Helping working dads find purpose

Ian Dinwiddy, founder and director of Inspiring Dads, writes about his quest to help fathers find purpose

hand holding a compass in a forest


“Finding your purpose” is a key part of the self-help and coaching industry and for good reason. Aligning your life with the things that really matter to you is so important. It helps create robust mental health. And it contributes to achieving goals that make you feel fulfilled. That’s true regardless of whether or not you are a dad!

But how do you go about finding your purpose?

Confession time…

For a large chunk of my life I found myself fretting over what I perceived to be my lack of purpose and direction in life.

I remember starting work as a Graduate Trainee with WHSmith back in September 1999. I was plunged into the Christmas onslaught of store life in Cribbs Causeway, near Bristol.

As part of the grad programme we were given copies of Stephen Covey’s bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Some of my colleagues seemed to throw themselves into personal development and career planning with a gusto that I just couldn’t manage.

I was 22. It was only a matter of months since I achieved a 2:1 that I thought was beyond me. I wasn’t ready for big goals and being introspective about my purpose. Forget “sharpening my saw” (habit 7!), I was nervously navigating a relationship I had stumbled into with one of the store managers!

Purpose changes

My purpose at that time was to be happy and to go with the flow.

Later that purpose led me to seek a move from Swindon to London. To an office a mere six minute walk from my desk to the second floor bar of the UCL Union. I was a regular at Wednesday Sports Night, maintaining and building relationships and a network of friends that I have to this day.

But inevitably my purpose changed, fortunately, because my liver would never have forgiven those early excesses.

At one stage it was to become a National League Hockey umpire. Later, in my early 30s, it fundamentally changed to be about being “a great parent” – giving up work to prioritise looking after our young children.

Now in my early 40s a big part of my purpose is to help “stressed dads balance work and fatherhood.”

Working with clients

When I work with clients, one of the first things we do is to understand who they want to Be, what they want to Do and what they want to Have. Imaginatively it’s called “Be, Do, Have”

Through that process and focus a sense of authentic purpose presents itself. And together we establish a platform to create and achieve goals that really matter to my dads.


Gaining clarity about what’s really important to you is a vital part of understanding your purpose. It creates a direction that is unique to you, separating your desires from those which you may feel you “should” have. Comparison can be a great motivator but it’s also frequently “the thief of joy.”

Understanding your purpose is also a springboard to having meaningful conversations with your partner; understanding which bits are aligned so that you can create family purpose and direction in order to live your version of a happy life and not someone else’s.

Clear purpose will give you a sense of direction against which you can measure opportunities that come your way.

Journey into the unknown.

Having a clear purpose is an important part of the journey through life, but it’s a journey into the unknown, with a map that only reveals itself bit by bit. The rivers to cross, the ravines that force a detour. These challenges are more easily navigated when you have purpose and a sense of direction.

In many ways having a clear purpose is like having a compass on your belt. When life forces you to take a detour the compass helps you calculate the way back to your path.

Three things for dads to remember about purpose

  • Your purpose reflects your circumstances – it will change.
  • ‘Career’ and ‘Life’ are not separate entities – they are intertwined
  • Aligning your purpose with your partner and family is key.


Ian Dinwiddy is Founder and Director of Inspiring Dads – a coaching business specialising in supporting men with their work life balance.

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