We all know that having a purpose in life is good for us. The list of ways that purpose can benefit our physical and mental health is nearly endless. Research shows that having a strong sense of purpose can lower our risk of cardiovascular problems. It can reduce our risk of stroke. It can help us sleep better. It can protect against cognitive decline. It can even help us live longer. And all of that makes sense — we’re wired for purpose. It’s a fundamental part of what makes us human.

But as large of an impact as purpose has on so many aspects of our lives, we often misunderstand it. We tend to think of purpose as this elusive thing we need to find or search for. And then we can connect to it — we’ll have found our purpose and we can check that box. A more helpful way is to think of purpose not as this ineffable thing we search for, but as an outcome of combining our values and our actions. In that way, it’s not so much about finding our purpose as creating it.

Our values are, of course, what we believe in — those beliefs, principles and standards of behavior that we think are important. Not all of us have a well-defined sense of our values, and that’s why clarifying our values is the first step toward purpose. And not all of our actions and daily behaviors are always going to line up with our values — but when our actions are aligned with our values, that’s when purpose becomes a reality. That’s when purpose has an impact not just in our lives, but in the lives of those around us and in our communities. This collective impact is what advances human sustainability. 

So how do we align our actions and our values to create purpose? Here are five Microsteps to help you solve the equation. 

1. Write down your values. Then write down the daily actions and behaviors you do that align to those values. Many of us think we know what our values are intuitively. But the process of writing things can force us to clarify and refine them, creating a kind of map of our inner world. It also helps us build self-awareness, as well as empathy when we consider the impact of our values on others and how our actions amplify them. 

2. Ask someone important in your life how you positively impact their life. This can help us understand how the combination of our values plus our actions is having an impact in other people’s lives. It’s also a great way to create connection.  

3. Think of one challenge you’re facing right now, and then reflect on how you’re responding to it. Is it possible to better align the actions you’re taking with your values? When times are tough, that’s when it’s most important to act in alignment with our values. Yes, that’s also when it’s toughest to do it, but we can also learn how valuable it can be to think about how we can use our values and actions to help solve problems.

4. Connect to the bigger picture. Think about how your values and actions connect to the greater good or to something larger than yourself. When we look for those connections, we can see that even small actions can add up to create a big impact. For example, there’s the famous story of when President John F. Kennedy first went to NASA headquarters in 1961. Seeing a janitor on the tour, he asked the man what he was doing. His response? “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” We’re all part of something larger when we look at the impact we have in our daily life, in our work, and in our relationships. And collectively, that’s the core of Human Sustainability – the realization that we can get there if we all take action even in small ways. 

5. Sustain your values, but also revisit them. Think about how to make your values and actions more sustainable in your life. Are there ways in which you can more easily and sustainably connect your actions to your values? And remember that values can change over your life journey — and that’s ok. So revisit values and actions periodically to make sure they still align.

When we break down purpose into values + actions, it’s a lot easier to see our purpose, and see the impact of our purpose. And that’s going to allow us to lead more sustainable lives, both individually and collectively.


  • Jen Fisher

    𝗩𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 + 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 | 𝖡𝖾𝗌𝗍𝗌𝖾𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖠𝗎𝗍𝗁𝗈𝗋 | 𝖳𝖤𝖣𝗑 𝖲𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗄𝖾𝗋 | 𝖧𝗈𝗌𝗍 #𝖶𝗈𝗋𝗄𝖶𝖾𝗅l | 𝖳𝗁𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖾 𝖤𝖽𝗂𝗍𝗈𝗋

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well" @jenfisher.substack.com.