Finding purpose at work
Face facts. Work dominates your life. You’re going to spend 41-50% of your life at work, 29% asleep and the remaining 20-30% on other activities. If you don’t enjoy your work, these stats are enough to make you weep.
So how do you achieve satisfaction at work? Essentially, you either find love in your work or you put love into it. Ideally, it’s a bit of both.
Your Purpose comprises your gifts, talents and abilities, your core values and the contribution you are most inspired to make. It’s your best bit – the place within yourself that, if you were free, you would choose to live and explore without hesitation. It’s the Meaning you hold for your existence. Where better to seek that out than in the 41-50% of life?
INVEST IN YOURSELF
In Ancient Greece, when a person died a single question was asked about them, and the answer revealed volumes about their life: ‘Did he or she live passionately?’
Passion, of course, is different for everyone – it might be dancing, travelling or reading a book – but it’s the act of investing oneself so deeply into something that the rest of the world disappears and all we long for is to dive deeper into our euphoria.
Purpose is at the heart of passion. It is not a duty, but a joy. To live Purposefully is to live passionately and to try to have an effect along the way: to give through one’s passion.
So, what are you passionate about? How could you be more passionate in your work? If there were three things you could do today that would make you feel more passionate and purposeful, what would they be? And which one are you going to do first?
As a change management consultant, most of the people I have met who feel less than 8/10 passionate and Purposeful about their work give the following reasons:
Circumstances: ‘I had to get a job and this one came up.’
Procrastination: ‘I’m only doing this until…’
Expectations: ‘It’s all I could do.’
When I ask people about what would bring them greater fulfilment at work, many say higher pay or more acknowledgement from their boss. These things do make life easier and more pleasurable, however they don’t get to the essence of what makes us tick.
Our lives should reflect the things that are most important to us and we need to give in ways that bring out the best in us. If we don’t know what our Purpose is, our choices are compromised and we become jaded. Eventually, this starts to feels normal.
Small, incremental changes add up to big, radical changes, but it is a gentle process. If you set sail to cross the Atlantic and alter your course by one degree, after three hours of sailing your course will not have changed much. After three weeks, however, it is the difference between arriving in New York or Barbados. Little changes add up to a lot.
What if we simply change the way we are at work by one degree – applying our Purpose and sprinkling our passions in new and unexpected ways? Would that improve life? Would it make us better at what we do? Would we enjoy it more?
For example, a client of mine was happy with his pay, but found the job repetitive and stressful. His Purpose spoke of travel and adventure, so we set him monthly ‘exploration plans’.
He started by walking to work. It took him more than an hour, so he had to leave earlier, but he could walk along a river and the canals. He saw a completely different side of London and the Purposeful part of himself was nourished – day in, day out. His outlook changed and, as a result, his choices did, too.
LIVE YOUR PURPOSE
Of course, you can also make larger changes. Try this. Take a piece of paper and entitle it ‘If I had 20 lifetimes’. Write down all the different jobs you would love to do. Nothing is off limits, but you must write down at least 20 and love all of them. Once finished, ask yourself whether you are in your current job because it is convenient or because it truly excites and ignites you.
If it’s the latter, that’s wonderful – tell 10 people how you achieved it. If it’s the former, there are plenty of amazing choices you can make to bring your Purpose and reality closer together. You can look at the qualities in all the jobs on your list and blend them together to create your perfect role. Some 60% of the jobs that exist today did not exist 40 years ago.
What, though, if you want to live your Purpose, but you’re in a job that scores only 5 out of 10 yet gives you the money, stability and structure you need? There are so many ways to live your Purpose. Novelist Franz Kafka worked as a clerk for an insurance company. For a man of his extraordinary imagination, this must have been deeply unfulfilling. But it didn’t stop him living his Purpose – he wrote his remarkable masterpieces in the evenings.
The truth is that most of our satisfaction comes from how much we give of ourselves. That means jumping into a project, job or other possibility and discovering through exploration and curiosity how to make it work and turn it into something of significance.
You can live Purposefully every day, and find avenues and jobs that help you to explore your Purpose. But you need to know what it is to live with Purpose – for this, you just have to take the time to ask yourself the questions that reveal your truths and help you to articulate them.
FEEL THE LOVE: The 7 questions to find your purpose
1. How much does your job say ‘yes’ to you on a scale of 1-10?
10 = I love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world. 1 = I’ve got a pulse.
2. What are the six things you like best about your job?
Rate each one, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being great.
3. What aspects of your job are 2s, 3s and 4s out of 10? (Five things max.)
4. Make up different ways to turn those 2s, 3s and 4s into 5s, 6s and 7s.
Try to make your ideas silly, fun and different. Throw in a couple of realistic ones, too.
5. What out of your 8s, 9s and 10s could you apply to your 2s, 3s and 4s?
So, if you like your team say 8/10, but your boss is a 2/10, you might ask your colleagues for suggestions about how to work better with your boss and apply one or two of them. Similarly, if you like where you work (9/10), but don’t like getting up early (3/10), could you explore flexible working hours or doing something nice on the way to work?
6. What would you do for free? Work, hobbies or interests?
7. Make a list of 20 ways you could give yourself the life you want doing the things you listed for Q6.
Every third or fourth idea needs to be completely ridiculous, utterly impossible or just to make you laugh.
Take the most impossible and ridiculous idea from Q7 and work out three ways to make it possible.
Author Richard Jacobs’ book 7 Questions To Find Your Purpose is available on Amazon now
Read more: What do you want to be when you grow up?