After months of coping with a pandemic, so many of us feel like we are stumbling in the dark. We don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to move forward in an environment that is so uncertain, unpredictable and new. But even under duress, our way forward can be grounded in understanding our purpose. It sounds simple and in some ways it is.  Without a clearly defined purpose, it’s hard to build a life, a business, or a brand.

Purpose is not about what we do, but about the impact of what we do—the mark we make.  If you make bed linens, it isn’t about thread count but about comfort and better sleep. For a food bank, it’s not about delivering food but about providing nourishment and security to people in difficult straits.

Unfortunately, too many enterprises spend so much time talking about the how and what of their product and service they don’t get to why it matters.  They view themselves and the world through a prism of me, instead of a “Prism of Value” that asks two questions:  how does my work make life better (with joy, inspiration, curiosity, support, comfort) and how does it relieve burdens or obstacles (frustration, pain, sorrow.)

In our virtual world, there is no shortage of advice. I feel like I could spend 24 hours a day on webinars that all promise to unveil the secret of greater happiness, less stress, and more success. I could and have hired coaches to advise and make me accountable. On one hand, it’s really exciting that so many people want to help. On the other hand, it’s exhausting.

Businesses and nonprofits are experiencing the same pressures and uncertainties that we all feel individually. And there are thousands of blogs and business books all dispensing wisdom, much of it a matter of common sense.  We know what to do, but the challenge is making it happen. We have to isolate our purpose and then act upon it.

It boils down to two simple concepts:

Decide.  A colleague of mine once told me that I just had to decide what to do. What he was really saying is, identify your purpose and put a stake in the ground. When you decide, you exclude. You focus. Your purpose becomes your North Star guiding your action and your communications.

Do.  Nike had it right with its slogan “Just Do It.”  All the coaching, all the advice, all the reading is useless if you don’t act on it.  Deep down, all of us know what to do.  I know not to eat the chocolate bar if I want to lose some weight. I know to make a call if I want to solidify a relationship.

Doing is hard. But just as when you walk, take one step at a time. The first step is to decide your purpose. Once you stake that claim, the doing gets to be easier.