“Finding your purpose” at work is one of those statements that may appear both overused and a bit of a cliché. However, it is much more than a cliché. It is essential for becoming more resilient.
Research widely indicates a strong link between purpose and resilience, suggesting that people with a sense of purpose will make better decisions, experience better health and wellbeing and will be better able to gain perspective in challenging situations. If you are a regular reader of my blogs, then you will know that I posted an article on the importance of perspective to enhancing your resilience only a few weeks ago.
To put it simply, it is widely acknowledged that people with purpose are more resilient. Like all the other resilience enhancing skills I am addressing in these articles, you can work on and develop your sense of purpose.
What is ‘purpose’?
For many people, explaining a ‘sense of purpose’ is challenging and quite vague, even though it is something that we have all witnessed or felt at some stage in our lives. To put this in context, I was delivering a leadership session to a group of first line managers in a manufacturing business last week. We discussed ‘purpose’ and they found it difficult to discuss their own personal or team purpose even though they could explain it in terms of their favourite sports team etc.
The best way to describe purpose is having a clear direction and meaning that is directly relevant to what we are doing. It is this direction and meaning that serves to motivate us and drive us towards continued progress, growth and achievement. Purpose allows us to form clear reasons for what we want to do.
Benefits of Purpose
There are many benefits to encourage you to develop your sense of purpose. The list of benefits here is just a sample. People with a sense of purpose:
- Can use that purpose to steady themselves during a crisis or other challenging times, enabling them to retain direction.
- By maintaining direction, they can also retain a sense of stability and determination as they can keep the goal in sight.
- Are better able to gain perspective in most situations, enabling them to effectively deal with stressors, obstacles and challenges.
- Seek meaning and learning in all experiences, both positive and negative.
- Are clear on what is important to them and use this clarity to effectively prioritise, especially when under pressure.
- Can deal with setbacks more effectively as they retain clarity to assess the setback against the goal and adjust their plan accordingly.
- Have clarity on what short- and long-term goals need to be accomplished in order to complete a task.
Developing Your Sense of Purpose at Work
Like all the skills in this series, purpose is something you can develop and work on over time. Please note, also like the other skills here, developing your sense of purpose takes time and patience. It will not be achieved overnight.
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
- The Big Picture: part 1
Think about what you do at work. Ask yourself “what feels rewarding when I put a lot of effort into it?”, “what tasks/work do I want to put a lot of effort into it?”, and “when under pressure, what do I prioritise?”
The answers to these questions will highlight what you value and is a good first step towards discovering your sense of purpose.
- The Big Picture: part 2
Many people look at their job in terms of the product they make or the service they provide. It is easier to simply see what is right in front of us rather than what we do actually means to the end user.
In this short video, I describe how the staff at Michelin (Ballymena, Northern Ireland) talked about the purpose of their jobs.
Ask yourself the following questions to understand your purpose:
- Who is the end user/beneficiary for what you do? Remember, the end user is not always the customer who buys your product.
- How do they benefit from your skills, talent, experience, expertise and knowledge?
- What are the potential outcomes for them if you don’t do your job to your fullest ability?
- Define – what do you ultimately do for them?
- Be a Giver
Altruism is heavily linked to meaningfulness. Those who give, rather than take, tend to have a more purposeful life. ‘Giving’ can mean a lot of things and isn’t just about being charitable.
How can you be a ‘giver’ at work? For example, you can be generous with your time, knowledge, skills and experience. You can give access to these to help others or to mentor future talent to give their career a boost.
- Make Time to Talk
There is an old saying: ‘its good to talk’. It was used in TV and radio adverts for years by a telecoms company. This old saying is absolutely spot on correct. It is most definitely good to talk if you want to discover your purpose at work.
I don’t just mean talking to people within your immediate circle, though this is a good place to start. Push the boundaries and talk with people outside that circle, both people within your organisation and beyond. Open yourself to conversations with as wide a range of people outside your circle as possible.
People like to talk and we all love it when someone shows an interest in what we do and what we are interested in. When we experience someone showing this interest, we are more likely to open ourselves to a meaningful conversation. We are also more likely to think favourably of the person showing this interest, so there is an added benefit.
These conversations will open up a world of information to you about the place where you work. You will develop an enhanced understanding of the business, its values and what its purpose is. As well as opening up opportunities, these conversations also deepen your sense of purpose.
- Seek Feedback…..and Listen!
Sometimes it is too difficult to recognise all the things you feel passionate about at work. There are too many distractions and too many things you do in your job that are important, somewhat interesting but not always something you get passionate about. The things you love to do can become so caught up in all of this that it is hard to see them.
This is where the people around you come into play. They will see your eyes light up when doing a specific task or they will recognise how you talk about some things with more energy and passion. There is an excellent chance that you are already displaying your passion for some tasks and just don’t know it.
Again, it is good to talk. This time, you should ask people around you for their insights. Ask them, for example, what reminds them of you or what tasks/skills at work make them think of you when they need expertise in these areas. You could also take note when someone makes an observation about you and your work or when they pay you a compliment.
This will help you understand what you are good at in your job and will help you develop your sense of purpose.