I live in a small town right outside of Savannah, Georgia. The road I travel to go anywhere has two lanes; four in the commercial stretch.
Cutting across this road are two sets of train tracks where I’ve spent many a morning cursing the railroad system for allowing the trains to stop traffic during what we humorously call our “rush hour” when people are trying to commute to work and drop kids off at school.
That was back when my commute was more than the two minutes it now takes me to walk upstairs to my home office. It was also when there never seemed to be enough time, and I often found myself counting down the days until it was Friday.
“Thank God It’s Friday–TGIF!”
You’ve felt it and I’m sure you’ve said it, too.
One day as I sat waiting at those tracks something big happened. As I watched the train cars go by I honed in on one in particular with tons of graffiti on the side.
It seemed to go by in slow motion as I read the words emblazoned in that bright, bubbly paint spray: “Do What You Love,” it said.
There might have been a heart or a smiley face next to it; I can’t really remember. All I know is that in that moment something shifted in me and a choice I’d been grappling with became crystal clear. Shortly thereafter, Difference Consulting was born, and now there’s not a day I don’t love!
You’ve heard the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It also makes me curious: What happens when you’re not having the time of your life but coasting along on autopilot instead?
What would it take for you to finally say, “Thank God It’s Monday (TGIM)”?
Be honest. When was the last time you actually looked forward to your day (Fridays not included)? If you’re like many other leaders it’s probably been a while.
You’ve felt the symptoms of the disconnect—drudging through the day, exhaustion, lack of motivation, dread, burnout—but have you stopped to take notice of the cause?
It could be that your work isn’t aligned with your true purpose, you know, the sense of meaning that you give to your work and life. That disconnect can affect you BIG time, both mentally and physically.
Why Is Purpose So Important?
A strong connection to serving a purpose that is beyond our own immediate self-interests results in the highest levels of engagement and motivation. In other words, when we do things that we think make a meaningful difference we feel happier and more fulfilled.
Traditional business models may still consider purpose in work and life to be a “nice to have,” but research on the mind-body connection shows that happier people are often healthier as well!
Leaders should consider ways to connect more to their own purpose and create environments that result in optimal motivation and productivity for their employees as well. After all, we want to enjoy what we do, right?
Connecting To Your “Why”
While the formula to a greater sense of purpose and happiness seems fairly simple, it actually takes some work.
The few but necessary ingredients to connecting to your why are these: a spark of curiosity about what could be, the commitment to do some introspection, and the dedication to follow through on what you unearth.
You probably won’t put down this article and decide to just quit your job to pursue your passion of stand-up paddle boarding full-time. What I bet you will do, however, is start thinking about what gives your life joy, pleasure, and meaning.
To begin exploring ways to increase your satisfaction, fulfillment, and create a greater sense of purpose, ask yourself these questions:
1) What are my highest values?
Make a list of your top 5 values and consider how what you do on a daily basis supports your values. If you find that what you’re doing isn’t aligned with your values, it might be time to make some changes.
Being out of integrity with our core values can create stress and disengagement. For example, if you value family yet you’re working 12-hour days, you’re probably feeling the effects somewhere in your life.
2) What do I really love to do?
(…And can do for long periods of time without getting tired?)
Maybe you’ve lost sight of them because the things you have to do eclipse the things you want to do. When you engage in activities that you enjoy and you feel serve a greater purpose, time flies while you’re “in the zone.” As an added bonus you will also improve your performance and carry these tasks out effortlessly! Take time to observe yourself and find ways to discover what you love (either the activity and/or the feeling that it brings about) and try to recreate that often.
3) How can I find ways to do more of (#2) above?
Brainstorm ideas for how you can create opportunities to do more of what you love. Get creative and don’t limit yourself! If the ideal would involve a new job that doesn’t exist, consider finding ways to participate in projects or teams that would allow you to engage in the activity you enjoy.
Yes, there will still be things that you need to do at work that aren’t your favorite, but you’ll find you have more choice about what you do and how you approach your work.
Finding the right balance and implementing changes will take some time. But this is an investment you’re making in yourself, one you might not make often.
I think we can agree that a greater sense of purpose, happiness, and fulfillment are definitely worth it!