There are times when even a good job and a decent pay check aren’t enough for the energy and inconvenience it takes to get through the workday. Heck, when you really think about it, the pay check isn’t really enough.
Often, in times like this we feel especially alone. Everyone else around us appears to be coping quite well. We may look like we’re coping, but inside we wonder how long we can keep going. We ask ourselves if we can find something that’s better aligned with our bigger ideas and dreams. It’s probably one of the most common, and important questions people ask. Most feel there is still something more to life than just work. And there is, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy now.
In the book, “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of your Life”, author Os Guinness explains, (quote) “Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfil a purpose bigger than ourselves. Only such a larger purpose can inspire us to heights we know we could never reach on our own. For each of us the real purpose is personal and passionate: to know what we are here to do, and why.” (quote)
Answering the “why” question is essential if we want to have a rich, deep meaning in our careers other than just getting a salary every 15 days. We seem to have something inside our hearts that demands we answer this question.
We are made for meaning; we thrive by making a difference and helping others. In the recesses of our soul we want to be successful adults making an impact in the world, at least in our world.
The reality, however, is that it’s not easy to derive this deeper meaning from our work. Some individuals, certainly in the minority, know what their purpose is early in life. Good for them! They arrive in their 20s when the rest of us are just beginning to realize we’ve been asking the wrong questions, or if you’re like me, not questioning anything at all.
Most of us simply find ourselves on a certain path or in what someone else might call a “career”. Yet outside of financial provision, this career often seems void of deep significance.
Various experiences, company titles and trainings we’ve attended are all scattered across our resumés but all these credentials don’t necessarily bring meaning, they don’t easily come together in answering that all-important question that hangs somewhere in the background – and that question is – why?
Why this job? Why these co-workers? Why these responsibilities in this place at this time? Why not something else? Something better? The questions beg for answers, not regularly perhaps, but occasionally, like on a really bad day.
Over the years, I’ve conducted workshops designed to help people of all ages and vocations uncover their purposes. All of them are eager to answer the question why. However, most of them, have spent little to no time thinking about it. Most people, myself included, spend time focused on the what of our lives.
What am I going to do with my life? What makes me happy? What do I want in a spouse? What can I change to be more satisfied?
There is a small distinction between the words why and what. When put to our careers, answering why requires knowing our purpose. Webster’s dictionary defines purpose as a result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention.
What, on the other hand, is answered by our mission – what it is we will do. Mission is defined as a specific task with which a person or a group is charged.
We first need to know why we are where we are, and why we want to do a particular thing, before we can decide what we will then do. In simple terms, we should know our purpose before we lay out our mission.
Think of it this way. Let’s say you are in a post-event party. People are going around and striking conversations with others. Someone asked you, ‘what do you do?” Rather than giving your job title such as I’m a Purchasing Officer, a Sales Staff, or an HR Supervisor, or a COO, CEO, Janitress or a Messenger – you instead tell the person why you do what you do.
For me, my purpose – my “why I do” – goes something like this: “To honour God with the strength of my heart and the length of my days.” My personal mission – my “what I do” goes something like this: “To any adult willing to listen, I am committed to helping you believe God, to inspiring you to grow & make progress, and to influencing women make wiser decisions & take action to become better. Teaching, leading, managing, speaking and writing are my favourite ways to do this.”
The person who asked me what I do has just had a glimpse into my heart hearing my answer. She now has a hint of why I get out of bed in the morning, why I stay the course even when days are hard.
Now, imagine that you and I are in a coffee shop drinking coffee (black, of course) and I ask you the all-important why question. Describe your deepest desire & dream. Why do you want to do it? Why do you believe it will bring you fulfilment? The answers are clues to your purpose. They will help point your mind to the things your heart already knows.
On the next episode, I will share with you an exercise that should kickstart you along the path to clarifying your own personal purpose & mission. It will get your juices flowing and help you write a personal purpose & mission statement that captures the spirit of who you are and why you do what you do.