What’s the point of your job? No, seriously, what is the point? How does it make a difference to anything? Why should anyone care?
I have asked this question of many of the mid career employees I work with on leadership training programmes, and I can confidently say that the majority of them have never thought really deeply about it, let alone come up with an answer. And when you scale up the question to ask what the point is of their organisation, the best people can come up with is usually “to make money”, which is hardly what you might call a fulfilling purpose (unless you’re a shareholder, I guess).
I am lucky. I’m one of the few people I know whose Purpose aligns clearly with his job, and who can measurably identify the result. As a leadership coach and trainer, I believe that most people have far more potential than they realise, and helping them to find this and successfully unlock it gets me out of bed in the mornings and helps me burn through the jet lag which is normally a factor for me on the days I am at the front of the room.
Without a clear Purpose for your job you may find yourself stressed, disengaged, exhausted and lacking motivation. Your career mojo, as I call it, needs a boost. If you recognise these symptoms, I urge you to do something about it. Work out for yourself what the answers are to my initial questions, and if you come up empty handed, do something about that: see if you can realign your talents and Purpose to a modified role, or change jobs altogether. And do it now, before it’s too late and you find yourself looking back over your career with not much to show for it.
So far so good: we all need a clear Job Purpose. But what about an even higher level question: what is your Life Purpose?
This question has been on my mind ever since last Easter when my wife died suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of the night aged 57. This was the Mother of all wake up calls, the biggest realisation being that any of us, you included, can go at any time. A thrombosis can develop in an otherwise fit and healthy person on no medication and whisk them away quickly and painlessly (thankfully), and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
If you accept this, as I have, the conclusion is obvious. We need to live our lives meaningfully and with a clear Purpose. I think it is simply not good enough to carry on bumbling through life hoping we don’t succumb too soon, living a mixture of unconscious idleness, unwitting time wasting, mediocrity and half presence whilst we fiddle away on our phones and pretend to be listening to each other. That is quite simply a waste.
For myself I have over the year evolved a Life Purpose, which is simplicity itself. My Life Purpose is to LIVE. This means mindful use of the time I have left to do the important stuff which makes a difference and is worth doing. For me this includes, amongst other things, spending more time with family and friends (this requires good planning and takes effort), more time reading more widely, meditating, more time outside on long dog walks, and more time making and listening to music. It involves less time making a racket on social media, less time chasing low probability new business, less time on the low added value stuff. It requires self discipline and a major shift in the way I run my day.
My Life Purpose has particular significance for me because I know it is what Charlotte wanted. A few years ago we were walking the cliffs in a favourite spot in North Cornwall (Port Quin, near Polzeath). At the top of the cliff we came across a bench which is a memorial to a soldier killed in Afghanistan. We were both deeply moved by the message on the brass plaque, which reads:
We talked about how we would want the other to live as and when one of us was taken away. We agreed we should live out the sentiment on that plaque. So when I purposefully go about LIVING, I feel that in a way it is a tribute to Charlotte, as that is what we had agreed.
How clear are you about your Life Purpose? If you haven’t really considered it, could it be a way to help you focus on what is important to you, and to strip out some of the low value stuff?
Take yourself for a long walk and see if you can figure that one out.
And by the way, if you get nothing else out of reading this article, could I urge you to have the conversation with your Important Other, about what you would both want should one of you die unexpectedly. Having this clear in my mind has been so helpful and removed all the guesswork, as far as I’m concerned. Brits like me are not very good at talking about death and associated topics. It’s not a morbid conversation to have, just a serious but loving and sensible one, and one of you may one day be glad you had it.