Purpose at work is non-negotiable.
Given how important purpose in life is and the fact we spend most of our lives working – finding purpose at work is key to our well-being.
For some of us, this may feel like an uphill battle. But there is good news. The research shows that you only need to spend about 20% of your work efforts on purposeful activities to reap the benefits.
That is spending only one day in a five day work week on meaningful activities and you can avoid the associated negative effects like burnout and a life that feels… blah.
What this means for you?
If you don’t find purpose in your current role right now – you don’t need to quit your job. You don’t need to take a big leap and follow your passions and dreams (unless you want to).
Finding more purpose in your day could just be a matter of making a few small tweaks to your current role.
Signs you need need to dial up purpose at work
You may be asking yourself – do I need more purpose at work?
Here are some signs that you do:
- You are bored at/with work
- You feel like you work just to pay the bills
- You don’t like your job
- You don’t feel challenged at work
- You don’t feel like your work is worthwhile or making a difference to anyone
If any (or all) of these resonate with you. Then now is a good time to look at improving how purpose shows up for you at work.
What you need to know about your purpose
Working out how to add more purpose into your day might not be straight forward. You need to understand yourself.
Understanding what brings you a sense of purpose is about understanding your “why”. You want to understand why activities feel fulfilling and worthwhile to you.
To understand your why – you need to start with a bunch of “whats”.
- What are your interests?
- What are your strengths?
- What engages and excites you?
- What motivates you?
- What do you enjoy doing that benefits others?
- What do you want to spend your time on?
- What do you avoid doing?
- What are your core values?
Looking at these answers holistically will allow you to connect with the things that are meaningful to you. And help you understand what you can tap into in your life and workplace.
The key to finding activities that bring you purpose is to think about the things that can encompass lots of your “whats” at once.
Ways we can find purpose at work
Now that you understand the sort of activities may feel meaningful to you. You can think of ways to apply them at work.
The list below provides different examples of how you can shape your experience in any role to try to dial up feelings of purpose.
Crafting is the art of making your current role feel purposeful (which you are aiming to do 20% of the time). Once you have identified the activities that bring you meaning – work with the people around you to make them happen.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. If your manager can’t change your duties – are there other activities you can create yourself? Like mentoring or starting an educational lunchtime program?
How you frame your role will go a long way to how purposeful it feels to you. Research that surveyed janitors working at a hospital found those who considered themselves as part of the healing process for patients had a purposeful connection to their work. In contrast, those who just saw themselves as cleaners did not.
Do you have activities that immerse you – make you lose track of time – give you the feeling you are in your element. This is described by positive psychologists as Flow. Finding flow in your work will help it feel purposeful.
Cultivating good relationships will improve your time at work and can open the doors to future purpose-driven opportunities.
Building relationships that allow you to educate and foster the talents of others will feel purposeful. Seize these opportunities when you can.
Purpose is fluid. New experiences and learning can help to shape your purpose journey and how it shows up for you at work.
Lean into things that interest and excite you and see where it takes you.
Research has shown being aligned with your organisation’s mission and purpose is a large factor in being happy at work.
If you can’t align yourself with the organisational goals – try to do it on a smaller scale. Does your purpose align with a personal client mission? Or, maybe to a project’s outcome?
If you can’t align your goals at work with your purpose – try to look outside of work.
Volunteering your time – using meaningful skills and strengths – is a great way to get purpose into your world. You may also tick the boxes in your home and family life to hit your 20% weekly threshold that feels good.
If you have tried to do all these things above – but havent got results that work for you – it might be time to consider a change. However, you can now create a checklist to use when approaching new opportunities.
The endless search for purpose at work
It is important to remember that purpose is fluid not set. So, you need to approach your journey with an open heart and mind. Be prepared to experiment and make sure you look to balance purpose and practicality.
There will be many opportunities lying in wait for you – so have fun with it. And remember – you only need to do it 20% of your week!
Finding life balance is an ongoing task that we should all pay attention to.
The right balance can transform your life from feeling average to joyous – whether your life is a three-ring circus, a high-wire act or you are in charge of cleaning elephant dung.
Life has to be a balance between our preferences and our necessities. But the balance needs to align with who we are and where we want to be. It should be a more holistic (and deeper) consideration than just work and life.
Balance in life should be between your fundamental priorities. This will give you a life that feels personally successful.
To achieve this balance, you will need to start by reflecting on the life you are living now and what you want from it. This should be done in the context of your life’s key ingredients so you can discover guidelines to live your version of a personally successful life.
These key ingredients to consider include:
- Core values
- Meaning & purpose
- Personally aligned goals
Finding the right balance between these could be the difference between a life that feels… blah and a life that feels fulfilled.
A balanced life is a successful life
A life with the right balance will feel personally successful. But, do you know what your personal definition of success looks like?
Do you know what you need for your life to feel happy, meaningful and perfect to you?
It is not unusual to be confused about what is truly important in our lives. We can easily create a life with missing ingredients when we are focused on work, family, etc.
So, it is important to take the time to check in with ourselves to make sure we are on the right path (a successful one that we feel proud of.)
Finding life balance involves happiness
Happiness is hard to define. But, you know what it means to you and you know if you have enough.
In your busy life, this can be an easily overlooked ingredient. But when you make sure you have the balance right, happiness can make a huge difference in your life.
Take the time to think about what makes you happy. Consider how often these things happen in your day-to-day. Are you happy with this balance?
Values are at the core of finding life balance
Another important part of life’s balancing act is your core values.
Core values are the fundamentals of how you understand yourself and approach the world.
Living a life aligned to your values can help you feel content with your day-to-day. For example, if you value creativity – days spent being creative may feel ideal.
It is important to understand what your core values are and how they show up in the way you live your life.
Purpose is needed for life balance
A sense of purpose is a key ingredient in a life that feels fulfilled and meaningful.
Purpose in your life can take many forms. They are activities that give you a “worthwhile” feeling. They can be the opportunity to engage your skills and your passions. They can fully absorb you and make you lose track of time. They are the things that give meaning to your life.
We are creatures that seek meaning in our lives. Without this – we can feel lost.
It is important to understand the role of purpose in your life and ensure that it is part of your life’s balancing act.
Your goal to find life balance
Goals are an essential component of a life that feels good. They give your life essential structure, direction and a sense of achievement that helps you thrive.
However, all goals are not created equally. The key to goals that enrich your life is that they:
- Are manageable and practicle in your busy life
- Fit in with your personality and the way you live your life
- Are built the right way and set you up for success
The key to finding life balance
It is easy to get caught up with your roles and responsibilities. As a result, you can easily end up in a balancing act that doesn’t actually align with who you are and what is important to you.
If you self-reflect and look at your life as a whole you can make sure you are tending to the key ingredients of your life. And if you are not you can set your goals accordingly.
You might find that your life is not the juggling act you want – maybe you would prefer to be shot out of a cannon?
Start your balance journey for free
Finding life balance is something I am passionate about. Because, I have lived an unbalanced life that felt… blah.
If you are looking for help to find balance in your life, check out this free course that will support you to explore all the areas in your life and take a step towards a life you love.
This is not about finding more time in your busy life. It is about making sure your busy life is constructed from the right ingredients – the ingredients you need to fire the perfect cannonball.
Photo by Becky Phan on Unsplash
Why I advocate for: a package deal; avoiding being a miserable purpose-driven engine; & balancing out the joy-suckers.
These days – I feel like everyone is telling us to live a purposeful life.
Research tells us that living a purposeful life has many benefits. These range from psychological well-being and life satisfaction to physical advantages too.
But, I believe that purpose is only part of the picture. Especially, at a time when life is busy with work and kids. And today I want to explain why.
What is purpose?
The definition of purpose would be a sensible starting place for this discussion. This is easier said than done.
In literature, the definition and components of purpose can differ. However, research into the psychology of purpose generally agrees that it has three components:
- Meaning: Your understanding of what brings personal meaning to your life
- Goals: The pursuit of personal goals that are aligned to your meaning
- The benefit of others: A component of your meaning-aligned goals will be for the benefit of others.
A bit about the research on living a purposeful life
The topic of life’s purpose has been mused over since ancient times. However, modern research for the psychology of purpose started with Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl.
During the Holocaust, Frankl observed a link between survivors and the presence of a sense of meaning. From the publication of his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) to the present-day field of positive psychology, there has been an abundance of data demonstrating the importance of purpose in our lives.
Let’s talk about the benefits of a purposeful life
Research demonstrates that purpose is an important component of psychological wellbeing. This is defined by both an enhanced positive state and a reduction in negative states such as anxiety, boredom, depression, and loneliness.
Purpose has also been found to correlate to many physical benefits. Including:
Why living a purposeful life isn’t all beer and skittles
I am not disputing that purpose is linked to positive emotions and wellbeing. But, anyone who is a parent knows – it doesn’t always bring happiness.
Happiness itself is a minefield term (that I will discuss in detail at a later date). However, let’s define it today – as a sense of pleasure.
Studies have found that parenting is a highly purposeful experience. However, if you are a parent that finds this experience 100% pleasurable – get in touch – I’ve always wanted to meet a unicorn.
In fact, the data suggests that primary caregiving is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms.
Are you a miserable purpose-driven engine?
So – if you are in the business of parenting – you may have found sometimes there is a hole where happiness used to be.
It should also be considered that research has shown – over our lifetime happiness can be represented by a U curve. According to this model, we can expect a continual decrease in happiness until we reach 49 – when it upturns and increases (so we can expect to be very happy in our 70s).
(Am I filling you with hope and excitement? 🙁 – bear with me)
For these reasons, I propose life has to be a package deal (for us under mid-50s primary caregivers). To avoid an unhappy outlook day-to-day – we need to concentrate on sprinkling happiness on top of our purpose-driven lives.
Now, I feel I need to tell you – this sort of happiness or pleasure we are talking about does not have the positive benefits of purpose. In fact, it may have some detrimental effects. (I will also cover further at a later date). But, sometimes – you have got to do – what you have got to do.
Because – in my mind – to get yourself happily out of bed in the morning – the key is to find the right balance in your life.
Behavioural Scientist Paul Dolan proposes we need to find the balance between being a “pleasure machine” who experiences more pleasure than purpose and a “purpose engine” that experiences more purpose than pleasure in the day-to-day.
How balanced is your life?
Now, it may be pretty obvious to you whether your life is striking the right balance. But, if you are wondering. Take a moment to self-reflect on the week that has passed.
(If you want to get serious get out a spreadsheet or pens so you can do some math or draw some charts.)
- How much time have you spent on purposeful activities? Think about activities that felt fulfilling and worthwhile eg. projects at work, helping family or time exercising
- How much time have you spent on pleasurable activities? Think about things that have brought you joy and excitement.
- Is the balance right between the two?
What do you reckon – have you got the balance right?
The key to living a purposeful life – The package deal
So, although there is a myriad of reasons that you should be living a purposeful life. Remember, happiness should not be neglected. The very things that are giving you purpose could be sucking the joy out of your life. So, you need to strike the right balance.
For example, when the joy-suckers have gone to bed – put on your favourite tunes – pour your favourite drink – and get excited about your 70s… (the real winning age in the happiness U curve)
Photo by Isis França on Unsplash
Have you got the balance right in your life?
Pop a comment below & let me know your thoughts.