To work or not to work…is that a question?

What do I enjoy doing? What is my purpose in life?

Okay I admit it, my eyes roll every time someone talks about finding their life purpose. Or even better when they say you should do what you love. Um, doesn’t doing by definition involve some form of work? And am I the only person out there who is not sure what I really love? I don’t know, it changes, and how do you make money from doing it anyway?

I have spent about 30 years of my life wondering what the heck I should be doing with my life, okay 10 of those were spent surviving life, but then it was very much about “how can I add value in the world?” And here I am at 41, I’ve moved to various cities and countries in my quest, I’ve paid for higher education, started numerous communities, and I am still trying to figure it out. Here is what I have come to realize…

Finding ones life’s purpose is about as misleading as the concept of finding ones soul mate.

Yes, some people are lucky to find their “perfect partner”, the one that they were “meant to be” with. If they are really lucky they find them early on in life and they grow old together…and its all perfect with a house in the suburbs, white picket fence, two or three children, and a dog. Though lets be honest, there is not such thing as perfect. Even the most fabulous couples I know have to work at ensuring their relationship stays fabulous, through strong communication, kindness and respect. In fact – and you don’t even need to hear the stats any more – a high percentage of marriages end in divorce, there are many single parents slogging it out alone, and after the first flush of “love” the “perfect partner” ends up being a misogynist pig or a manipulative nag, and the fantasy ends in misery. (Lets take a moment to feel pity for the next person we date, who must now deal with the dysfunction from our combined past experiences!)

In the same vein, yes some people are talented and know what their life purpose is at an early stage, they are “born to be” a ballet dancer, basketball star, artist, musician, olympic athlete, mathematician, entrepreneur, innovator…the Richard Branson and Steve Jobs of the world. So they perfect their art form, they focus their work lives towards that singular goal and they are the best at what they do. I confess, I am in constant awe of an athlete or artist who at the prime of their career has clearly perfected their craft and achieved what they sought. Nothing but respect.

But what about the remaining 99% of us?

I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted from both trying to find that “perfect partner” or my “life’s purpose” and maybe it’s time to get real. Except for the lucky few, the rest of us are still searching and its an ongoing battle. In fact, there are more and more articles about the bad advice being given from various sources, claiming we can achieve the impossible. The one consistent fact in every article or book I have read (even the ones proposing you can work less and achieve more) is that…you still have to work!

So let’s reframe the life’s purpose debate…

What if instead of your “life’s purpose” it was really about finding out what motivates you? No, not a particular job, or partner, or role, or the “who am I?” philosophical debate, but determining actual factors that make you happy and feel energized and applying them to your life whole-heartedly? Wouldn’t that be a more actionable and realistic approach? Well there is a tool that will provide a framework of criteria that can very well allow you to construct your personal and professional life to create true happiness.

But before I introduce it, I want to take some time and use this space to explore the concept of motivation and purpose at an individual level, and how it can relate to leadership practice and employee engagement.

The only thing you can be sure of is – it will require work!

But it is worth it in the end.

Do you dread going in to work every day? Do you feel disengaged and undervalued? Do you worry that your personal life is starting to suffer as well? Feeling stuck and not knowing what to do next…

Don’t worry, I know how that feels. Fill in your email address below and I’ll send you increasingly action oriented information, tactics and tools that I wish I had known when I was struggling to figure out my next career move. 

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