we have, I mean, I have a website, which is purpose, you know, Dash mindset.org. But people can actually reach out to me, I think, we have found that when it is done, not as an individual, but as a group. That discovery process of not just yourself, but others that you work with, is great. Our font is very simple. Once people go through our exercise, we tell them take this form and do it with your family. Do it with your friend, do it on a kitchen table. And, and to me, that’s the piece I mean, at the end of the day look.

You can write down three strengths. Are you an achiever? Are you a connector, or you know, pick any placements that you want, just write it down, write down your three values. And then look at those and said, these are my three values, these are my strengths, and then just think about what impact you want to have in the world. And then write that down and then use it. Right, the important thing is that, are you going to be focused on the importance of strengths? Are you leading with your strengths? Or are you leading with your weaknesses. And if we can get people to lead with their strengths, first, they show up far more invigorated. And to the impact is much more positive. So I am not interested in getting people to solve problems, I’m actually interested in getting people to vision the way they want to live.

Allison: And actually, what is the best way for someone to follow you or connect with you?

Akhar: LinkedIn? Okay. LinkedIn is the best. People can just follow me on LinkedIn, we have lots of tools and resources that we share there constantly. The website is a great way where we are forming a community where people can actually come and engage. As I’ve said, you know, we, we are a very small team. And we spend more time doing workshops. And I mean, literally, every week, every couple of days, we are doing workshops with organizations all over the country all over the world. And it’s a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun doing it.

Allison: Excellent. Well, helping people find and articulate their purpose must being an incredibly rewarding thing to do. So thank you for the work that you do.

Akhar: Thank you.

Allison: It’s been a pleasure having you with us today. And I wish you luck in everything that you do.

Akhar: Thank you so much, Allison. I mean, I love being on the show and thanks for the questions. Bye.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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