Fulfilling Your Purpose in Your Career

I think many of us have trouble finding our purpose in our careers. We feel like we should be doing something to change the world for the better and just cannot connect that to the mundane tasks we do every day. I know that I had struggled with this for years.
I recently attended a Project Management Institute Chapter meeting where the speaker talked about this very issue. He was saying how you will hear 40 and 50 year olds say that they are still looking to find what they “want to be when they grow up.” I have heard many people say this, which I find very sad. It’s like they feel as if they have been wasting their lives, just trying to make a living. However, there was something very surprising and interesting about his presentation. He warned “don’t quit your job and open a bakery!” Meaning: don’t do anything rash in an attempt to follow your dreams.
The first step is to figure out your “why?”. What are you good at? What makes you happy and fulfilled? How can you use your skills to help other people? Of course, these questions may be harder to answer for many than they seem. He challenged us to imagine that we won millions of dollars in the lottery. We took a few years to travel the world and are now ready to come back to the real world and fulfill our purpose. What would you want to do every day? How would doing that make you feel? We all have elements of our job that we do not like, but is there anything you do now that makes you happy and fulfilled? What is it? Is it possible for you to focus more on that and maybe shift gears in your career to move closer to that goal?
The speaker said that many times when you go through this process, you realize that you are more satisfied with your current career than you ever realized. You were just never able to connect the dots between it and your life’s purpose. And once you do, you are happier and more fulfilled by what you were already doing. Other times you might realize that all you need to do is pursue a slightly different role at your current employer, because you were pretty close to where you wanted to be.
A little over a year ago, I realized that I was meant to lead, teach and mentor people. To me that meant getting into people management with an ultimate goal of being a VP. After all, the more people you have in your reporting line, the more you are able to help, teach and mentor. I had never wanted to be a VP before because I was afraid of losing my work-life balance. But I put those fears aside and decided I would not only figure out how to do it but then also be an example to others and teach them how to do it, as well.
You don’t have to work for a non-profit organization aimed at saving the world to make an impact in this life. Every small act of generosity or caring helps the world. Every time you put a smile on one of your coworker’s faces or help them with something, you are making a difference. This world is made up of energy and the tiniest bit of positive energy coming from you can make a difference. Many of us (including me) are very hard on ourselves and don’t realize that we already are fulfilling our purpose every day of our lives. We are looking for an obvious payoff, like curing cancer, when most of our accomplishments are a lot more subtle. Try to recognize and celebrate the small wins. They are more important than you realize.


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