Finding Purpose In Your Work
Updated: Jan 10
How can you make your current role or workplace more meaningful and inspiring? How do you refocus and find purpose in your work?
Who is the person in your organization that cares the most about your career?
I was stumped the first time I was asked this question, very early on in my professional life. “Who could it be?”, I thought. “My manager? No, maybe his manager? A team member? A Director? No, the CEO?”. I flitted through a number of improbable options, instinctively knowing them all to be unlikely answers.
The answer of course, is - “You”.
My first lesson in self-leadership, or at least the first one that stuck. The emotion I experienced immediately upon hearing this answer, was fear. A sudden reckoning with the uncomfortable reality that I owned this. What took some time to come to light though, was a recognition of power - the power to create the experiences we want.“How, you ask?”
You create your career vision, you identify long and short term goals in service of that vision and you choose your strategy to achieve those goals. Only you can tell when those strategies do not work and only you can re-evaluate to get things back on track. You know your feelings and you can influence your thoughts and your behaviors. This is all within your power to do, should you choose to own that power.
If you want your current role to be more meaningful and inspiring, the person to look to, is undoubtedly yourself. Particularly, if you see yourself as a leader, you must ensure you hone the skill of leading yourself. Here are some powerful strategies I've used myself and some of them, I have partnered with others to create.
Acknowledge your reality as a Choice - You show up at work every day, as expected, and over time it becomes easy to forget that you have any say in the matter. Nevertheless, you are not powerless and you did in fact make a choice to be in your current role. It is this choice that you honor everyday that you show up.
Become Aware of What you Gain - At the very least your current job is a source of income, work experience, and an opportunity for learning in the company of individuals with a wide range of personalities, skills and values. What else do you have access to by virtue of your role, that you wouldn’t have without it? Your answer might alter the way you think of your role.
Create Your Own Momentum - Reconnect with your career goals and become clear on where you see yourself going next. Gauge how your current position measures up in getting you there and identify any gaps. What skills will be required of you? What is the best way to gain those skills? Chart your path and take action, focusing on the most immediate step each time. Whether your plans can be executed at your workplace or outside of it, whether they take months or years, you will have taken responsibility for your career. You will be heading consciously in the direction you want to go. Creating your own momentum allows you to combat the feeling of being stuck.
Choose a Beginner Mindset - Reimagine your approach to your role, engaging with the intention to learn, even in familiar situations and especially in challenging ones. You may find yourself learning a great deal more and doing things differently than what you've been used to. Not all environments are conducive to change nor openness to accepting ones unfamiliarity with a subject, so you be the judge of how you apply this intention. On the other hand, if you are in a position to affect culture, then be assured that everyone stands to benefit from one that supports learning and best efforts, rather than the stress of constantly trying to prove themselves.
Be a Mentor - When you choose to be of service to others, it takes the focus off yourself and that can be a truly rewarding experience. Make yourself available as a mentor if your workplace is structured for it. If not, take some time to offer your help to people that might need and appreciate it, maybe in areas that you might have appreciated some help in the past.
Get Mentored - Reach out to someone you find inspiring and ask if they will mentor you. This does not always have to be someone higher up on the ladder and neither does inspiration need to be work related. If there is a coworker who is doing something you're interested in, learn from them.
Create Meaning Outside of the Workplace - In life outside the workplace, take steps towards living through your values and prioritizing pursuits that feel meaningful to you, so that the burden of inspiration and purpose, is not entirely on the workplace. Adopting meaningful habits in one area of life, typically have a way of bleeding their benefits into others. Also, when one area feels challenging, the other will then have the potential to carry you through.