Woman walking in a field finding purpose

How to Find Purpose in Your Job

It’s time to look forward to going into work

No one is going to give you the definition of a truly meaningful life. We are simply invited, driven or compelled to create our own.

What does this mean when it comes to our jobs? Presumably, our jobs are there to provide the means of satisfying the first rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter and protection.

What about those higher rungs, the ones that show the mind we can step outside of simply the need to survive?

What about those moments of inspiration and connection with others that speak directly to our core as human beings? Is it even possible to integrate these things into our work life?

To live a meaningful life is to live free from mindless compliance. 51% of American workers do not feel engaged at work. How do we find a job, or convert an existing job, into one that suits our life purpose and brings us joy rather than the bare minimum? How do we stay inspired even while working a job that isn’t our true calling?

Part of the journey to a more prosperous life (and wallet) means reframing the many actions we take on a daily basis. This includes the hours we spend at work. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. When time is allocated carefully, we can calibrate our lives into a joyful balance of work, play and fulfillment.

The 4 Pillars Of Workplace Happiness

Here are 4 pillars that promote workplace happiness, along with some great examples of mission-driven brands that give purpose to work by giving back to their employees and to the world in big ways.

Well-Being

The way we feel affects our performance at work. One of the first things we can do to ensure a more pleasant workplace experience is to keep the components of internal wellness in check.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Implement a moment of gratitude first thing in the AM. Take a small pause to listen to the birds sing. Fresh food, enough sleep and moderate exercise are incubators of happiness. When your body budget is in balance, your mind can become expansive.

An expansive mind cultivates resilience, optimism, achievement and pride in one’s work. We have more control over these states than we realize. Trick your brain into a state of optimism by smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. Because of emotion contagion, these ‘good vibes’ will spill onto everyone around you, elevating the work environment. It’s a win win.

Engagement

Going to work should feel like an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to your job and world alike. When we feel engaged with our job, we feel as though we are being useful, encouraged to challenge ourselves, and able to help others.

When an employee loves the work they do, the whole office feels it too. Autonomy, learning opportunities, performance feedback and use of strengths are all important parts to the happiness equation at work. Even if you are stuck in a cubicle all day bored out of your mind, figure out ways to engage authentically with your work by looking at each task with curiosity. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Pro-tip: Even if you feel “stuck” in a job you dislike, take small actions steps daily to get you closer to your dream job. It could be something as simple as updating your resume or something more substanscial, like taking night classes in a subject that fascinates your mind.

Alignment

Your work culture plays a pivotal role in overall job performance and happiness levels. Social elements such as trust and support from supervisors, the competency of fellow co-workers, cultural values and teamwork are all predictors of feeling purposeful at work. Having a trusted circle of friends at work is an incredible source of energy and community.

Pro-tip: Always go with your gut and ask yourself “how do I feel?” after each day of work. Are you around people that lift you up or tear you down with gossip, or distrust? Considering the lengthy hours we spend in a workplace, the people we surround ourselves with effect the very cells of our bodies. Be wary of bad company and stick close to those who promote a kinder environment.

Satisfaction

Having a stable job and healthy working conditions is paramount to finding your purpose. This include the nitty-gritty like salary and benefits, job stability, ergonomics, respect, fairness, and work-life-harmony. Simply put, choose a job that you would enjoy. While the journey to a more desired place of work often requires stepping stones that are not your dream job, know that these building blocks are helping you reach your long-term goals.

Pro-tip: While you are on the road to realizing your dream job, consider taking on side jobs (aka side hustles) to make some extra money and explore other outlets that could help you hone in on our long term purpose. This could entail selling items on Ebay or even renting your spare room on Airbnb. Who knows what could happen!

Companies That Are Doing It Right

Let’s take a look at some conscious companies who provide positive work environments for people and planet.
  • Companies such as Costco Wholesale Corporation are focused on employee care.  In fact, this warehouse retailer has become well-known for its above average pay ($13.50 per hour.) Better yet, their CEO James Senegal believes that “paying your employees well is not only the right thing to do, but it makes for good business.” He’s not the only CEO who thinks investing in people is a smart money move.
  • Nike created a new approach to move past old supply chain transgressions with their “responsible competitiveness” model. They now aim to focus on the root causes of labor exploitation. They also desire to bring about systemic change to further prevent such abuses. With Nike’s new philosophy, they have become an advocate for improving labor conditions and have also moved to healthier, long-term supplier relationships as well.
  • Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company, a BCorp and a trailblazer when it comes to using business as a force for good in the world. They donated their entire $10 million Black Friday revenue towards saving the planet and have one the highest employee satisfaction ratings around.
  • Whole Foods is an excellent example of a company that maintains meaningful relationships with the community in which it operates. They hold “5% days” where the store will donate 5% of net sales to a local charity, offer loans to local suppliers, and promote high environmental standards across its many stores.
  • Feed was founded by Lauren Bush 9 years ago after her travels across the word. She found a huge connection between nutrition levels and academic and economic performance in communities. For every product sold from Feed, there is a number stamp on it that represents the amount of meals or micronutrient packets provided to children in need around the world.
  • TerraCyle takes recycling to the next level. They create national “upcycling” programs that help companies re-purpose materials that would normally not be recycled. Their goal: prevent waste from ending up in landfills, incinerators, and our oceans.

Purpose follows passion, passion follows purpose

Achieving fulfillment in your career is no overnight endeavor. As with any worthwhile feat, a meaningful job experience requires research, discipline and dedication.

Just as eating well, sleeping well, and exercising are important, so is the duty to investigate a work experience that is a living reflection of your long-term goals.

It’s not an easy road, but don’t be discouraged–there are thousands of other people who have blazed trails for us to follow. The most important part is to just begin.


Photo credit: Aleksandr Ledogorov

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