There are millions of self-help posts about finding a sense of purpose at work. Most of them talk about the influence that purpose can have on one’s health, motivation, and job satisfaction. Some articles try to advise you on how to find true meaning and purpose, but once you start applying their techniques, you realize that they’re not very realistic.
That’s because most posts discuss the philosophical notions of self-esteem, self-confidence, purposeful life, and meaningful existence, but they fail on providing any concrete advice on how to achieve anything real.
A couple of years ago, when I was trying to find purpose in my work by connecting with organizations, I stumbled upon “Teach Me the Art of Small Steps” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The French author wrote it during a challenging period and it spoke to a lot of my own struggles. So I decided to apply the “art of small steps” to finding purpose in my everyday work. Guess what? It worked. And here is how.
1. Think small
Sounds counterintuitive I know, but hear me out.
I always assumed that your life’s purpose should be ground-breaking — it should change the world and humanity. I missed the fact that purpose could be found in things like helping your coworker with a project, providing professional advice to your intern or keeping your colleagues level-headed during a stressful time.
We always think of purpose as something vague and unattainable, but once we change our attitude towards it, it becomes entirely possible to find purpose in everyday tasks. Instead of setting ambitious goals all at once, try setting smaller goals one day at a time. Chipping away at smaller goals every day will allow you to feel more impactful.
2. It’s about the journey, not the destination
A lot of people think that purpose is a destination. We get there, we change, we order a glass of rosé, and we chill. If this way of thinking applies to you, it is time for a personal paradigm shift. Purpose is about the journey; where all the small steps that we make bring us one step closer to realizing our true passions.
Once you’ve reached this proverbial “destination”, suddenly you lose interest. The journey is about discovering ourselves, discovering others and discovering life happening right in front of us. And remember that you are not alone in your quest (only 34% of US workers feel engaged at work).
Finding purpose in your work is not going to happen overnight. It might take a couple of years. What matters most is for you to enjoy your every day and think of life as a journey.
3. Play to your strengths
Most people who are having a hard time finding purpose in their work start to fix their weaknesses, as if that’s where the problem lies. Recent studies show that people who know and use their strengths are more likely to find purpose in what they do and are usually more satisfied with their work.
This idea doesn’t mean ignoring your weaknesses – it only suggests to first know your strengths and utilize them first. I used HIGH5, a strengths finder that helped me explore my top five strengths and the ways to effectively use them at work.
1 in every 3 individuals can’t accurately name their strengths, so feel free to enlist the help of friends and family to pinpoint your best attributes. Once you start using your strengths, you will increase your confidence and be more likely to find purpose in your work.
4. Stop thinking of purpose as a luxury
Many people think that purpose is a luxury that requires a lot of resources. This is one of the main reasons why people never succeed in finding purpose. If you think of something as being luxurious and reserved to a small group of people, you start to alienate yourself from the idea that it’s accessible to you. This makes it easier to lose motivation to even pursue purpose.
Understanding that finding purpose does not require a lot of resources will help you find it more easily.
Simplify it. Think of it as an artless act. Give it two minutes every day, and you will see that anyone can achieve personal success.
5. Match purpose with meaning
You will find purpose way easier if you match it with meaning. Ask yourself what you value most. Is it empathy? Is it collaboration? Maybe positive change?
Let’s say you value collaboration. Then try to find ways to collaborate more with your colleagues, other departments, or your clients. If you do something that holds meaning, it will undoubtedly light a fire in your belly and add meaning to your work.
The desire for purposeful work is a modern human need. It’s a continuous journey of finding what you like and applying it to your work by taking small steps every day. Once you discover your purpose, you’ll find the motivation needed to succeed in your everyday life.