August 20, 2018

Below is a lesson from TED on discovering (or re-discovering) your sense of purpose at work, as well as our key learning.

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Want to discover (or re-discover) your sense of purpose at work? Here’s how

Jun 1, 2018 / Leah Weiss

For humans, purpose can be a matter of life and death. As Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Purpose is something we do or something we create — not something we buy, inherit or achieve. Purpose could be any direction in which we’re heading with some degree of intention. It’s a far-reaching, steady goal, something personally meaningful and self-transcending that, ideally, shows up in our lives every day.

Purpose boosts our capacity to make the greatest impact in the work we do and to connect with other people across cultures and contexts. We feel energized, motivated and expanded when we have a sense of purpose. According to Yale School of Management researcher Amy Wrzesniewski, people who consider their work to be a calling — in other words, they felt their work had purpose — tend to be more satisfied than those who think of their work as “just” a job. Having a calling is not restricted to people in executive positions. For example, Wrzesniewski has interviewed hospital janitors who believed they had a calling — they saw their work as more than cleaning; it was about helping support patients’ healing.

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Key Learnings:

  • Purpose is something we do or something we create.
  • Purpose boosts our capacity to make the greatest impact in the work we do and to connect with other people across cultures and contexts.
  • We feel energized, motivated and expanded when we have a sense of purpose.
  • People who consider their work to be a calling tend to be more satisfied than those who think of their work as “just” a job.
  • Having a purpose can help us overcome obstacles, that can make a difference at work.
  • If we want to understand what we are trying to do, we have to find ways to keep our greater purpose and vision in mind.
  • Purpose is like the picture on the cover of a puzzle box — we spend a lot of time with the pieces trying to fit them together, but it’s the picture on the cover of the box that guides us. It’s our bigger picture, the meaning of our life, our purpose.
  • Work is a big part of everyone’s puzzle. Can you envision where the piece you’re holding in your hand at any moment fits into the bigger picture? Does it matter? It should — the likelihood of it mattering greatly increases if you believe that what you do with your time on the job makes sense and is worth it.
  • Even those who’ve known the pleasure of deeply purposeful work can lose that feeling. No matter how lost or stuck you feel, though, you can get back on purpose.
  • The way we think about our daily tasks can alter our relationship to our work. Reflect on how you approach the task when you think of it as a duty for a job vs something you do as part of a calling.
  • If you feel you don’t know what your purpose is:
    • pick a manageable period of time and notice when you feel most on purpose and what you’re doing at the time.
      • On purpose feelings: vitality, energized, calm
    • Or think of people that you admire and trace what you like about them back to your own values.
  • If the picture of your purpose is nonexistent or fuzzy, give yourself time to experiment with the above exercises.

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