At the end of your work, and at the end of your life, what legacy will leave? Does this matter to you? Or do you feel that you are too young or too old to think about this big picture idea?
In 20-plus years of career coaching, career services and corporate outplacement engagements, I’ve noticed the people who find that their work serves a greater purpose than themselves seem to be the happiest about their careers. In turn, they handle setbacks in their careers and lives better than their peers, who often chase accolades, money, recognition or a sense of status.
Finding a work-life mission comes in different forms. For example, some pursue a job that feeds their passion for volunteerism or higher priority things in their lives. Their jobs then feed more of the purpose they possess outside of working hours. For others, the job and work-life mission become intertwined. A work-life mission is a buoy that feeds the higher purpose of work, and without it, setbacks can be devastating. The most dissatisfied people at work don’t have or have lost their work-life purpose.
Here are three principles that may guide you in finding a greater purpose and your mission in this work-life:
Treat work as a vehicle. A vehicle helps get you to a place. Assuming your work serves as your vehicle, make sure that it is getting you to the place you want to be in your purpose. Ask yourself: Why do I work my job? If your job feeds your greater purpose or calling, you have something valuable and you may be in the right vehicle. I don’t believe you have to love your work on a daily basis for your work to be a great vehicle for your mission. On many days, your work, your co-workers or the events of the day may discourage you. But, if you know your work feeds a greater purpose for you, for others and for your community, then you have the seeds of more of a calling, a mission and a greater purpose. If your work constantly depletes your purpose and sabotages your ambition to help others, you may need to change vehicles.
Remember that it matters what you do. One of my clients wanted to argue with me that his work on two nonprofit boards related to cancer research “kind of balanced out” his full-time job that, to me, took away from his work-life mission. His full-time job involved serving as an account manager for a healthcare product — a pharmaceutical product that he knew and believed was going to be taken off the market for harming people.
“But that won’t be for at least a year, so I am fine,” he argued.
“Well, if you are working with me, I am not fine with it,” I told him.
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