In this episode of Both Success And Integrity With Bessi Graham, Bessi is joined by Dr. Christine Whelan, an author and professor at University of Wisconsin Madison and Emory University, to discuss the deeply human need to find your why, your fulfillment and purpose and how she defines purpose.

The term “purpose” has become a buzzword in the business world but much of the discussion around it is more performative than substantive. In order to make progress, it is essential for leaders to personally explore their own purpose, rather than simply treating it as a slogan. This personal journey is important because traditional definitions of purpose, such as a singular life aim, can be overly restrictive. A more realistic definition is using one’s gifts, in keeping with their values, to make a positive impact on others. This definition is action-oriented and adaptable as values, gifts, and priorities change over time.

Also in this episode:

  • Dr. Whelan’s passion for translating research into action
  • Practical tools to help you figure out the disconnect
  • How you should think about mission and purpose as you find your why
  • The parable of the Traveler and the Cathedral
  • Narrowing down your values to fit your purpose
  • How we find the confidence that we’re making aligned decisions
  • Understanding the power paradox

Stay Connected With Dr. Christine Whelan


Dr. Whelan’s audio book:

About Dr. Christine Whelan

Dr. Christine Whelan is known as the “happy professor” at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and the “purpose professor” at Emory University. Dr. Whelan is an author, speaker and consultant. And with a partner, five kids and a dog, she does her best to embrace this chaos… happily, on purpose, and not lose her mind in the process.  

Dr. Whelan is the author of Living on Purpose, a bestselling Audible Original lecture series from The Great Courses (2021), The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life (Templeton Press, 2016), Generation WTF: From “What the &%#$?” to a Wise, Tenacious and Fearless You (Templeton Press, 2011), Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to True Love (Simon & Schuster, 2009) and Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women (Simon & Schuster, 2006).  

Dr. Whelan teaches on topics of purpose, well-being and personal definitions of success through the life course. At UW-Madison, she directs the Money, Relationships and Equality Institute, a program dedicated to facilitating those tricky conversations about the intersection of love and money.   Dr. Whelan is passionate about translating academic research into actionable programs for our everyday lives. She has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and countless other national and international publications.  Dr. Whelan earned degrees from Princeton University and the University of Oxford. Her motto comes from Seneca — “not for school but for life we learn” — and she does her best to practice what she preaches. Most days.  

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About Bessi Graham:

With over 20 years of experience working with business owners, governments, and large funding bodies to bring “doing good” and “making money” back together, my experience spans from the grassroots of sitting in the dirt working with business owners across the Pacific Islands through to the United Nations in Geneva. This has given me an unparalleled perspective on what makes change happen. 

You know you were born to do something significant, so don’t leave it to chance.

28. Find Your Why: How to Move Beyond Performative Buzzwords and Personalize The Purpose Of Your Business | feat. Dr. Christine Whelan

Both Success And Integrity: Doing Well By Doing Good Inside Your Business with Bessi Graham