Finding Your Purpose in the World

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New book by Professor Andy Hoffman explores how to find your calling when it comes to building a sustainable future.

As a business professor, Andy Hoffman is often asked by well-meaning students what they can do or where they can go to make the biggest impact.

To him, that’s not quite the right question. So he has a different answer, one that’s explored in his new book, Finding Purpose: Environmental Stewardship as a Personal Calling.

“I tell students to go someplace where they can thrive,” says Hoffman, Holcim (US), Inc. Professor of Sustainable Enterprise and professor of management and organizations. “That’s what this book is about — finding your calling.”

This is not an academic book, though Hoffman’s assertions are grounded in research. It’s a challenge for readers to think of their place in a changing world and how they can play a role in building a sustainable, thriving society.

It’s aimed at the incoming generation of business school students — or any student — as they prepare their futures. Hoffman writes of his own calling, which evolved over time (and continues to evolve), and those of others in business, academia, and religion.

He sees two factors converging to make this a timely message. One is that the current generation doesn’t see work as just a job to support themselves and their families. More people blend their personal passions with work.

The other is that society is faced with a great challenge — the global effect of human activity on the planet. Over time, more have realized current practices and levels of consumption aren’t sustainable. This view, held by scientists for some time, is being embraced by business and religious leaders.

“We’re born into a time when challenges are thrust upon us,” says Hoffman. “We didn’t choose them and we may very well resent them, but we all have to deal with them.”

A personal calling isn’t something that usually hits you right away, Hoffman says. The goal is to think about where the world is headed and where you want to be in it.

“You just keep taking steps in your direction,” he says. “I never thought I’d be a professor, much less at a great university like this. I wanted to be an architect and build houses. Get a master’s degree and get out. And in some ways, I don’t always fit here. But I also think this is where I’m supposed to be right now, leaving a mark on students I touch here and on others outside the university with speaking and writing. “So now I want to challenge people a little and get them to think about what makes them thrive and where they want to contribute to the world around them.”

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