Purpose Stands


An exercise to share the personal motivations - the “whys” - that inspire people to join a network.

Group Size

This exercise works with any group size, depending on time. It is most commonly used in the full group, as opposed to in small groups.

Time Required

For a group of 20 you’ll need roughly 35m. This includes 1 minute, 30 seconds per person (1m each with a 30-second transition buffer), plus 5m of framing and setup. 


Each person should be timed. Provide a 15-second warning by holding up a yellow piece of paper, and signify the end of their time by using a chime or holding up a red piece of paper. 


We typically see only the attributes that make up other people’s external context— what they say or do, their title and organization, or their LinkedIn profile. To understand other people in an authentic way, however, we must get to know their internal context—the “why” behind their actions, the experiences that make them who they are, and the perspectives that shape their view of the world. 

Purpose Stands is an exercise to help participants better understand each other’s internal context. In this exercise, participants deliver a one-minute timed speech that answers a central question: Why do I do what I do? This question reveals a person’s mission in the world, apart from whatever their day job may be. These one-minute speeches don’t focus on the practical “what”, but on the personal “why” that defines one’s work. 

A famous Mary Oliver poem (“Summer Day”) ends with the lines: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” We have all stumbled into the work we do for different reasons: sometimes stemming from a very personal or spiritual epiphany, or experiences of our childhood, or the coaching of a trusted teacher or advisor. Some of us have been very focused and directed, some of us more opportunistic. 

Whatever the reasons, tell us a bit more about why, at the deepest level, do you do the work you do?

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License