When you have a sense of purpose or live your passion, you never get up in the morning wondering what you’re going to do with yourself. Some people hear a calling and indeed can follow their passion and/or purpose. But what if you are not one of them? If you don’t find yourself really driven or focused on anything in particular?
Fulfillment in a sense of purpose and passion at the workplace is fast becoming the main priority for most of us. Many Baby Boomers, when they approach their forties, are looking for greater significance in their career, and what is even more interesting, many Millennials, at the other end of their careers, are also looking for significance right out of the gate.
Though, according to a study by Gallup, two-third of employees still struggle to find what they are meant to do, what excites them, what makes them lose the sense of time, what brings out the best in them. When they get up every morning, they don’t feel full of determination because of clarity and joyfulness, which would bring their work.
In Japan, millions of people have ikigai a reason to jump out of bed each morning. Ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:
· what you love (your passion)
· what the world needs (your purpose)
· what you are good at (your vocation)
· what you can get paid for (your profession)
Discovering your own ikigai is said to bring fulfillment, happiness, and make you live healthier and longer.
But if you want to live your ikigai, you first have to be clear on what your passion and purpose is, and then you can monetize it in your vocation and profession.
Passion and purpose are often seen as a cure for seemingly boring careers or something that every person needs to be happy and motivated in their work.
Some people hear a calling and indeed can follow their passion and/or purpose. They don’t need to listen to the “Follow your passion” advice as they’re doing it anyway. Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Frida Kahlo were definitely one of those people.
But what if you are not one of them? If you don’t find yourself really driven or focused on anything in particular? Not everyone has a true passion or has an idea of his or her purpose and the ability to pursue it as a career.
The reality is that no matter how successful we are, the majority of people in regular intervals struggle with questions,» What do I want?« »What is the meaning of my work?« »What am I passionate about?«.
Those questions were my case, as well. I never felt any particular passion for anything. I did enjoy doing many things, but I can’t say that I was passionate about any of them. Therefore the idea of being paid for your passion was only an abstract concept for me (out of my reach). My understanding of passion was more or less related to different hobbies or to a small percentage of people who are privileged that they are born with the wisdom what they want to do for the rest of their life. Passion was something that doesn’t belong to me, and therefore, I didn’t even think about it.
But after many years of learning on different topics, especially for my coaching business, I learned a lot along the way also about passion and purpose. I realized that my understanding of these two concepts was wrong.
Passion and purpose are not a matter of “either you have it, or you don’t,” but both are reachable to everyone. It is a matter of choice either you want to find it or not, as well as either you have a need to cultivate it or not.
Develop your passion, don’t follow it
We can find different explanations and distinctions about what passion and purpose are. Passion is about emotions, while the purpose is the reason behind those emotions. Or, that passion is about the “what” (»do what you love«), and purpose is about the “why” (»why you are motivated to do it«). Another explanation is that passion is about yourself – inwardly focused (»what the world can give to you«) while the purpose is about the contribution to others – is outwardly focused (»what can you give to the world«).
For me, personally, more important than the definitions, the significant learning about passion was the Stanford research paper by Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton.
The results of the research show that passions are not to be found, but they are developed over time. If you put your intention and time into mastering something and are good at it, you are more likely to become passionate about it as well.
The research shows that everyone has a possibility to develop a passion, but what makes a distinguishing difference among people is the mindset – fixed or growth mindset that may lead people to succeed or fail at developing their interests into a passion.
Therefore »Finding your passion« implies a significant flaw as it presupposes that interests and passions are fixed rather than fluid and evolving.
According to the Stanford study, the belief that interests arrive fully formed also implies that the number of interests a person has is limited. That can cause people to narrow their focus and neglect other areas.
Besides that, the research also shows that when people encounter inevitable challenges, that mindset makes it more likely they will surrender their newfound interest.
Passion is the only thing that can sustain you through the ups and downs of your business or career. When people commence businesses or pursue careers, with money or security being their core objective, they have a higher tendency to give up when they do not see expected results in an expected timeframe. Only those who choose to do something because of passion will persevere regardless of results, and many times because of that relentless attitude, they end up making it work.
Instead of famous »follow your passion, « Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton suggest that “develop your passion” is more fitting advice.
Similarly, Mark Cuban puts it himself: “One of the great lies of life is “follow your passions”. Instead, pay attention to those things that you devote time to, says Cuban. Double down your investment there.
What about purpose?
When you think about why you do what you do, it might scare you, or it might make you feel uncomfortable or small. You may think I’m not Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela with a grand sense of purpose. Many of us think we need to change the world in order to find purpose in our work. But this would mean that majority of people don’t have any purpose in their life or work.
Maybe your job isn’t helping save nature or save lives. But your job helps you to feel secure and valuable, and because of security and being valuable, you feel happier, more present, and more thoughtful to your loved ones and people around you, which gives your life more meaning.
I like to think of a purpose as an abstract concept that may elicit any combination of feelings such as satisfaction, joy, determination, commitment, comfort, gratitude, or stability at any given time.
When you have a sense of purpose, you never get up in the morning wondering what you’re going to do with yourself. Having a purpose in life is one of the fundamental factors of happiness. When you’re engaged with and working towards your purpose, life becomes easier, less complicated, and stressful.
On the other hand, not having a sense of purpose in your life, you’ll live your life less efficiently, and you’ll often feel restless and stressed because you don’t feel aligned with the things you do. You are more vulnerable to boredom, anxiety, and depression.
Viktor Emil Frankl, the founder of the logotherapy method, known as well as a Holocaust survivor, developed a philosophy that a man’s deepest desire is to find meaning in his life, and if he can find that meaning, he can survive anything. In his famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” he describes the experience of captive men during the Second World War. Frankl observed that the inmates who were most likely to survive were those who felt they had a purpose or goal for their future, once they were free again. Frankl himself spent a lot of time trying to reconstruct a manuscript about logotherapy — a manuscript that the Nazis took from him when he arrived at Auschwitz. He also found hope in love, and the image of his wife helped him through many of his most difficult times.
Therefore, in order to find your resilience, assertiveness, joy, and fulfillment, it is essential to understand your own purpose, no matter the extension of it.
One’s purpose is very much a matter of perception.
Making an impact can mean very different things to different people.
Three men were laying bricks. The first was asked: “What are you doing?” He answered: “Laying some brick.” The second man was asked: “What are you working for?” He answered: “Five dollars a day.” The third man was asked: “What are you doing?” He answered: “I am helping to build a great cathedral.” Which man are you?
Every job has intrinsic meaning, no matter what kind of work you do, but based on your perception of your work depends on how highly important and motivating your work is for you.
I have worked with many clients who work in pretty good and pleasant working conditions – they had high responsibilities, a good salary, good relationships at work but still, they felt unfulfilled, and their energy level decreased significantly. The reason behind this dissatisfaction is that they were not sure what the meaning of their work is – what is its purpose and what kind of impact they actually want to make with their work.
It is not rare that two persons, doing the same job in the same company, perceive it entirely differently. One may understand it as a boring, mundane task with no real meaning, whereas another one can perceive it as a job that significantly contributes to the improvement of others’ work or processes in a company.
Therefore, it’s essential to understand WHY you work – what is your perception of work and what are your reasons for working. Think of WHAT work actually is for you and what it means to you. It is not just about in what work you want to do, but WHY and HOW you want to work.
We can talk about different varieties of purposes, different reasons WHY we work. They are depending on different variables, such as the background you are coming from, your current life circumstances, needs, personality traits, interests, natural talents, and strengths.
Your understanding of work could be making money, gaining recognition, building knowledge, making changes, impact others, or many other reasons – reasons that keep you motivated, and they sustain your energy level high. The varieties of purposes might be:
• the effort to meet basic physical needs for food, a roof above our heads, or to protect one’s survival in the event of threats
• to improve your own situation, attain wealth, status, and success
• to improve the situations of others, which could be your family, your community, or even more globally oriented
• personal development in the sense of absorbing new knowledge, interests, and developing new skills
• personal development in the sense of spirituality.
I believe there are no higher or lower importance levels when it comes to purpose. What is more important is to talk about how much it energizes, motivates, and guides your daily actions. Even if you’re not changing the world, it’s satisfying to know that your input, effort, and experience matter to some purpose.
A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” ~ Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 101
But, if you start questioning, or you feel empty with where or why you put your daily energy, effort, and time, then it is time to reevaluate what you do and why you do what you do.
So how does one find their purpose?
Finding your own purpose might not happen overnight; it takes some self-discovery and learning by doing. But here are some clues that you can start with, as they might give you some directions where your purpose lies.
Every individual has innate gifts that can make a lasting impact. However, only a minority of people utilize those gifts to live up to their full potential. Tying your gifts and talents with your personal purpose not only leads to a more successful career but a significant one. It was already Aristotle who said, “Where your talents and needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.“
Think of everything that interests you and takes your attention, what you like to discuss, read, listen to, do…
Understanding your talents, strengths, and interests will further help you to discover your passion(s). And it is most likely, that when you align with what you are passionate about, you will figure out how to create value.
Though we use a word value quite often in our daily dictionary, nevertheless, how well aware are you of your values?
Knowing your values and living by them is the difference between just going through the motions of life and really living. Once you acknowledge your core values and start living your everyday life in alignment with them, you will be able to start creating your life in such a way that brings peace within and a joyful and fulfilled sentiment. Your core values are your inner map and will help you navigate every day, showing up whether you’re aligned with your purpose or not. They are the foundation of who you are and what you stand for.
➡ Your definition of success
It is time to get clear on your own terms of success, especially career success.
Career success looks different for everyone, and it is also evolving as we move through the chapters and stages of our lives. Ask yourself, ‘What does success look like to me’? What are the measurements of my success?
By articulating connecting these dots, will definitely lead you to your purpose, knowledge of why it is worth to wake up in the morning. And then, you can begin cultivating your purpose.
What about now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has put everything on hold?
All of a sudden, our daily life has changed. There’s been a lot of fear, panic, and especially uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic lately. For many, it might seem like most things that were still important yesterday have been put on hold today.
Indeed, you can’t control everything that is going around you, but you can control how you react to it. I urge you to choose and make the best of this time. I invite you to see this adversity as an opportunity to reflect and intentionally invest time in yourself, time that you’ve often pushed back, due to busyness.
You might think that now is not the right time to think about what would be your dream job, but just to have “a” job in order to sustain your existential stability.
Contrary, now it’s even more important to know what your passion or/and purpose are, as this knowledge will give you even more than ever the needed confidence, resilience, determination, persuasion…You will be much better prepared for the unpredictable job market.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom—-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~ Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 86