During the past few months, we have all encountered a new type of living that has provoked new thoughts and feelings about our life, our purpose, and our happiness.
But what is the key to happiness? It’s a question as old as time with a seemingly elusive answer. One study out of the University of Michigan found that the solution might be simpler than we often think. In a job-centric world, this study suggests that the key to happiness is “working and living with a sense of purpose and meaning.”
One might take this to mean that finding the exact right job would help with finding purpose and sometimes, that can be true. It seems, however, that for the majority of us, knowing our purpose can create more fulfillment in the job we already have, whatever that job may be.
Other studies cite the average person as having almost 12 jobs during their lifetime, debunking the idea of “one perfect job” as the path to purpose and meaning. Rather, this suggests that one can find a sense of purpose in many jobs and roles throughout one’s life.
Entrepreneur Mark Cuban said he first realized he could sell when he worked as a door to door garbage bag salesman. Though this is not the job that brought him the success he enjoys today, he was able to use the same talent he does now: the ability to talk to and relate to other people. He realized the beginnings of a passion and a drive for the world of business.
Ultimately, what I am talking about is living out your passion through your vocation. I have a friend who likes to quote Aristotle when defining this word. He says “Vocation is where your great passion meets the world’s great need.” Your passion is what drives you–it’s your purpose. I would contend that one can do that in many vocations and roles, not just one.
The next step on your journey of finding purpose and meaning at work is figuring out how this fits into the world you live in. For example, you may have a passion for serving your broader community. You can live this out in a number of jobs– city council person, public school teacher, nonprofit organizer, bus driver, etc.
At this point, you may be wondering, how do I find my purpose and bring meaning to my life and work? Consider the following steps:
- This first step to all of this must be knowing oneself. Take a moment to reflect and look inside yourself. Think of passionate, driven people in your own life. How have they shaped you into who you are today? What do you want to share with others?
- The second step is to align this with a purpose or passion. Another way of thinking about this is considering what you are most enthusiastic about. What do you care most about? And does this purpose or passion bring you energy?
- After you identify your own purpose or passion, you must consider how it fulfills a greater need in the world, community, or vocation. For example, if you love mentoring younger generations, then how can you engage that at work?
- Decide how you want to engage the items above in a way that is both actionable and timely.
- Write it down and share it with a trusted friend or two. Living out your purpose takes a community. Use the power of many!
My friend Ann has been doing the same job for many years. Some would say her work does not have a grand impact, but over time, she has come to know a lot of the people that work in her area. Recently, we had a discussion about what it meant to have an impact at work. She shared with me that the reason why she loves her job is that she is able to care for the people she works with simply by having conversations with them. She talks with people, she hears their stories, and she prays for them. While Ann works hard at her job, her daily tasks are ultimately a way for her to live out her purpose and find a path to personal happiness and fulfillment. Ann has been in similar roles for the past 15 plus years.
What about you? Have you identified your purpose in life and have you been able to find a path to live that out at work? It’s never too late or too soon to start!
Yasser Youssef is the president of The Budd Group, one of the leading facility service companies in the country, a North Carolina-based company that provides facility support services in the Southeast. Throughout his career, Youssef has met leaders from all backgrounds, and believes leadership is for everyone. Over the past few years, he has developed an affinity for writing and contributing thought leadership, and is often asked to speak to businesses throughout the country about authentic leadership.