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How to find purpose in your career

It’s been one of those days where your working day doesn’t seem to work anymore. It may be because your boss is getting increasingly difficult. Perhaps your colleagues are driving you nuts, or you are just bored and ready for something else.

When you reach this point, you’ll often get the well-intentioned but not so helpful advice to find a career you are passionate about. However, having a fulfilling career is more than just passion, and chasing passion can lead you to make short-term decisions.

Let’s get real

All jobs have their good points and bad points. Their highs and their lows. Fantastic days and days where nothing goes according to plan.

No matter how glamorous it may appear on the surface, no job is full of sunshine and champagne every day.

When finding your passion becomes the over-arching goal, it can lead to decisions that don’t help you in the long run, as you flit from dream to dream, passion to passion. You become short-term focused rather than thinking about long-term outcomes and objectives.

Think long term

Sometimes the most demanding jobs – the ones you are least passionate about – are the ones that turn out to be pivotal in your career progression.

So before ditching your job to chase the passion bubble, think about the benefits the current role and career path offer you both short, medium and long term. Next, look at those benefits in the broader context of your career and life.

From my experience, some of the hardest (and least enjoyable jobs I had) ended up being the ones that were critical to my future career success, as they served as a stepping stone to what was next. It was the ‘what came next’ that helped me land a job I love.

This approach doesn’t mean you completely ignore what you are passionate about and throw away your dreams, but it does mean you make decisions with realism and balancing short and longer-term objectives.

Consider:

  • What are the benefits of staying in your current role?
  • How can this role help position you for a more senior position?
  • In what way can this role act as a stepping stone to a more fulfiling job?
  • Get curious

Being told to follow your passion creates stress for some people, particularly if you find it hard to work out what you are passionate about.

If that’s you, rather than search for what you are passionate about, seek out what makes you curious. With curiosity front and centre, you are open to new ideas and happy to explore ventures, knowing it will add to your life’s richness and provide a wealth of unique experience.

Consider:

  • What aspects of your current role do you find most interesting or most challenging?
  • How could you expand your role to include areas you are curious about or skills you want to acquire?
  • Which aspects of your current position do you like least, and is there a way to outsource those aspects to someone else at work?
  • What external interests can you pursue that will help make your current role more fulfilling?

Find your why

When you are curious and reflective, you are in a better position to discover what drives and motivates you. This is your ‘why — the why you do what you do (i.e. your purpose).

It is far more helpful to consider your career decisions in this context. When you put your ‘why’ at the centre of your decision-making, you consider career choices in the context of your whole life, including:

  • Family, friends and colleagues
  • Health and happiness
  • Spiritual fulfilment
  • Community and societal needs
  • Personal and lifestyle goals.

Finding your purpose isn’t simple. There’s no magic formula, and you don’t see it just sitting around. It is an iterative process that involves soul searching, reflection, talking to lots of people and paying attention to what matters to you and motivates you.

For some people, ‘their why’ involves study, experimentation and trying new things. Or it involves helping others, taking risks, venturing into the unknown, or having a happy, healthy and loving family.

No one person’s purpose is better than another’s. It is about finding out what matters in life to you.

How do you do this? The best place to begin, of course, is to start. Start reflecting, pondering and experimenting.

Consider:

  • What motivated you to pursue your current career?
  • Were there external factors, for example, friends or family, that influenced your choice?
  • What are the things in life you care the most about?
  • When you look ahead, what do you want your future to look like?
  • How does your current role connect with or enable your purpose?
  • Your purpose can change as your life changes. So in doing this, always be open to what could be, rather than what should be.

As the ancient Indian Proverb goes, “Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart“.

This is a guest article from Michelle Gibbings, change leadership and career expert, and the author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’, and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’.  Read the original article.

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