Most people are confused about the purpose of work in their life. Terms like passionate, purposeful and meaningful are thrown around very loosely in career discussions. Which can lead to a lot of confusion about why you show up to work each day.
Is the intent to make money? To fulfill the soul? To add significance to life? To define who you are? To be a productive member of society? Or to be passionate about what you do?
If you are like me – you probably think its all of the above. But I can tell you – this method of oversubscribing to the why behind our work is a recipe for confusion and unhappiness.
This way of thinking was engrained from an early age – so who can blame us for getting a little confused?
When you were a child you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. In high school you were pushed to find a calling. In college you were expected to thoughtfully choose a career. And as an adult it’s reinforced every time you meet someone and they ask you what you do instead of who you are.
Given these messages it’s easy to see why a lot of us think the most important thing in life is to align our calling to what we do to make money. But this approach might be the thing that’s making you really unhappy and possibly unsuccessful at work.
While it is ideal to have a job that you are challenged by, engaged in, and enabled to do good work at; it’s entirely too much pressure to expect our jobs to fulfill our desire for meaning, to be our source for passion and to express our purpose in life.
As a career strategy and burnout coach, I wholeheartedly want my clients to be happy at work. Opening up to that possibility means you often have to take a step back and look at the whole picture, evaluate your personal definitions of purpose, passion and meaning and what fulfills them in your life, then getting clear on how work fits into or sits outside of these definitions.
There is a difference between work purpose, passion and meaning and life purpose, passion and meaning – and that if you want to be happier at work you need to get clear on the distinction.
Here’s how I define work purpose, passion and meaning:
Think of this as the reason your organization does what it does and the specific role you play in making it happen.
Lacking clarity about your contribution to the business or the business’s contribution to society is a surefire way to become confused and unhappy about the part work plays in your life.
Rest assured that having passion for your work does not mean that you need to love the work or have found your calling.
In the context of work, passion equates to having an abundance of energy that you can dedicate to your work. The more energy you have for your work, the more likely you’ll be engaged in it.
Simply meaning is the value work provides to your life. This is the answer to the question why you are working? It’s ok for the answer to simply be to pay your bills. Its also ok for it to be because you’ve found your calling.
Thinking about purpose, passion and meaning at work in these terms is going to help you clarify what you actually want and need from your job. Its also going to free you from the pressure of trying to find your calling and turn it into a job. All of which will enable you to be much much much more content at work.
Want to get unstuck and build a career you love? Contact me!