Purpose matters. It gets us out of bed in the morning, puts a spring in our step and makes us resilient when the going gets tough. Purpose-oriented workers are more fulfilled by their work. They are 50% more likely to be in leadership positions and ambassadors for their organization.
Despite this, fewer than 20% of managers have a strong sense of their own personal purpose. Many confuse purpose with being ‘worthy’ or see it as a fad. The purpose question isn’t, however, going to go away. Nearly two-thirds of employees surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. In what has been called ‘The Great Resignation’, more than 40 per cent of the global workforce is ready to resign over the next year. By taking time to tune into your ‘why’, there is a huge opportunity to turn this into ‘The Great Reset.’ Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Reflect on where you are right now
How meaningful does your work feel right now? On a scale of 1-10 where’s your current centre of gravity? (Where 10 is ‘I feel energised and engaged’ and 1 ‘I feel deflated with no mojo.’) Feeling bored or disengaged can be a great spur for change. If you’re experiencing a lack of congruence between your interests, values and aims and those of your organisation, pay attention. That nagging voice inside that says, ‘I hate my job’ or ‘There’s got to be more to life than this’ or even ‘There’s got to be more to me than this’ saps your vitality. Start by acknowledging what is.
2. Discern your priorities
Purpose is a meaningful and enduring reason to exist that does three things. It enables you to earn a living (A), it is intrinsically enjoyable (B), and it makes a difference to others (human or non-human) (C.) The question is: How would you rank these three dimensions? Perhaps money is a ‘hygiene factor’—if you have enough to meet your needs, you’re not looking to max your income. Maybe contributing to the greater good is what floats your boat. Becoming clear on what your priorities are helps you to decide whether you stay in your current job or leave and look elsewhere.
3. Do some job crafting
Not everyone needs to change job to tune into their purpose. Your ‘why’ might be right under your nose, if you’re able to make some changes. Take time to notice which activities you find most energising. Identify which relationships feel most fulfilling. Observe which challenges are a good stretch. Find a way to talk with your boss about adapting your job so that you do more of what engages you and delegate or drop the rest. This might feel risky but ask yourself, what have I got to lose by starting the conversation?
4. Unpack your past
Childhood passions can hold important clues. It can be a trap to think that it’s self-indulgent to revisit these. When we’re young, we’re not so set in our ways and are more tuned into what feels good and brings self-worth. What did you most enjoy doing when you were little? Where were you really effective? It’s also valuable to reflect on how you might be living out the unfulfilled dreams of your parents or main caregivers. Are you trying to accomplish what they wanted or failed at? What others wanted can have a huge impact on your career choice. Don’t stay trapped in an outdated loyalty that doesn’t serve you.
5. Set goals and be audacious
What do you feel drawn to? Where do you feel a sense of ‘this is me’? In what way is the future ‘whispering’ to you? Glimpses of your future self can be fleeting unless you take time to slow down. Notice that ad for a post that energises you. Have a chat with that person who resonated with you. Re-read that article that buzzed you. Set an inspiring goal to keep you moving forward. Make it concrete and time-bound but go for something ambitious rather than mundane. Ask a trusted ally to ‘hold your feet to the fire’ so you take your next step in alignment with what you feel is yours to do.
Uncovering our purpose calls on us to notice where we are right now, dig into our past and listen to where we feel ‘pulled’ into an exciting possibility. Whilst it can feel risky to make a change, it can be even more risky to stay stuck in a job you don’t love. As these times of great uncertainty continue, tuning into your purpose gives you the edge by upping your energy and making work more meaningful and enjoyable.
About the author
Sarah Rozenthuler is an author, chartered psychologist, leadership consultant and dialogue coach with nearly 20 years international experience consulting to organizations around the world. Her current clients include Discovery Inc, Boots, Savills, Church of England, Standard Chartered Bank, Book Trust and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.
Sarah is the CEO of Bridgework, a consulting company she founded in 2007 to energise people to do great work. With deep expertise in making dialogue authentic and connecting people with a compelling purpose, Sarah inspires leaders, empowers teams and strengthens organisations to generate competitive advantage and become a force for good in the world.
This content has been created by authors in their personal capacity. Any views, thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pearson.