How to discover your purpose at work

How to discover your purpose at work
How to discover your purpose at work

posted 26 Jan 24

To make a significant impact in our professional lives and derive the greatest satisfaction, expert in compassion and researcher, Leah Weiss believes that we need to connect with work’s deeper meaning.  

Individuals who view their work as a calling tend to experience greater satisfaction versus those who view it as merely a job. Purpose also enables individuals to excel and progress in their careers by enhancing their ability to make a substantial impact, overcome challenges, and feel motivated. When you wake up in the morning or contemplate the working week on a Sunday night, it is purpose that drives you forward.

If you lack passion for your work, it may be time to rediscover your purpose to understand if your current role aligns with this or whether you could feel more fulfilled elsewhere.  Here are some exercises to help you discover or rediscover your purpose and passion at work.  

Identify what gives you meaning  

Immediate and short-term goals may not be enough to motivate us. So, if we want to understand what we are trying to do (a key part of being able to do it), we must find ways to keep our greater purpose and vision in mind. For some of us, the financial reward gives meaning to our work. For others, it might be in the relationships at work, participating in innovation, or serving people in need. For many, it’s a mix of things.  

Discovering your purpose is a personal and introspective journey. Here are some questions you can ask to guide yourself to reflect on your purpose:  

1. Ask open-ended questions  

  • What activities make me lose track of time?  
  • When do I feel most fulfilled?  
  • When did I feel a sense of meaning?

2. Reflect on past experiences  

  • Recall moments when you felt particularly proud or accomplished.   
  • Consider the challenges you have overcome and how those experiences shaped you.  

3. Identify your values  

  • List your core values. What principles guide your decisions and actions?  
  • Reflect on times when you compromised your values.  

4. Explore your interests  

  • What topics or activities do you find yourself drawn to?  
  • How would you spend your days if time and money were no object? 
Associate feelings with tasks

Associate feelings with tasks

If you are still struggling to identify your purpose, one way to figure it out is to pick a manageable period, such as one week, and notice when you feel most on purpose. Associate this with what tasks you are doing at that time and make a note.   

You may wonder: ‘How will I know when I am on purpose?’ - It can be when a task leaves you feeling energised rather than drained. Purpose can also make us feel excited or calm. On reflection, do you see any pattern in your sense of purpose? Can it be categorised into groups? For example, if you feel purpose when completing creative tasks, consider how much creativity is involved in your current role. 

Shift your perspective  

By shifting our perspective, we can achieve a greater sense of purpose without changing what we are doing. Even those who have known the pleasure of purposeful work can lose that feeling when losing sight of the bigger picture, perhaps through the demands of the job or by hyper-focusing on our to-do lists. Despite this, no matter how lost or stuck you feel, it is possible to get back on purpose.   

Try to shift your perspective on an upcoming task, for example, a meeting, a presentation, or an admin task such as completing expense reports. Break down the task, first, as part of a job, then as a career, and finally as a calling – make a mental note of each. Does your motivation change? Do you feel a shift in excitement? Perhaps you can reframe daily mundane tasks in your current role using this strategy to unlock your purpose.    

Many people believe that achieving a role at a higher level will allow them to find their sense of calling. However, purpose is not exclusive to executive positions. Individuals in seemingly mundane roles may perceive their work as a calling. If you feel you have not found your purpose in your current or previous roles, remember that purpose is an ongoing, iterative process. Taking on new opportunities and experiences can help us to discover what holds meaning for us as individuals.   

If you are looking to find a role that you are passionate about and want to explore your options, our recruitment experts will work with you to understand your expertise and interests and align you with the ideal role.