I wonder what your attitude is towards work? Perhaps you can relate to the person who said: “I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” (Jerome K. Jerome.) Or Douglas Adams’s observation: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
There’s a whole spectrum of attitudes. For some of us it’s a necessary evil. For others, it’s a daily grind and a source of stress. For a fortunate few, it’s a form of creative expression.
When work feels meaningful, we no longer feel drained or scattered; our energy flows and our confidence grows. When you plug into purpose, you’re no longer laying bricks, you’re building a cathedral. To uncover your purpose, here are four tips that will help you find your way to feeling energised to do great work;
1. Acknowledge what isn’t working
Our feelings and emotions are a valuable barometer for sensing where our purpose and future path might lie. Experiencing emotional churn is a sure sign that change is ‘up.’
One client I worked with experienced chronic frustration at how change was being handled in his current organization. His agitation with his forceful and demanding boss was another strong indicator that he wasn’t working in line with his purpose.
In our coaching conversations, Martin became aware that he was feeling the ‘pull’ to be his own boss and call the shots. His enthusiasm for setting up his own company was indicative of where his purpose lay.
Stepping into your future often means getting out of denial. Tell yourself the hard truths about your situation. If you’re exhausted, admit it to yourself. If your home life is suffering because your job now takes up all your waking hours, be clear about this.
If your heart has gone out of your work and you know you need to do something about it, take action. Change begins by acknowledging what isn’t working, even when we don’t have a clue about what would be more fulfilling.
2. Take small steps
The hardest part of making any change is getting started. We need to actively create momentum to get going. Take a good look at what’s possibile and feel into where there’s resonance – and resistance.
After several coaching conversations Martin decided to make a weekend project of running his own business. In an ideal world, he’d have liked to have made a bigger splash – resigned, changed country, taken a year’s sabbatical – but with a wife and young family to support, he felt cautious about making such a sweeping change.
We need to value small, close-in steps such taking on a temporary assignment or a piece of pro bono work to see how it fits us. It’s about learning through doing rather than trying to have everything figured out before we make our next move.
3. Have energising conversations
Be careful when sharing the first tender shoots of a new dream with people you know. They might, unwittingly, kill your idea with a clumsy comment or careless, “Do don’t really see yourself doing that, do you?!”
To nurture your gradually emerging sense of direction, seek out a new community. Who energises you to be around? Where might a new professional community lie? Who could open doors to new worlds for you?
The sweet spot is where our passion meets the needs of others. When we find what is ours to do in this world, it both makes us come alive and it serves others too. Attuning to our purpose is not about being self-absorbed; it is about plugging in to the wider systems in which we live and work.
To find his way out of a career that he’d outgrown, Martin and I discussed which customers his existing company wasn’t serving well. He identified a niche market that was looking for high-end publications. With his many years experience in the publishing industry, he knew that he could create an offer that these discerning customers would love. It also excited him – a sure sign that he was finding his purpose path.
4. Remember what you love
Take some time to reflect on what you used to enjoy doing when you were a kid or teenager. This can give us glimpses about our ‘why’. What did you really enjoy doing when you were younger? Where were you really effective? What did other kids love about what you did? When did you express yourself most fully?
Paul Merton, one of the most successful British comedians of recent times, began his fascination with humour at an early age when he saw the clowns in the circus and heard the crowd roar with laughter. In an interview, he recounts the thrill, years later, of his first ever stand-up gig at the Comedy Store in London. The crowd loved his routine and Merton walked the seven miles home, from Soho to Streatham, “on pure ecstasy the whole way.” When our feet find the path that is ours to walk, it lights us up.
Can you join the dots back to your childhood from something you do now or something that you feel drawn to do? Our younger selves are sometimes more tuned in than we realise.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Sarah Rozenthuler author of Powered by Purpose: Energise your people to do great work, published by FT publishing, out now, priced £16.99
More help from ByteStart
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 Graham J., (14-20 March 2016) Paul Merton: “I wanted my dad to be a hero, but he was very distant” The Big Issue