Find Purpose in Your Life and Work

I was recently wondering out loud with my cycling mates about what my life purpose might be. I should have known better.

My friends, seizing the opportunity, suggested that my purpose is to serve as a warning for others. Having been on the receiving end of such pay-outs from friends over the years, I am thinking that my purpose is possibly to provide entertainment value for my friends. But, over time, I have worked out that it is simply to help people to have better relationships.

For me, the death of my father when I was five and the ongoing impact of his loss on my family gave me a great sense of the importance of relationships. These experiences also gave me some empathy for others.

When I gravitated as a young man to the field of counselling, I quickly discovered that relationships lay at the core of all of the problems I was dealing with - people dealing with conflicted or abusive relationships, those who had a poor relationship with themselves, and those struggling to live well due to the absence of close, supportive relationships. 

For me, it is all about relationships.

Let me ask you, why do you do the work you do? Is it simply to earn enough money to provide for yourself and your loved ones? Or is there a deeper, more motivating factor that engages and motivates you?

Apparently, a lot of people struggle in finding a meaningful purpose to their work, apart from earning an income. When people are asked if they have a strong purpose to their work, only about a third say that they do.

This should be a concern to managers, as team members, who lack purpose to their work, tend to be less resilient and engaged. 

At a personal level as well, it is not great to be stuck in work that lacks personal satisfaction and meaning. While not everyone is in the position to easily change their work, I believe we can at least search for purpose at a personal level.

Many parents, for example, find great purpose in helping their children to become their best and live happy lives. Others see their purpose as helping people in some way, perhaps through the money they give to charity or through the voluntary work they do. Others find purpose through their faith and spirituality.

I find that no matter what kind of work you do, a noble purpose can often be found. But it does need to be meaningful to you personally. 

I remember a team of hospital cleaners telling me of the purpose they had in their work. They saw their work as being more than providing clean and comfortable surroundings, but also in helping the people there to feel better. They joked with me that the doctors were on another planet, the nurses were run off their feet, and often they were the only people in hospital who joked with and had real  conversations with the patients. 

The purpose of their work, they said, is to  'give people a good experience in hospital'. 

A team of road construction workers told me that their purpose is to 'keep families moving'. They saw the roads they build as helping parents to take children to school, do the shopping, and get to work.

I remember a team of Deputy Principals who told me their purpose was simply to 'keep things running smoothly'.

You will notice from those listed above that purpose is often described succinctly, enabling it to be easily remembered, not like mission statements which are often wordy and very forgettable.

Team members ability to engage with the purpose of their work is also largely associated with their manager's ability to communicate it well. Passion and purpose are infectious. What is meaningful to those in leadership roles is often meaningful and motivating for others. Even if you are not in management, you can at least find a meaningful purpose for you and speak with others about your shared purpose when the opportunity arises.

What drives you to get up each morning and do the work you do? You may have to give some thought to it or perhaps even discuss with your team.

I guarantee that finding a meaningful purpose will help your and your team to feel more engaged and help everyone to pull in the same direction when challenges arise. A shared purpose can be a unifying factor.

We can have different opinions and different ways of working, but for teams to work well, we need to have a common purpose.

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