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Finding Purpose, Passion, and Meaning in Our Career

Calvin & Hobbs on purpose, passion and meaning. Credit: Bill Watterson

Passion, elusive or real?

Work is an important part of our lives, something within which we spend most of our waking hours.  If our work loses its purpose, passion, and meaning, then we are also at risk of losing those elements within our life. The good news is that we can always make a fresh start by looking at where we are and hitting the proverbial reset button. In other words, make a change that will give us what we seek!

What does it really mean to do a reset on our work, or on our career path?

Unlocking purpose, passion, and meaning through a reset

Creating a reset button, so to speak, is uniquely personal. The form that the reset takes depends on our own mindset and our current capabilities. 

For instance, if we consider mindset. What would be possible if we changed our thinking from minimum standards or requirements in a role to the upper limit of possibilities within that role? Essentially, this is our own story of “when the world hands us lemons (or what we think are lemons), make lemonade”.

When we consider capabilities, here we think about a few aspects. We consider our:

  • Skill level right now (often called current competencies)
  • Passionate drivers (the things that motivate us to do something no matter how hard it is)
  • Outcomes, which we believe a target organization (including our current employer) needs us to achieve

So, how do we do this in a way that sticks?

Making it happen

Mindsets are typically formed based on our beliefs and experiences and are either fixed or growth based on their orientation. To illustrate this in practice, faced with tight timelines – a growth mind would typically respond with “The deadline is tight; we are up for the challenge.” Whereas a fixed mind would typically veer towards thinking “We will never make this crazy deadline”. As you’ve undoubtedly read in my previous blogs, whatever we tell ourselves, it is true. Our mind responds appropriately to what we believe and tell ourselves, positive or negative, true or false.

This is the first skill to build. Be more conscious about your thoughts, and challenge your thinking when the existing beliefs you hold do not prove useful or helpful to you. 

The second skill is of being able to see ourselves for all of our strengths and weaknesses and evolving average skills into great ones. For instance, knowing what is average and thinking about how we could make it a strength. Let me illustrate. In our home, one of my strengths is budgeting and planning whereas my wife is infinitely better than me when it comes to estimating time for any project, task, or large-scale change. For some, as yet unexplained, reason I routinely underestimate work effort and time scales by about half. The good news is I get it right now, for no more creative reason than I double my initial estimate knowing my timescale weakness.

When we consider passion, we would be remiss if we didn’t consider the things that we love doing. So much so that doing it does not feel like work. Of course, there are always some elements of a job that we do because it needs to get done. I loosely refer to these are the necessary “evils” of the role. Whereas others are exciting and appealing. These are activities in which we lose all sense of time and are the same things we strive to find more of within a role. 

Now consider outcomes that you believe are necessary for the organization’s success. It is akin to stepping back and taking a 10,000-metre view of what is needed. These necessities are the things that move the performance needle, often dramatically, in the right direction. 

Our purpose, passion, and meaning are found at the intersection of capabilities, passion, and outcomes. When we identify the overlapping area, we will find our ideal opportunity.

Final Thoughts

Change begins with each of us. Is this change easy? No. let’s be honest if it was easy to find our purpose, passion, and meaning then everyone would be doing it. It takes a different mindset, grit, and practice. The rewards from living a positive, action-oriented purposeful life bring us so much more than we ever expend getting it. 

We can take inspiration from the immortal words of George Bernard Shaw:

“You see things; you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?” 

George Bernard Shaw

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your insights with others relating to how you are working towards finding purpose, passion, and meaning for yourself.

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Bill Watterson

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