How would you rate yourself on the meaning scale in your career right now? Do you feel like you are working on purpose, that you have a calling and are acting on it, and that you have meaning in your work each day?
If you’re reading that in a cold sweat thinking to yourself, ‘what on earth is she talking about?!’ You’re not alone. And please don’t panic!
The vast majority of people are going through the motions when it comes to their career. It’s like being on auto pilot, or on the treadmill, and it happens for a whole lot of reasons. We get busy, we get stuck in a rut, we find ourselves a decade into a career and worry that it’s too late to change, and we sometimes believe that meaning and purpose are for ‘those’ people, you know, the lucky ones, but not for us.
If you have those thoughts, you’re in good company. But you’d also be selling yourself short. If you are struggling to find meaning in your work each day, or are longing to really discover what your purpose is, then browse through these thought starters, quietly contemplate the ones that you are drawn too, and see where they lead you.
1. Know it’s ok to want more. If you’re unfulfilled in your career, have a big dream, long to find your calling or just know that what you’re doing isn’t ‘it’, then know that it’s ok to want to find something different, more meaningful and on purpose. You can go slowly. You don’t need to declare to the world that you are on a seeking mission. You just have to admit it to yourself first.
2. Stop waiting to be struck. Most of us wait to get struck by purpose, like a lightening bolt from the sky or hearing the voice of God. But researchers tell us that it rarely happens like that. We discover our callings, bit by bit, not in one giant moment of clarity. So stop waiting for it to rain down from the heavens and start taking small concrete steps to uncover it piece by piece.
3. Start following your interests. So if not struck, then how do we discover it? We start by simply following our interest in a certain area, finding ways to spark it, and keep reigniting it over a long period of time. For me it started with an interest in women at work, so I followed that interest by attending women’s conferences, joining the diversity council at work, reading and researching small pieces of information and it grew from there. What are you currently interested in? How can you keep sparking that interest and see where it takes you? 4. How ‘you’ do you feel? Do you ever feel like you’re just not yourself anymore? Like when you were younger you had such a sense of yourself, but as you got older and more entrenched in your career you have lost your essence? This is a sign you are off track. Think back to the things that used to make you feel alive, authentic, real and you. What can you bring back today that will reconnect you with that core of who you truly are, even just a little bit?
5. Where do you lose time? Think about the moments of full engagement where you lose track of time, your surroundings, forget to eat or even move from your chair. These are moments of flow where you are engaging your strengths in a task that is fully absorbing you. These moments can be a good place to investigate a potential source of meaning for you.
6. Think about who inspires, interests and excites you. Write a list of 15 people who truly inspire you, whose work interests you and who you get excited thinking about a day in the life of. What do they do? Why is it interesting? What content are they working with? Who are they helping? Is there a spark in there you can follow that may lead to meaning for you?
7. Look for ways to find meaning right where you are. We often think that we have to give up our jobs and change our whole lives to be able to get ‘on purpose’. But most of the time we can find meaning right where we are today. Think about the interests you want to pursue from question 3. What can you do today, in the role you are in, to bring in some of those interests?
8. If you got to the end of your life… Pretend you are at your 85th birthday party and reflecting back on your life. If there was one path that you had regrets about not pursuing, what would it be? Often the pang of regret that we can foresee, if we don’t take certain action, can be a sign of a path worth pursuing.