A couple of years ago I worked with a successful professional man (let’s call him Matthew) who was struggling with rising feelings of panic and anxiety. On paper, Matthew was living the dream: a senior role in a successful corporate and a loving family. The future should have felt rosy.
Yet despite his outward successes Matthew was pretty miserable. The kicker? Matthew felt guilty for feeling miserable because he knew he should just be grateful for all the good fortune that had come his way.
When I work with people there’s usually a ‘penny dropping’ moment when you get to the bottom of what’s really going on and everything changes. For Matthew it was the moment when I asked him how he would feel if he stayed at his workplace another five years. That’s when he sighed, looked me in the eye and said, “I just don’t believe in it”.
What is purpose and why does it matter?
The definition of purpose is: The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
When you’re connected to the bigger reason or ‘why’ you’re doing what you’re doing your life has a greater sense of meaning. Human beings are wired for story and meaning – if we can’t see a point or purpose to what we’re doing, what’s the point in doing it?
When you’re working somewhere that feels ‘pointless’ it can lead to feelings of depression, low energy, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Research from Positive Psychology shows that we thrive when we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. When you work in service to a greater cause, you become more resilient and courageous. Against the background of purpose your ego falls away and you can deal with challenges and obstacles with more creativity and grace.
Nietzche said it perfectly with these words:
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”.
Start reflecting on your purpose
If you’re feeling uninspired or lost in what you’re doing right now, lack of purpose could be the culprit.
A simple question for you in the context of your work is: “why do I do what I do?”
Let your pen write without judgement and just brain-dump whatever comes up for you.
Sit back and review your answers. In relation to your answers ask yourself: “is that important to me?”
If most of the answers are a ‘no’, this may be an opportunity to think about how you can change direction to something that’s more meaningful for you.
You might be thinking “okay I know I don’t really believe in what I do and I crave more purpose in my life. Where do I start?”
Start with connecting to those things in your life that already give you purpose and meaning. This could look like any of the following:
- A charitable cause close to your heart
- Using your creative gifts
- Being kind to others
- Connecting to nature
- Religious and/or spiritual practices
- Supporting a sports team
Creating more purpose in your life is a fun project to focus on. It doesn’t need to be heavy or serious and you don’t need to commit to one thing either: it’s entirely up to you.
Matthew has now left his job and is working for a company whose values reflect his own. He’s also started a new, exciting course which could lead him to even more enriching work opportunities further down the line.
He’s also much happier and feels more like ‘him’.
If you’re feeling lost and unfulfilled right now, I have something for you. I created The Calm Compass audio to help guide you to a place of greater calm so that you can gain clarity on what your next steps will be.
Sound good? You can sign up here.