Two bricklayers are working alongside one another at a building site. A man walks by and asks one of them what they’re doing.
The first bricklayer replies, “I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do is slap this crummy mortar on these crummy bricks and pile them up in a crummy line.”
The other bricklayer smiles, proudly proclaiming, “I’m helping to build the new cathedral.”
We have all met people who focus on the “what” they’re doing instead of the “why” they’re doing it. It’s difficult to feel passionate about something when we’re missing the meaning behind what we’re doing and why we’re here. We all have been given unique gifts and abilities that are desperately needed in this world. Unfortunately, many of us go through life never fully using our unique talents. Weoften find ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted, dissatisfied and unfulfilled with our jobs and life choices. What would your life be like if you were doing exactly what you were created to do? Who would you “be” if you were leading and living from a place where you were fully using your gifts?
So why are you here? What is your purpose?
How you define purpose has as much to do with your mindset as it does with personal, philosophical, cultural, religious and scientific beliefs. I remember early in my career, I used to wonder why there were not more women leaders in senior leadership roles. I wanted a female mentor who looked like me and had the same values. My mentor told me that if I was looking for a senior, woman leader and I did not see anyone who looked like me, then that role was being reserved for me.
It was my responsibility to be a trailblazer and a pioneer in my organization. It was my responsibility to forge ahead and pave the way for other women who would walk in my footsteps in the future. I had to be the role model for the emerging women leaders in my company. To be completely honest, I did not think of myself as a trailblazer and I had no intention of signing up as a pioneer. I believed that kind of grit was reserved for feminists, civil rights leaders or famous historical figures. But then I realized that Sojourner Truth, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Thatcher, Eleanor Roosevelt or Gloria Steinem didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I am going to be a pioneer.” These women did what they believed they were called to do. They used their unique talents and embraced their calling. Each woman did what they believed was the right thing to do at their designated moment in time. These women answered their calling, discovered their purpose and lived it wholeheartedly.
The Purpose of Knowing Your Purpose
Defining purpose in work and life is not about the daily tasks, it’s about the reason for the tasks in the first place – the why, not the what. Discovering purpose allows you to create the vision behind the tasks, and knowing that vision can dramatically have a bigger impact in your life and the lives of others.
For example, a chef’s purpose is not to just cook food – that is a task. The reason for this task is to help people enjoy life by having a good time with loved ones around a meal they didn’t have to prepare (or clean up) themselves. The chef is creating more than delicious dishes, she is expressing her gifts and inviting others to a sensorial experience.
People who are fulfilled know how their work supports the company’s vision, values and goals. They are fulfilled because they understand that they are a part of something bigger. They believe that their contributions will have a meaningful impact. People who are fulfilled use their unique talents and ensure that their values are integrated with those of the company.
Why is having a purpose so important? Your purpose can:
- Give meaning to everything that you do.
- Guide you through the tough times and be a filter for difficult decisions.
- Encourage you to follow your heart instead of following the crowd.
- Motivate you on your journey even when you encounter failure or rejection.
How to Fulfill Your Purpose AND Make a Living
If you want to do more of what you love, inspired by your life purpose, try the following:
1. Discover your strengths.
Your life purpose is directly related to your character strengths. For example, if communication is your strength, then your purpose may originate from that strength. There are many ways to discover your strengths. From the Values in Action Survey (VIA-IS) to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder(TM), there are many assessments and tools that will help you uncover your unique abilities. Another great way to discover your talents is to ask your colleagues, family and friends. Ask them these two questions about you:
- What do I do really well?
- What would you say are my unique talents and gifts?
You can also look at previous performance reviews, 360 feedback surveys and letters of recommendation to get clues about how others see you. If you would like to take the VIA survey for free, click here:
2. Determine your passions.
Passions are the things you love to do – with or without external rewards (like money or recognition). What would you do every day even if you were not getting paid? What activities do you get most excited about? What brings you the most joy? Our passions may be rooted in an activity or skill that we were introduced to earlier in life. I love art, culture and music! As a child, my parents would expose me and my brother to cultural events each week. These experiences sparked my passion for appreciating beauty and my love of learning. I absolutely come alive when I am learning new things or I am immersed in environments that celebrate innovation, art and the act of creating.
3. Identify your values.
Identify the causes that matter to you. Is there a condition in the world that makes you feel discontent or compels you to action? Do you wonder why children still go hungry in a world where people throw away tons of food each dayl? Do you believe that every little girl should have the same opportunity to have an education and contribute to her community? Discovering what matters most to you, will help you identify your values and beliefs. What you believe in could also help shape your life purpose.
4. Find the sweet spot.
After discovering your strengths, passions and values find the overlap between them. That’s the sweet spot, where you’re likely to find the most fulfillment in life.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it…
Based on the information above, write a personal mission statement – it can serve as a guide for both your personal and professional journey. What do you want to stand for? Which talents and unique abilities will you use in pursuing your mission? Who will you get to “be” when you are living on purpose?
It’s not (necessarily) about the money.
Many believe that money is the answer and motivation for their choices. I know a lot of people who are financially wealthy but who are poor in spirit. They are dissatisfied with their lives and feel empty. They have relentlessly pursued a particular lifestyle only to find that have mortgaged their happiness and souls in the process. They have fractured relationships and feel like they are chained to a career that is not on purpose.
Instead of focusing on a money goal, try setting goals that “add value” – a goal that improves the quality of people’s lives. Whether you are a bricklayer, a CEO or a trailblazer, it is ultimately through helping others that you will achieve your life purpose.
Now it’s your turn.
I would love to hear from you! What do you believe is your life’s purpose? Share your life purpose below!
NEW- Pause. Discover & Thrive Program
Do you want to do more of what you love? Are you ready for more meaningful connections and yearn to nurture the relationships that matter? Do you believe that you were created to have a bigger impact in the world? I can show you how! I am currently taking new clients for the Pause. Discover. Thrive program and for private coaching. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the program or would like to get a complimentary session to see if working with me could be beneficial, I would love to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela M. Joyner, PhD is the Founder of The Wonder Loft, a positive leadership coaching practice for women. Through her writing, teaching, and curating unique workshop experiences, Angela helps women discover their unique brilliance, have more confidence and flourish. Her mission is to nourish the minds and souls of women around the world. Learn more at http://www.thewonderloft.com.