istock
Source: istock

Are you waiting to be struck by a sense of purpose when it comes to your career? Or perhaps you’ve already figured out what your heart longs to be doing but you’ve placed purpose on the back-burner until you can afford to do the work you love. But what if there was a way to start being true to your purpose right now? 

The truth is, the number one thing most of us say we want in our work—more than money, job security or flexibility—is purpose. We long to be more than the sum of the tasks we perform each day.  And yet for many of us meaningful work often feels like something we simply can’t afford.  

So how can you connect with your purpose in any job?

“Purpose is the driving force behind who you are,” explained Carin Rockind, a leading happiness coach, speaker and author when I interviewed her recently. “Many people make the mistake of looking for purpose.  But purpose isn’t a noun—it’s a verb” 

Research has found when you have a strong sense of purpose you are more likely to have higher levels of self-esteem and feel more satisfied with your life. And it seems even if a bad day at work leaves you in a negative mood, having purpose can help buffer you from the effects of this, so you’re more likely to bounce back and still feel satisfied overall with your life. And this means you’re more likely to be more productive, effective, and successful in your career.

Carin warns that it’s easy to fall into the trap of searching for purpose as though it’s something outside of yourself. However, when you think about it in this way, chances are you’re never going to find it. And just as an endless  search for happiness can backfire on you, so can the search for purpose. This may trigger your flight or fight stress response , which can narrow your brain's attention and focus, and therefore you may miss seeing the possibilities that are right in front of you.  

Carin suggests that finding your purpose is actually about finding opportunities to put your passions into action right now. So rather than looking for that dream job—perhaps a teacher, humanitarian worker, a coach or a speaker—it’s about creating opportunities that allow you to inspire, to teach, to empower, and help others right where you are. 

“Forget about the noun, and go for the verb; get at what’s meaningful for you,” says Carin. “Thinking of purpose as a central life-organizing aim—so you really enjoy the journey without stressing about the end goal—can help you balance your passion with whatever else matters to you, so you keep it at a harmonious level.”

So how can you start living your purpose? 

Carin provides three steps for connecting with your passion and purpose. 

  • Be curious. Switch your thinking from the negative state of searching for purpose to a more positive state of being super curious about the passions that lay within you. Ask yourself what really lights you up, gets you excited, gives you a sense of you at your best, and is joyful for you? For example, it might be learning about positive psychology, art or yoga? How can you turn some of the nouns you are dreaming about into verbs you can put into action today?  

    By allowing yourself to tap into your positive emotions you can broaden your thinking to create an upward spiral of exploration, awareness and creativity to help you see more possibilities. Gently lean into the process, and be super curious for as long as it takes to discover what lights you up.   
     

  • Start where you are. You don’t have to leave the security of your job and salary to honor your purpose. Start where you are. For example, if your purpose is speaking and coaching, look for ways in your current organization to share your knowledge with others. It might be doing lunch time presentations, or coaching a less experienced colleague. Or if it’s yoga, offer to do some classes before or after work. You can start off small and grow from there. Doing this can help you incorporate what you’re passionate about into your current workplace.  

    And even if it’s not possible to do something in your organization or it seems too hard to turn your passion into a career, you can look for where else in the community you might be able to live your purpose. This might include getting involved in a local community group, volunteering some spare time or mentoring others. Doing what you’re passionate about outside your organization can give you a sense of meaning whilst helping you to feel more fulfilled in your current career.   
     

  • Talk about it. Sometimes uncertainties, fears or self-doubts can shut down an idea before it’s had a chance to start. But talking about what you’re passionate about with others who can support and encourage you can help you find ways of turning your dreams into reality. For example, they may be able to share their networks and put you in touch with the right people. Telling people about your purpose, letting them help you, and being persistent with what you want to do, can pay off in the long run. So don’t keep your purpose hidden from the world. 

How can you turn your purpose into a verb and live it each day at work?  

You are reading

From Functioning to Flourishing

Are You Setting the Right Goals?

Interview with Edwin Locke

Is Mindfulness as Easy as Mindlessness?

Interview with Ellen Langer.

Why You Don’t Have to Wait to Find Your Purpose

An interview with Carin Rockind.